TROUBLED ON EVERY SIDE
(Especially for preachers of the gospel - A lesson presented at a preacher's meeting in 2004 by Ron Hutchison)

In Second Corinthians chapter four, Paul describes some of the things that he and those who were with him faced as they preached the gospel. In verse eight he says, "We are troubled on every side, but not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed."

There is not one faithful gospel preacher who has not been troubled as he has sought to preach and teach the gospel. We, like the apostle Paul are often "troubled on every side," "perplexed", "persecuted", and "cast down." Unfortunately, unlike the apostles, sometimes we let these things overcome us and we become distressed, feel forsaken, experience despair and are destroyed spiritually.

As we observe the world today, we see many changes taking place, and no one who believes and understands the Bible can say that all of these changes are for the better. News comes to us daily that troubles us. The United States is in danger of physical attack from members of a false and utterly evil religion. Our young people are in Afghanistan and Iraq, some sacrificing their lives to fight this evil.  Not only that, but even more we are under attack from a cancer within - a cancer made up of immoral and anti-Christian influences. We are troubled when we recognize how the very religious foundations of this nation are being eaten away and when we recall the promised doom of nations that forget God (Psalm 9:17).

But our concerns go beyond just the troubling news about what is happening to us as a nation. Nothing happens to a nation separate from the people making up that nation. Because of influence and relationships, evil within a nation has a way of entering in among the saints of God, making untold difficulties for us. As we have observed events in the church over many years, there is certainly enough to cause us to be troubled.  Let me mention just a few:

THERE IS A CONTINUED ACCEPTANCE OF MODERNISM

Those who are older used to point this out as being characteristic of denominational groups, but it's clear that so many of our own brethren, in a movement led by our own preachers and elders, have caused many in the church to leave the truth and espouse the evil doctrine of modernism.  We see it on every hand.  Religious modernism is the attitude that says, "if God didn't say not to do it, it is alright."  The modernist seeks to allow where God has not allowed. To do things that God has not authorized. The modernist does not respect the silence of the Scriptures.  The modernist goes beyond the things that are written (1 Corinthians 4:6 - ASV; 2 John 9-11 ASV).  The modernist looses where God has already bound in heaven (Matthew 16:18-19 - Note: The Greek says, "Whatever you shall bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven" indicating that the apostles only had power to bind and loose what had already been bound and loosed in heaven). No one has a right to bind where God has not bound and no one has a right to allow where God has not allowed.  Yet we see people binding where God has not bound and loosing where God has not loosed throughout the brotherhood. Especially the latter.  There is no need to cite examples here.  Every one of us can cite examples from our own area.

THE PLEA FOR A RETURN TO THE NEW TESTAMENT PATTERN
IS NO LONGER BEING MADE

The cry once was, "Let us return to the Old Paths," and "let us speak where the Bible speaks and remain silent where it is silent." "Let us do Bible things in Bible ways and call Bible things by Bible names."  Let us "speak as the oracles of God" (1 Peter 4:11). Those who lived during the days of what is commonly called the Restoration Movement were honored because of this very emphasis on a return to the Pattern. Now, the idea of a "pattern" is often ridiculed by our own brethren! Young people right out of college chastise those of us who have been preaching for a number of years and call the idea of a "pattern" "ridiculous and old-fashioned."  Despite the fact that Paul told us to "walk by the same rule" (Philippians 3:16), these "scholars" tell us "there are no rules. The New Testament is a 'love letter,' not a book of rules."  The Bible gives us the pattern for the church, but too many today reject that pattern and have devised their own set of "rules" whether they recognize it or not. And it's Satan's rules because Satan rules in their heart. 

