On my flight home last week, I was seated next to a random stranger named Mike. Within minutes though, I realized that he was not random and our meeting was no coincidence.
After exchanging generic pleasantries, we learned enough about the other to know our conversation felt safe. Even though pre-coffee dawn, Mike wanted to talk; Mike needed to talk.
With support from his wife, twelve year old daughter and the Lord, he had drawn a line in the sand. And that day his courage would be tested. When Mike asked me to pray for him, I felt compelled to better understand his stressful story.
Mike’s Crisis of Conscience
Mike, a forty something team leader of a pharmaceutical company, was headed to Denver for a national conference. A loyal company man, Mike was responsible for about fifty people and felt caught in the crosshairs between his company’s new policy and what he believed deep in his heart and soul to be right. While he had tried to keep a low profile, he had experienced what he called a “crisis of conscience”. At the conference, Mike would be forced to face the consequences of his conviction; consequences that would impact not only him and his family, but his entire team.
Recently we’ve seen evidence of hundreds if not thousands of “Mike’s” from all over the world— courageous people taking a stand because their line in the sand has been crossed.
A word for His disciples
Before I lose you, I don’t intend for this to be controversial. But inspired by Mike, the Lord has compelled me to think about my own line in the sand, and my own convictions. In Matthew Chapter 10, Jesus guides His disciples. And that guidance is relevant to us today.
Matthew 10:34-36 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
Does that passage of scripture make you uncomfortable? It does me. Jesus draws a line in the sand. He makes it clear that His mission will be distressing. Of course we will experience division, He warns. There is a cost to following Jesus.
Practically speaking, Jesus draws a line through every aspect of our life. The line challenges every thought, every word, and every deed. It holds before us a choice, a truth that we either acknowledge or deny. In spite of the temptation, it doesn’t work to straddle the line. There is no safe middle ground.
There’s a Chinese proverb that says… the nail that stands up gets the hammer.
I admire people with courageous conviction, people willing to stand up even when they face the hammer. People who don’t waver when things get heated. People who accept the consequences and hold their line in the sand.
Do you know the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? Daniel Chapter 3 tells the inspiring account of these courageous men.
King Nebuchadnezzar, a power hungry tyrant and king of Babylon, built a huge golden image and commanded everyone to fall down and worship it. Anyone who refused would be thrown into a fiery furnace.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had drawn a line in the sand. They stood their ground, prepared to accept the consequences. Because they defied the kings edict and refused to bow, they were thrown into the furnace. What courage!
But the story doesn’t end there.
Even though they respectfully submitted to the hammer with no promise of survival, God miraculously came through. The king and his minions watched in jaw-dropping awe as Gods almighty power protected His own. In the end, the tables turned and king Nebuchadnezzar and his nation bowed to the One True Living God.
That good ending can be summed up in two words…
God wins !
Our Rich History
God’s people have a rich history of defying civil and religious authorities especially when the edicts of man conflict with the commandments of God. But discerning where to draw the line is often complex and requires thoughtful and prayerful consideration. The way I understand it, the line marks the place where it becomes impossible to obey both God and human authorities. At that juncture a believer is forced to make a choice no matter the cost.
After all, what is the point of conviction if it doesn’t influence our conduct.
Acts 5:29 But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.
But take heed….listen to the Holy Spirit and tread carefully and prayerfully. Your line in the sand will come under the judgement of the Holy Lord God when you’ll stand before Him and give an account. (Romans 14:12).
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego weren’t looking for a fight; the fight found them. Has a fight found you? Have you prayerfully considered your line in the sand? Are you willing to hold that line no matter the cost? God will win, with or without you. Just maybe your time is now.
For His Glory,