SHOWCASING THE FORTITUDE OF GOD’S CHOSEN VESSELS
Why did the Lord choose physically strong, tough-minded men, most of whom were hard-working blue collar workers, as His first apostles? For starters, because that’s exactly what He is.
WILDERNESS WILD MAN
When the messengers of John had left, He began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who are splendidly clothed and live in luxury are found in royal palaces! But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and one who is more than a prophet…” [Luke 7:24-26]
Many years ago I was talking to a guy at church. It was a great place with a mix of many different people and professions. We somehow got on the subject of being impressed by our dads when we were kids and he recounted a short story about his father. He said his dad, who was much older then, had been a plumber. As an illustration of his dad’s imposing stature and physical strength, he remembered as a young man that his dad once picked up a standard bathroom scale, the kind you stand on, and holding it with both hands, fingers at the back and thumbs on top, squeezed it until the needle went all the way to the end. I thought that was really impressive.
On bathroom scales, back then at least, “all the way to the end” was 250 pounds. That was pretty heavy and any man who had the strength in his hands to duplicate that weight was exceptionally strong. Also, men were generally tougher and leaner then, and more active, and topping the chart at 250 was relatively rare. Today, most men who exceed that figure are generally carrying excess weight. If they got down to their proper weight and body mass index most of them would be like men of fifty years ago.
Naturally, after hearing that story about my friend’s dad, I had to try it out when I got home. Being only of average stature but making my living in construction, I thought I could make a pretty good dent in my bathroom scale. So I went for it. Using all my manly might, I squeezed the life out of it. If I remember correctly, I didn’t come anywhere close to 250. I didn’t even break 200. It was pretty demoralizing. Of course, converting that figure to future considerations, using the principle of “the older I get the better I was,” it actually was 200. But still not close to 250. I obviously did well by becoming a carpenter and not a plumber.
PHYSICAL STRENGTH DOES NOT DEFINE TOUGHNESS
When I was twelve years old I discovered professional sports. I loved baseball and football and began reading the sports pages every day in our local newspaper. Papers back then in smaller markets were really bad compared to what came later. The type was tiny and all the columns were squashed together. Box scores had the smallest type they made, I would think. The writing was mostly pedestrian. Everything was black and white with no color. It was all I had until I started subscribing to sports magazines not long after. I also began collecting baseball and football cards. Those cards had the height and weight of players. Regarding football players, the biggest guys, usually the defensive lineman, topped out at 270 pounds. Of course, most of them were also pretty tall, averaging maybe 6 foot five or six. When you look at old NFL films from the 1960s, you won’t see many fat guys. Most of them were lean, wiry, tough, and cat quick. There were also a lot of average-sized players under six feet tall. A few were actually pretty small.
The game of football was also much different back then. It was war. They didn’t mess around. It was an extremely tough sport in the professional ranks and they often played on dirt fields and wore poor protective equipment in comparison to later standards. It was also a job and players needed the money. They would often stay silent on whatever injuries they might have incurred so as not to jeopardize their place on the field or team. Someone always waited in the wings to replace you, so you had to be tough. The game was hard enough but playing injured, which almost all of them did to varying extents, made it that much tougher. And no one could afford any sympathy, for many reasons.
In this cauldron, however, arose an even tougher kind of man, one who made most of the other players look like less than the men they were. This wasn’t true; they were all tough as nails. But some exceeded that standard and a few obliterated it. They were tough as, what? Steel girders? What a sight it was to see some otherwise tough guy, much tougher than the average man, look like a comparative pansy being showed up and manhandled by the baddest of the bad.
“GOD HAS ALWAYS LOVED FISHERMEN AND JAILBIRDS”
The preceding was a quote by a preacher I once knew. He had a rough upbringing, coming of age in the 1950s. He got tougher as he got older and soon became engaged in all the bad stuff that guys like him got into. He was a really tough guy and a good fighter, was a biker and drug addict, and generally had no concern for anyone. Beneath all of that, implausible as it sounds, he still had a tender side. He told a story of the JFK assassination, when so many Americans were cheering his death. He said when he found out he began crying like a baby.
Somehow or another, against all odds and probability, this man later received a witness from a brave Christian and actually gave his heart to the Lord. I know. It makes no sense. It makes you wonder about all the evil people in the world at present. How many of them are this guy waiting to get saved? How many are the apostle Paul who was notorious for being a powerful persecutor of Christians before His Damascus Road experience? How many are Simon son of Jonah, otherwise known as Peter—the rock? Speaking of which, I’m convinced that prior to his conversion nobody messed with Peter.
Regarding my preacher acquaintance, he soon started his own storefront. He gathered a small group of faithful congregants and conducted services. While preaching one day, a big giant dude burst into the room. It seems this man was really ticked off because his wife had become a member of the congregation. The guy marched to the front and told the preacher he was gonna whip him, right then and there. What did the preacher do? Drawing on his past and knowing this man did not scare him in the least, but also knowing he had a duty to the Lord and must act properly, he looked right into the big dude’s eyes and said: “Look. I think I have enough Holy Ghost to let you whip me, but if I don’t, you’re in trouble buddy. I’ve gone through bigger men than you just to get into where the fight was at!” The big guy backed down. And that was that.
REAL MEN OF GOD
So what does the average Christian think of when he or she thinks of the original apostles? This depends on one’s denomination, of course, but sadly, because so many have been told nothing but mischaracterizations by moron church leaders, most probably think the apostles were “saintly” pushovers. And how is this derived? Most likely because many Christians have been taught that the Lord Jesus was a “saintly” pushover, a pallid sissified non-man representing no threat to anybody. It is anyone’s guess how this false depiction arose, the very opposite of His actual character. We can blame it on old artist’s renderings or maybe a severely unbalanced portrayal using various verses of Scripture showcasing the Lord’s mercy and love but neglecting His unquestioned manliness in the face of vile enemies. But it is most likely due to the affected nature of later ecclesiastics who actually fit that profile quite well, because that is pretty much exactly how they were. And many still are. And this false portrayal of the Lord has invaded many denominations and caused many pastors to invoke it in their “imitation of Christ.”
My preacher friend could have cleaned that guy’s clock. It didn’t matter how big he was. But he didn’t. He could have but he didn’t. He was more concerned about the man’s salvation. That’s the point. It was the same with a guy like Peter. There was a reason the Lord chose him and it was the same reason the other apostles recognized Peter’s authority and standing. Most of them knew Peter and his past. And the apostle Paul, who was not even five feet tall, might have been even tougher. Could those guys have played in the NFL? If they were any good at football, I would answer in the affirmative. They had the heart and toughness for it. And it’s a good thing because they had to fight the devil and his minions every day. Their real strength, however, the one that made the difference, was their ability to take a punch and not return favor. They knew full well that people were not the enemy.
Sadly, many of today’s ministers couldn’t have done what my old preacher friend did even if they wanted to because they don’t have a blue collar bone in their body. They aren’t tough enough. Real Christians do their best to maintain their witness and hold back. But when a man has nothing to hold back it’s a different story.
WILL THE LOCKDOWN PASTORS EVER OPEN THEIR CHURCHES?
Probably not until they’re allowed to. Maybe a few courageous ones will in the interim. I read yesterday that one well-known church leader in California, where a statewide total church lockdown is in effect including home bible studies and everything else, has taken a stand. Good for him. What took you so long? But on the other hand, I take that back. Pastors must be given a pass the first time around. This nonsense had never been tried before. It came out of left field. Who could have ever thought they would use a flu virus in an attempt to eliminate Christianity? Most were unprepared for such an attack and never saw it coming. Maybe the devil knew many were no threat, would wimp out, and could be had for the taking. But once is it. If a church leader has yet to figure out what’s really going on, then maybe it’s best to just stay closed and quit. Forget about taking a stand. Concentrate instead on getting saved.
If such pastors/reverends/priests et al were actually living for God they would certainly take a stand and basically say: To hell with this. Come one come all. WE’RE OPEN. If every pastor did it all the churches would be opened immediately. No one could stop them. That’s not going to happen, of course. The sad fact is that one could never gather enough churches together in a united front on a large enough scale, which shows one more broken aspect of current American Christianity. Why can’t the high hats in a single denomination, for example, especially the very large “united” kind, just send down a directive to open up?
But even if a mere Gideon’s 300 took a stand things would change for the better. Those were the best warriors in all of Israel. Another thing that would change, however, would be the enemy. The principle enemy would switch from the Midianite lockdown state governors to the Midianite lockdown pansy pastors who would suddenly begin attacking the stalwart 2020 Black Robe Regiment like the original tory traitors did in colonial America. As it is they’ve already revealed themselves as unworthy of the call of God, though many are not actually called of God to begin with and are simply filling a position.
Most of them also don’t have the Holy Ghost. This is being proven every day.
Which makes one wonder, is this entire virus nonsense being used by God as a test to show which Christians are for real? Is it an opportunity to showcase spiritual toughness? Does it reveal those few with the backbone and fortitude to press 250 on a spiritual scale?
BUT AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE…
If this is all it takes—unconstitutional orders by government leaders of both parties who essentially hate Christianity and despise the Lord Jesus—then what are all these so-called Christian leaders going to do when real persecution breaks out? And the answer to that should be obvious. And that’s also why persecution is a good thing.
It separates the men from the boys.
© 2020 by R.J. Dawson. All Rights Reserved.
 Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
Pressing On. Toward Resurrection. (Part 3)
The conclusion of this 3-part article contains the answer many have been seeking. Times are rough for a lot of Christians the world over, and have been getting more difficult in places where things used to be better.
