Going back to the teachings of Jesus, today’s topic is ‘Do not seek popularity with men’.
Your Great Reward You pray for faith And so you must so Yet I make provision in My house For the weak and the slow. Never be afraid To carry My sword. I am your God Your very great reward. I am your guide Your heart; your head. Trust Me for the way in The road ahead. Go just one step at a time That is My plan for you. I rarely grant My disciples A longer term view. Especially in personal affairs Which so often bring disarray One step at a time in faith Is clearly the best way. You may be in unchartered waters But I am with you, the Lord of all Seas. I am the controller of the storms For faint hearts and weak knees. By the late Andrew Feakin (passed away 16th March 2019)
Social media and mental illness
In today’s world of technology there has been a proliferation of celebrity culture. Many are disgruntled with life; whether at their jobs, their material possessions, their relationships and even in their own spiritual growth. We are bombarded daily with images of those who seem to have it together and have more of that kind of lifestyle we are invited to crave. On the back of this is the wave of celebrity culture. Those who put themselves out there, to be an exhibit for affluent lifestyles and talents. Yet without the masses buying their products where would they be? And so they sell their lifestyle through the media.
Social media is a known contributory factor in mental anxiety and depression. A recent study looked at the evidence linking social media with mental health problems. These platforms provide increased opportunities to make comparisons. There is growing evidence, especially in adolescent mental health, that there is an association between an increased usage of social media and higher rates of depressive and anxiety, poor sleep, low self-esteem and body image concerns (Kelly et al, 2018; Royal Society for Public Health 2017).
When Jesus said in Luke 6:26, ‘Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets’. How can we relate this is our current timeframe? Throughout history the true prophets of God were not popular. They were rejected by the populous and considered outcasts. They were not standing on a stage before thousands and hundreds of thousands being applauded. Yet even in the church of today there has been a cultivation of the speakers having celebrity status. Many of the big churches have green rooms where they are kept away from the rest of the fellowship. Some even are chauffeur driven to church. How terribly wrong!
We should expect to be spoken ill of
Instead if we want to be in pursuit of God, we should expect to be spoken ill of. We should expect rejection, for Jesus tells us that it will come. No one wants to be on the receiving end of such treatment. But we are told in Matthew 5:11, ‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’
We need to take our eyes off from this world and fix them on heaven. For the things of this world are passing away. Instead of seeking after popularity from men, we ought to be taking up our cross and following after Him. In so doing we may expect quite the opposite – being hated by men.
Matthew says – Here is a woe to those of whom all men speak well of. Those who make it their great and only concern to gain the praise and applause of men. They value themselves upon that, more than upon the favour of God and His acceptance. (Luke 6:26): “Woe to you”, that is, it is a bad sign of you not being faithful to your trust, and to the souls of men, if you preached so as that nobody is disgusted. For your business is to tell people of their faults to lead them to repentance, and, if you do that as you ought, you will get that ill will which is spoken of.
Despise the praises of the unwise
It was the false prophets who flattered their fathers in their wicked ways, and prophesied smooth things to them. These were caressed and spoken well of. If you be in like manner then you will also be charged with dealing as deceitfully as they did. We should desire to have the admiration of those who are wise and good and also despise the praises of the unwise.
The case of the suffering saints is a hard case, and a very pitiful one. They are persecuted, hunted, pursued, run down, as noxious beasts are, that are sought to be destroyed. If a Christian did bear a wolf’s head, as an outlaw is said to do—anyone who finds him may slay him. They are abandoned as the off scourging of the world. They are fined, imprisoned, banished, stripped of their estates, excluded from all places of profit and trust, scourged, racked, tortured, always delivered to death, and accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
This has been the effect of the enmity between the serpent’s seed against the holy seed, ever since the time of righteous Abel. It was so in Old-Testament times, as we find in (Heb. 11:35 There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment). Christ has told us that it would much more be so with the Christian church, and we are not to think it strange, (1 John 3:13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you). He has left us an example.
For He is coming!
The true church is reviled, and have all manner of evil said against them falsely. Nicknames, and names of reproach, are fastened upon them, upon particular persons, and upon the generation of the righteous to render them odious. Things are laid to their charge that they do not know, (Ps. 35:11 Ruthless witnesses come forward; they question me on things I know nothing about). (Jer. 20:18 Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?) (Acts 17:6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here”).
Those who have had no power in their hands to do them any other mischief, can yet do this. Those who have had power to persecute found it necessary to do this to justify their own barbarous usage of them. They could not have given them worse treatment, if they had not first represented them as the worst of men. They will revile you, and persecute you. Reviling the saints is persecuting them, and soon they will have to give an account, for He is coming… (to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken, Jude 1:15). They faced cruel mocking, (Heb. 11:36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment).
Enemies to righteousness are enemies to Christ
They will say all manner of evil of you falsely, sometimes even before the seat of judgment, as witnesses. Sometimes in the seat of the scornful, with hypocritical mockers at feasts. They are the song of the drunkards, sometimes to their face, as Shimei cursed David. Other times behind their backs, as the enemies of Jeremiah did. There is no evil so black and horrid, which, at one time or other, has not been said, falsely, of Christ’s disciples and followers.
Yet all this is for righteousness’ sake (Matt. 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven). (Matt 5:11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me). If for righteousness’ sake, then it is for Christ’s sake, for He is very interested in the work of righteousness. Enemies to righteousness are enemies to Christ. This does not include those who suffer justly, and spoken evil of for their real crimes. Let them be ashamed and confounded, it is part of their punishment. It is not the suffering, but the cause, that makes the martyr.
Those who truly suffer for righteousness’ sake, suffer because they will not sin against their consciences. They suffer for doing that which is good. Whatever persecutors pretend, it is the power of godliness that they have an enmity to. It is really Christ and His righteousness that are maligned, hated, and persecuted, (Ps. 69:9 the insults of those who insult you fall on me). (Rom. 8:36 For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered).
Visits of grace and tokens of His presence
The suffering saints are said to be blessed. For they now in their life-time, receive horrid things (Luke 16:25) but receive them upon a good account. They are blessed for it is an honour to them (Acts 5:41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name). It is an opportunity of glorifying Christ, of doing good, and of experiencing special comforts and visits of grace and tokens of His presence, (2 Cor. 1:5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ), Dan. 3:25; (Rom. 8:29 For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters).
They shall be compensated for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And in the present they have a sure entitlement to it, and a sweet foretaste of it. They shall soon be in possession of it. Great is your reward in heaven, so great, far transcending the service you give. It is in heaven, future, and out of sight. But it is well secured, out of the reach of fraud, and violence. God will provide for those who lose for him, even if it be life itself, they shall not be losers by him in the end. Heaven, at last, will be an abundant compensation for all the difficulties we meet with in our way. This is that which has supported the suffering saints in all ages—this joy set before them.
Do not marvel as though it be a strange thing.
“So they persecuted the prophets that were before you, Matt. 5:12. They were before you in excellency, above what you have arrived at. They were before you in time, that they might be examples to you of suffering affliction and of patience, (Jam. 5:10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord). They were in like manner persecuted and abused. Therefore do not marvel as though it be a strange thing.
It is a comfort to see that the way of suffering is a beaten road. It is an honour to follow such leaders. That grace which was sufficient for them, to carry them through their sufferings, shall not be deficient to you. Those who are your enemies are the seed and successors of them who of old mocked the messengers of the Lord.” (2 Chron. 36:1 they mocked God’s messengers, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against the people and there was no remedy). (Acts 7:52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One).
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
Prayer for the Day
Father I come to You. May I take my eyes off from this world and fix them on heaven. For I know that the things of this world are passing away. Instead of seeking after popularity from men, may I always be willing to take up my cross and follow after You. In so doing I know I may expect to be hated by men. May I never value myself by the popularity of men more than upon Your favour and Your acceptance. May I have the desire to have the admiration of those who are wise and good, but despise the praises of the unwise.
If I suffer may I suffer for doing good and not evil. May I never sin against my conscience and so be willing to suffer the fallout from it. For I know that You will provide for those who lose for You. Heaven will be an abundant compensation for all the difficulties I meet with on my way. May I see it as an honour to follow the suffering saints in the ages gone by. That grace which was sufficient for them, to carry them through their sufferings, shall be sufficient for me. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.