Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Are you ready for any suffering that might be ahead? Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: If we can’t handle the limited circumstances that come against us, how are we going to be strong when the real battle comes? So girding up our hearts in the Word of God, in the grace of God, knowing the Word of God, knowing God and asking Him to develop in us those disciplines that will prepare us. I’m afraid if we were to have true persecution of the church in our country today that we would have millions and millions and millions of believers falling away.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Forgiveness, for Thursday, August 24, 2017.

Suffering is unavoidable. Nancy’s been helping us prepare for it in the series "Letters to the Churches in Revelation, Part 3: Faithfulness and the Crown of Life." We’ve looked at the persecuted church at Smyrna and the message Jesus delivered to them in the first chapters of Revelation.

Yesterday, our friends Kim Wagner and Holly Elliff reflected on this teaching, showing how it applies to our lives. Let’s get back to that conversation.

Nancy: I think this whole concept has a lot of bearing on legacy issues and what mothers are passing on to their children. One of the burdens on my heart is that we somehow need to be equipping this next generation to not be “wimpy Christians” with wimpy theology. We’ve had such a bent toward comfort and convenience and affluence and success and security.

I think God is raising up a younger generation that would be willing and ready to go for broke and to lay down their lives in various ways for Christ’s sake and the gospel. But there are some parents who may not be ready for that.

Holly, I know you’ve had a son and some nieces and nephews who have made choices about serving the Lord in difficult countries. As a mom, as an aunt watching those things, how do you process that and say, “I’m willing to let this son or daughter go into this tough place and serve the Lord”?

Holly Elliff: In my life, it’s been much easier. I’ve told my husband I could receive children all day, but the letting-them-go part is a lot tougher for me. But I also know that they will never understand for themselves the truth that I now know if I don’t let God take them down paths that I had to go down to learn those things.

It’s like the illustration of being born in a garage. That doesn’t make you a car. You were just born in a garage.

I want my children to understand the truth of God’s Word, who He is, and that He is sufficient for the life we live here on earth. I can give them the foundation for that, but I can't do that for them.

  • As they mature, they have to learn how to get to God in their own way. 
  • They have to hear Him.
  • They have to realize that He is going to be sufficient when they walk through the fiery furnace, just like He was in Scripture—that He will do that in their own life and circumstances.

Nancy: So how did you feel when your son came to you and said, “Mom, I think God is calling me to go serve in a country where [we won’t name the country] it really can be very costly to be a Christian”?

Holly: I just kind of ignored him at first and thought, “Well, maybe that will go away.” It didn’t go away; it was a call of God on his heart.

So my responsibility now is to do the same thing I want him to do, because I want him to obey the Lord as God leads him. My responsibility is to obey the Lord in releasing him to do that.

That means, when fear pops up or all the “what ifs” pop up or the unknowns that I know are going to enter his life, I’m called upon now to trust God with him the same way I did the day he was born. But now it’s a little more costly for me to release him into God’s hands and realize that this is part of his story, this is part of who God wants him to become.

Someday when he’s fifty, I hope he will look back and have the same testimony: “God taught me and grew me and changed me, and now I’m going to turn around [as you said a minute ago, Nancy] to the generation behind me.”

He has a heart for young men and women in that country, and he will be working with high school- and college-age kids. His desire is to see them come to Christ so one day they stand in heaven alongside him with the same testimony of God’s goodness that he’s been able to have.

Nancy: There really is no Christianity if there’s no cross. There’s no gospel if there’s no cross. There’s no life if there’s no death.

Somehow we have developed this insipid mindset about Christianity that it’s weak, passive; it’s a game, a toy, a convenience, an enjoyment. There certainly is enjoyment to it, but there is a ruggedness to Christianity. There’s an aspect of it that is painful and hard, because sin requires death.

Through His death on the cross, Christ overcame Satan and sin and the curse of the fall—but He had to go to the cross. He had to lay down His life before we could see the splendor and the wonder and the glory of the resurrection and new life.

Yet we want to have this vibrant Christianity without hurting, without getting into the vice. God says, “No.” If the gospel is going to spread, if I'm going to be sanctified, and then if I’m going to be an instrument of redemption in the lives of others, I have got to be willing to take up my cross and follow Christ.

Holly: The beauty of the Christian life is that it never ends at the cross. Yes, there’s a cross, but Scripture says that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him [see Heb. 12:2]. He knew what was coming on the other side.

Again, we’re back full circle to that big picture of the fact that this life is temporary, and that life is eternal. Jesus understood that, and as believers, we have to grow up into that understanding as well.

Nancy: I’m thinking of that passage in Philippians 1. Paul had such a shepherd’s heart for these people; he so wanted to see them continue and grow and flourish in their faith, but the thing of suffering invariably comes into play, this thing of the cross.

He says, When I come back, I want to know that you’re remaining firm, that you’re progressing in your faith. But then he says,

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents” (v. 27).

Then he says, “For it has been granted to you”—that word granted is “gifted;” it’s a privilege; it’s a calling. He says,

It has been granted [as a gift] to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake (v. 29).