OUR HOMES ARE BEING DESTROYED

The destruction of the home is not just limited to those in the world.  We are losing Christian homes. I mean by that, that many homes that are formed are now either unscriptural or places where God's will is not honored. And what Christian family has not been touched either directly or indirectly by divorce? There is the movement to re-define the home to consist of homosexual partners. Neither the nation nor the church can be strong if the home is weakened or destroyed. (See also, The Responsibility of Parents, A Study of Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

THERE IS AN ABSENCE OF CHURCH DISCIPLINE

Church discipline is just as much a mark of New Testament Christianity as any other, but many preachers and elders have failed to stress the importance of returning to the New Testament pattern in this area. Many times when we preach the need for discipline in the church the cry is "we just can't do that here" or "that just won't work here!"  Brethren, if the Lord commands it (and He does. See Romans 16:19; 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15; 1 Corinthians 5:1ff etc...), then who are we to question whether it will work or not? How presumptuous! In many places fellowship is not stressed and valued, and so even if discipline were practiced, those upon whom it would be practiced would not miss that fellowship. One is not very much moved by the idea of the loss of that which he cares nothing about anyway!

THERE IS THE BELIEF THAT THE CHURCH
IS JUST ANOTHER DENOMINATION

Many members of the church who will not express it verbally, nevertheless act as if the Lord's body is a denomination. Some preachers "love to have it so," because it gives them a sense of power to be the "pastor" (in the denominational sense of the word) of the church. We have picked up denominational terminology, we have copied denominational tactics, we have studied denominational methods, and we have let our preachers and teachers study and teach denominational doctrine. No wonder many in the church today look upon it as just another denomination!  What preacher has not been introduced by a member of the congregation where they preach as "our pastor" or "my pastor?"  Many of us have. It ought not so to be!  The church of Christ is not a denomination no matter who may believe otherwise! It is the blood-bought body of Jesus Christ (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:25ff)!  It was established by Jesus Himself (Matthew 16:18ff) on the first Pentecost following the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:1ff)!  It is His kingdom (Colossians 1:13)!  It has no part nor lot with man-originated denominationalism (Ephesians 5:11)! (See also, The One Church and The Church that Jesus Built).

IS THERE ANY QUESTION THAT WE
HAVE REASON TO BE TROUBLED?

Does anyone question the fact that we have reason to be troubled? I would like to suggest that we can be troubled, perplexed, persecuted and cast down for a time, but that is not the same as being distressed, in despair, forsaken and destroyed! There is no excuse for the child of God to give up hope. There is no excuse to just throw up our hands and quit, because the Bible teaches that God's going to win this struggle between Him and Satan. He and His people ARE THE ONES who will be victorious!  We may have to pass through some lean times, and the burdens may become very great, but we want to be on that winning side!

The answer, to be sure, is not to walk away from the problems. Satan would like nothing better than to see us do that. He would be pleased if every elder resigned, and if every man contemplating such service would immediately forget that work permanently. He would know inexpressible joy if every preacher decided that preaching the gospel is just too hard. To allow ourselves to become despondent would be to manifest a lack of faith. To decide that all is hopeless is to say that God and Christ have lost, and that there is no good outcome ever to be realized.

SOLUTIONS ARE NOT IMMEDIATE

All of us would like to snap our fingers and have every problem solved. We would like to see modernism and denominationalism completely eradicated from among our brethren immediately. We would like to see our brethren love each other, love the lost and love the truth immediately. But we all know that it is neither realistic nor scriptural to expect these problems to be resolved in a day's time because they did not begin in a day's time.

All of us know what the solution to these problems is.  It is to "PREACH THE WORD....!" (2 Timothy 4:2), and to KEEP ON KEEPING ON! (1 Corinthians 15:58). We must stress New Testament truth firmly as we just as firmly rebuke all modernistic and denominational influences! We must continue to stand against all sin, and withhold fellowship from all who promote error.

Troubled, perplexed, persecuted, cast down? Yes, sometimes with good reason. Distressed, in despair, forsaken and destroyed? Never, and never can we be as long as we are faithful to God!
 

Brethren, "Preach the Word; be instant in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke and exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine!"


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