It’s always somewhat easier to do the right thing when everyone around you is likewise doing the right thing. Courage is easier to find when you have friends to the left and the right standing firm beside you. