I couldn’t believe how much I cried the day my dog was taken to the vet to be put to sleep. I was surprised at my emotion because I wasn’t a little boy that had to say goodbye to his best friend. I was a grown man, and that dog loved my wife a lot more than she ever loved me. Yet I cried like a baby.
Her name was Shay, she was a beautiful German Shepherd, and she was a part of our family. We had to say goodbye because she was suffering from hip dysplasia and could no longer walk without being in incredible amounts of pain.
The thing about Shay was that she was an intimidating dog and very protective. Her bark was so terrifying it would make a grown man’s blood run cold. When we first brought her home, she did not like me and was not afraid to let me know. There were times I would walk into a room she was in and she would come at me with such violence. I would think, “This dog is going to kill me in my own home!”
I had had enough of being afraid, she was either going to accept me as the alpha, or someone would get hurt (probably me). I was tired of living in fear, so I decided I would no longer be afraid of this big dog with sharp teeth. I knew that decision could have significant consequences, but so could living in fear for the rest of my life. So from that point forward, I refused to flinch when she barked. When she came at me, I just kept doing what I was doing. I didn’t move over for her. I didn’t stop to look at her or avoid the living room where her bed was. If she was sitting by my wife, I pushed her out of my way to sit next to her.
Do you know what happened? I didn’t die. I realized that my dog was a very convincing liar; she was all bark and no bite. I was living in fear because I allowed something to intimidate me. I feel as though Christians are in a very similar position today. We are being threatened by a lot of very loud barking in our world. The more fear the culture can sense in us, the more it will take advantage of us.
“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. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have” (Philippians 1:27–30 ESV).
The Word of God calls us to live our lives in a way worthy of the gospel. Not a life of compromise or a life that will be pleasing to everyone but a life that pleases God. In doing so, you can be sure the world will not like it. They will bark and growl at us for living our life according to our King — angry that we will not fall in line with a culture of godlessness.
We cannot please the world and God. We cannot serve two masters. It comes down to who we fear more, God or man?
The devil want’s you to be afraid. Afraid that if you go to church to worship, you might get sick. Afraid that if you don’t take the jab, you’ll lose your job. If you say a boy is a boy and a girl is a girl, you’re somehow hateful. Afraid that if you stand on the principles of God’s word, you’ll be called a bigot. I say let it be so.
The apostle Paul and the first century Christians understood that suffering was a regular part of living for God. The forefathers of this nation knew that sacrifice was a requirement to follow biblical principles. Suppose those who went before us were more afraid of getting bit than serving their creator. How different of a world it would be.
The Christian must stand against unrighteousness, speak out against tyranny, and lay down everything as Christ laid down his life so that we might know forgiveness. I loved my dog enough not to allow her to rule over me in fear, and I love my country enough not to allow it to rule over her citizens in fear. That dog became a great companion to my family and me, but she had to learn she was a part of my family, not the boss of it.
Our government and American culture have a place, but that place is not ever to take the place of God the King over all Kings or his bride the church. I appeal to you, Christian, now is not the time to falter but to stand firm on the principles of God’s holy word.
Trevor Rickard is an Associate Pastor at New Life Christian Fellowship.