…That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 3:10-14] 
I have been watching videos about underground Chinese Christians. One of the prevailing themes among their lives is the ongoing dedication they must pursue with so little apparent reward or accomplishment. They keep pressing on through each day, year after year, though things rarely get any easier or more comfortable. They often wonder why they have to suffer so much. The Lord keeps telling them the same thing He told the apostle Paul:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” [2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJV]
The NASV says: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
What is this power, this strength, this dunamis? And why does it only kick in when we are weak? Is it not the very same power the Lord Himself used to live a perfect life?
And what is this grace, this charis? It must be something tangible, like a spiritual IV packed with nutrients, and not simply God’s favor alone.
A real Christian must be able to live off this power and grace when all else is unavailable. Did not the Lord of all Creation live a life of apparent outward weakness in order to be very powerful in the spirit? And did He not continually demonstrate this power? It is obvious then, that a person who is to be a real Christian must have this grace and power, this charis and dunamis. And he or she must be able to receive it by making themselves weak in the flesh and in the ways of this world.
It is simply a fact that spiritual giants will appear as the opposite to non-spiritual people.
This “weakness” and the requisite strength that comes because of it is what we lack. And we lack it due to simple laziness and a bowing to human nature. Most “Christians” are as fleshly as the day is long and therefore weak in the spirit. They learn to be weak in the spirit and that it is perfectly okay to be weak in the spirit often because their fake leaders are weak in the spirit.
After a while an entire culture starts calving off like a massive landslide because the ones charged with being salt and light and holding things together became derelict in their duty.
Like a great baseball player who stays out night after night drinking and fornicating and bringing much less than his “A” game to the field for his team and fans until the team suffers and he breaks down in a heap and retires early.
Meanwhile, there was another baseball player of the same era who kept doing his duty every year and every game. He was somewhat off the radar, and no one realized how great his accomplishments were to the same degree. He was Mr. Consistent. Not a lot of flash, but he brought it every day. Rarely stopping due to injury, he continued bringing the best for his team and racked up the stats until he eventually broke an impossible record the other guy was supposed to break and should have but never came close.
People who know baseball know who these players are, and many more just like them. The dedicated player also had a very rough row to hoe during his playing days and suffered many slights and insults but continued to soldier on. He was somewhat invisible for many years. The other guy was the darling of the media, characterized as a great hero, and got away with everything. Though he was a carousing drunk all the dads wanted their sons to be like him, but not so much the other guy.
The Lord was like this. He would bring it regardless. It didn’t matter if anyone noticed, if it appeared as though He was accomplishing nothing, or if the whole blasted filthy rotten world and everyone in it hated Him without a cause. He was going to do His duty come hell or high water. He would complete His mission. You could not stop Him. He was a million percent dedicated. Regardless of whatever the circumstances may be, He would do and did do everything that was required. He pressed on like no one had ever pressed on and taught His disciples how to do likewise.
And He strengthens us to do likewise. Therefore we are without excuse.
Go spend twenty years in a Chinese prison for doing nothing wrong but everything right and then tell me how challenging your life is, especially when all God ever says is “My grace is sufficient, My grace is sufficient…” Will they get out of jail tomorrow? Or next year? Or ever? They had and have no idea. They are tortured and forced to endure the worst insults to body and mind but somehow maintain the ability to go on. And they do it with a big bright smile and tears of joy streaming down their face!
What IS this grace anyway? And how does it fuel a person to do the impossible?
One of the hardest things about being a real Christian is being continually dedicated against the tide with no sign of any kind of change for the better. You’re out on the ocean every day with nothing but a water and sky horizon and nothing ever changes, it seems. You feel completely alone though you know the Lord is somehow there with you. You feel like you’ve been cast aside and the only One that can help won’t help.
In China, a few thousand dedicated believers felt exactly that way but pressed on anyway. One day they looked up from their spiritual drudgery and noticed their numbers had increased a little—to many tens of thousands. The tens of thousands continued to press on against the wind with no change to their very difficult lives or apparent change to the culture around them. Then one day they looked up and the tens of thousands had become millions. In a Communist country! Where real Christianity is outlawed! Where the worst forms of abuse were thrown their way!
Still, they continue pressing on, pushing against evil in the way the Lord taught us. They press hard against a very powerful force the way one pushes a car down the road with the tires almost flat. This evil force is like a giant unseen mass of pressure suspended from the heavens to the ground that continually resists the Light and those in which the Light dwells. Yet, these unrelenting Chinese believers continue with marathon worship, unceasing prayer, forty day fasts, and incessant witnessing and evangelizing. They meet in secret house churches or wherever they can knowing they could be killed and tortured for it.
And while the real Christians in China were growing from a few thousand to what is estimated at the moment to be close to one hundred million, most American Christians have become the opposite—a bunch of spiritually weak, lazy prima donnas and ultra-fleshly fakers watching their entire country go screwy and ultra-sinful without much concern about it or any plans to change it.
China will become a Christian nation in a few years while America is going in full reverse and the majority of Christians here remain willfully clueless.
It started a few decades ago with a few thousand…
© 2013 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. (Part 3 of 3)
 Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.