Now, it’s easier to think of being able to believe in Christ. That’s a gift of God; that’s a privilege; that’s an opportunity. It’s given to us that we could believe in Christ.

But Paul had a perspective that said, when God calls us to tribulation or poverty or adversity or to be slandered for the cause of Christ or to be misunderstood or abused for our faith—not because we’re being ornery, not because we’re misrepresenting Christ . . .

Kim Wagner: No, because Peter warns us about that. Don’t let your suffering be because you have brought this on yourself and you deserve it [see 1 Peter 2:19–20].

Nancy: But when you suffer for doing right . . .

Kim: When you lose your job for making a right choice . . .

Nancy: Paul says it’s a gift. It has been granted to you, as a privilege, not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for His sake.

Holly: And that’s why James 1 can say,

When all kinds of trials and temptations come into your life, don’t resent those things as intruders, but welcome them as friends, because they’re coming to test your endurance and to produce in you the character and the nature of Christ. So let the process go on until you become mature and complete and lacking in nothing (vv. 2–4, paraphrased).

That is what honors the Lord.

Kim: Not only that, but there is a fellowship in the suffering. There is a fellowship with Christ that we’re promised that we don’t receive without that.

It’s something that occurs when you’re suffering for Christ’s sake—righteous suffering—not because you’ve made wrong choices, foolish choices, sinful choices, but you’re actually suffering in a pure form of being obedient to Christ, and it has brought suffering. There is a sweet fellowship there.

If you will turn to that humbling process in a response of gratitude to God, of clinging to Him, there is a place of fellowship there that I don’t believe is able to be experienced unless you walk through those seasons of suffering. So that is a gift.

Nancy: I’ve seen some Christian wives do that in marriage to a non-believing man where they have embraced the thlipsis, the tribulation, the suffering of being misunderstood, of being treated in a disrespectful way.

Some women have been faithful to persevere when it is not easy in marriage to an unbelieving man, and I’ve seen developed in some of those women this beauty, this myrrh, this fragrance, this life of Christ, because they have entered with Christ into the fellowship of His sufferings.

Holly: I’m thinking of a gal I talked with this week who has been asking the Lord for years to do a work in the life of her husband, to release her to be home with her daughter, because he had never agreed with that. Just this week, the Lord has suddenly reversed her circumstances.

Basically, her company downsized, and she lost her job. I said, “What happened that day? How did your husband respond?”

She said, “Holly, he walked up to me and put his hand on the side of my face and said, ‘I will take care of this.’”

She has been asking the Lord for years to raise her husband up as a leader in their home, and God suddenly granted that request—not in the way she’s been asking Him to do it, but because she’s in a vice, she’s in a circumstance that she did not expect. God has suddenly given her what she has always asked for in a way that she would never have written in a script.

There is a recognition of the fact that I have chosen to allow God to be exhibited in my life as I’ve yielded to that pressure, and it does speak to the life of someone else who has also made that same choice, because you really do know how to identify with them, how to pray for them. The deep place they’ve been, you’ve also been—maybe not the exact same circumstance, but the exact same pressure in your life.

Nancy: I’ve had the privilege of traveling in some parts of the world where it is extremely difficult for people to be believers. I have been in services with some of these believers. Their Christianity means something. There’s a radiance and a fullness and a sweetness in their faith that we know very little about here in the West.

I think, as I get into a passage like this in Revelation, that we are so flabby as Christians. We know so little of endurance, perseverance, hardship; yet I’m convinced in my heart that the day is coming in this country when it’s going to be costly to be a Christian who lives for Christ, who is faithful to Christ.

In some spheres in this country, we’re already seeing that Christians are being marginalized and made fun of. How do you think we as believers can be preparing for those kinds of days to come and be spiritually girded up, having exercised some spiritual muscles so that when those times do come, we don’t get run over, and we’re able to stand firm in times of testing? How do we prepare for that?

Kim: In light of what our future may hold as a nation, that is why my husband, in his message last week, encouraged our church to be reading books of accounts of martyrs, not only from the past but that are occurring today, and to pass that on to their children, and to be talking about these things, talking about the type of ridicule that happens already today in our daily lives.

Talk about that at the family dinner table; be instructing our children in how to live disciplined, self-controlled lives; to live simply financially.

My husband’s family still has a vegetable garden. They still live off of that, and he was not completely kidding last week when he said, “We may need to look into having our own vegetable gardens or doing some practical preparation. Do you know how to function without all of the technological and financial luxuries we have today?”

Nancy: I think there’s financial and practical preparation, but there’s also spiritual preparation, becoming strong in the grace that is in Jesus Christ. If we can’t handle the limited circumstances that come against us, how are we going to be strong when the real battle comes?

So we need to gird up our hearts in the Word of God, in the grace of God. We need to know the Word of God. We need to know God and ask Him to develop in us those disciplines that will prepare us. I’m afraid that if we were to have true persecution of the Church in our country today, we would have millions and millions and millions of believers falling away—so-called believers.

