Overcoming the life- dominating aspects of unwanted same-sex attractions (SSA) is difficult. Homosexuality is rooted in deep woundedness and driven by pain and anger; at times, it can feel like the prison door will never open. Add to that the shifts in our culture, and freedom can seem even more elusive. Nearly all spheres of life are now supportive of embracing and celebrating a gay identity, including much of the Western Church. Someone who chooses to walk away from unwanted SSA in this day and age is a target for much opposition and even persecution. We at Outpost Ministries are very much hated by the world in which we live.
But we do not lose heart. Jesus warned us of such hatred and persecution. In fact, His counsel was to not be surprised by such things; the world hated Him first. “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18). We are in good company. He goes on to say, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (15:19). The hatred of the world is a testimony that we are not of the world. We have been chosen out of this world! Hallelujah! Therefore, we do not marvel at the world’s hatred of us but at the reality of God’s love and that we are now His children. We do not fix our eyes on hatred but on love.
Where we choose to fix our gaze will determine whether or not we move well through persecution. The devil loves to pull away our focus. In many ways, his primary goal is the persecution of the saints—to get their eyes off of Jesus, the author and finisher of their faith.
King David understood the importance of gazing upon the beauty of the Lord in times of trouble. Psalm 27 is a prime example of his warfare strategy. In verses 1-3, he declares that the Lord is his light and his salvation in the midst of impending war. His confidence came from what he saw in the light: a strong God who was fighting for him. What did he have to be afraid of? God was on his side.
In 27:4 he proclaims, “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.” David did not want to be caught up in what he could see or hear in the natural realm. He wanted to behold the beauty of the Lord and to talk to God about the many issues he was facing as the new king of Israel. What a profound strategy and life vision!
When I fail to see God in my circumstances, I quickly lose hope. I mean, let’s face it, no one wants to experience hatred. We certainly weren’t created for such an experience. Persecution for our faith is beginning in our country and will most likely increase in the coming years, but I refuse to let self-pity or fear rob me of my glory as a son of God.
King David made good on his life vision. After he was anointed king over all of Israel and established his throne in Jerusalem, he brought the Ark of the Covenant to Mount Zion and established a worship center. The sacrifices offered in this tabernacle were very different from the tabernacle of Moses; they were sacrifices of praise, joy and thanksgiving (Psalm 95:2, 100:4, 141:2)*. David hired and paid out of his own pocket for singers and musicians to worship the Lord day and night. David and his kingdom were blessed and protected.
In this evil age, I have taken a page out of David’s playbook and established a House of Prayer with the goal of offering the sacrifices of praise, joy and thanksgiving as well as our petitions to the Lord, day and night. I am convinced that this is the only way to operate wisely in the changing culture. Like David, we believe we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13). I believe we will be blessed and protected.
Fixing our eyes on the Unseen can be difficult. It definitely takes practice. I have learned to quiet my heart at different points throughout my day and simply ask the question, “Jesus, where are You?” I am not doubting He is with me but reacquainting myself with the reality of His presence. This has been called “practicing the presence of God” by saints of old. Ultimately, it is about doing my day with God, from the mundane to the serious.
Practicing God’s presence has been a saving grace for me on many occasions, especially during various forms of persecution. Knowing God is with me and for me truly is, like David said, the strength of my life.
It has also been the key to my working with mentees. Often times, the issues of struggle and opposition they report are quite overwhelming. One can wonder how in the world they will overcome. But as I remember that not only is Jesus with me, but He also lives in me, I have hope to offer them. Christ in me is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27)! If Jesus lives in us, there is always hope for overcoming unto glory.
Times have changed. Persecution is beginning for Christians in this nation, but God is still on the throne. He is still sovereign, and He is still beautiful. If the shifting culture has gotten you down, turn off the news, open your Bible and gaze upon God’s endless beauty. “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).
*Johnson, Bob. “A Short Catechism on the Tabernacle of David.” Tabernacle of David. ZionSong Ministries, p., 2000. Web. 15 May 2015.