Kim: But that could be the best thing that would happen to our church. Each one of us here, all three of us, have prayed for years for God to bring revival.

There was something that happened nationally recently, and my son called me that day and said, “Mom, I think the revival you’ve been praying for for years may be coming, because I think we’re about to prepare for a time of judgment.”

Holly: I do think it’s important for us, as we’re dealing with our children in the middle of everyday life, to take their circumstances, whether it’s what they encounter at school, what’s on the news that day . . .

I want my twelve-year-old to understand why abortion matters. I want her to understand what God says about that, because I want her to be able to verbalize the truth.

Not that she’s going to beat somebody over the head with it, but if there’s a question about what God’s Word says and what the world says, I want even my younger children to be able to give a response that is centered in God’s Word, that is truthful, because then they get to give an account for what they believe, and they get to share Christ. This is why I live this way.

Just this week, Jessica, my youngest, was invited (you get these little invitations to websites, and this one had the character that this friend was, and it popped up and invited her) to come join this website. We were able to look at that character, who was very immodestly dressed, and we said, “Okay, let’s think about whether or not this would be a good website to go to.”

And Jessica said, “Well, that is so rude.” She was able to determine for herself that this wasn’t a site that would be a good place for her to visit, so we declined that invitation in a sweet way.

Our kids already are facing pressures that we never experienced at that age, so we do need to raise kids who are discerning, who look at an issue based on the reality of God’s Word and not on the current culture. If they can’t discern between those two things, they will be in deep water soon.

Kim: I think that is so good; they need to be discerning. I think also there are practical ways they need to give up some of the abundance they may have.

Holly: To understand the difference between needs and wants in their life.

Nancy: I’m thinking, too, of the book by the Harris twins called Do Hard Things.

Kim: Oh yes, Do Hard Things. My son loves that book. It’s challenging students to live beyond what the culture expects teenagers to be, and it’s giving them inspiration to do hard things and see the results, the consequences, the benefits of doing hard things.

We were talking a few minutes ago about how many presents children get now at Christmas or birthdays or whatever. We had a simple little system when my children were younger.

They would get all of those presents from the aunts and uncles—you can’t tell people, “Don’t give them a present for their birthday”—but my children knew, at Christmas and at birthdays, that a portion of those presents were going to be given to children that did not have presents. They didn’t have a problem with that, because we started it when they were very young.

That’s what I’m talking about; just simple things that we can instruct our children in: “Not everyone has this much, and we’re going to give to people who don’t have this much,” to prepare them also to live on less, to be able to function on less.

Holly: Really, it’s just taking the focus off of who I am, who we are. It’s removing the focus from ourselves, because as a culture we are focused inward. We want to say, “God, where do You want our focus to be, as an individual, as a family? What really matters?” to help our kids discern what will matter in eternity.

Nancy: Yes, and a willingness to live intentionally in light of that, and to say, “Look, life isn’t about just twiddling our thumbs and drifting through this world as a piece of driftwood at the beach.”

Life is about saying, “God has put me here on this earth for such a time as this. How can my life best be invested—better or worse, hard times, good times, easy times, richer or poorer, whatever—how can my life contribute to the furthering of God’s kingdom and bringing about the glory of God here on this earth?”

That’s really what we’re here for: to advance the kingdom of God, to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. And we know that for some, at times, that will require what it did of the church in Smyrna, and that is to go through tribulation and poverty and slander.

But if it’s for Christ’s sake—it’s not forever; it’s for a limited, defined period of time; it’s temporary; it’s for a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory [see 2 Cor. 4:17 NKJV]—I think our young people will rise to that challenge.

I would love to see those in the baby boomer generation say, “Look, we’re not going to waste our lives. We’re not going to drift. We’re not going to spend our lives just playing poker or traveling the USA in our camper. We’re going to be intentional about living our lives for the glory of God and the furthering of His kingdom.”

I think there’s a younger generation coming behind us who will rally to that kind of example and that kind of call, and say, “We want to give our lives for Jesus Christ.”

Holly: I agree.

Kim: I do too.

Leslie: As you try to give your children quality education, don’t forget to prepare them for suffering.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been talking with Kim Wagner and Holly Elliff about children, parents, suffering, and persecution. It’s just one of the highly practical themes we’ve uncovered in the letters to the churches in Revelation.

One of our guests, Kim Wagner, has carefully listened to Nancy’s teachings on these letters. She has helped to create a companion resource to help you make these teachings personal. It’s called Ears to Hear: Learning from the Churches in Revelation.

As you study these letters for yourself, this resource will bring up some important questions. You’ll find yourself reading these letters as if they were written to you, hearing from the heart of God, responding in practical ways.

When you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send Ears to Hear. This program is supported by our listeners, and we need to hear from you. Just ask for Ears to Hear when you call with your donation. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or you can donate at ReviveOurHearts.com.

When you are suffering through some tough issue, other people are watching. What are they learning about God by the way you’re handling the pressure? We’ll explore that tomorrow. I hope you can be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants your family to be ready for any tough times ahead. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

Join the Discussion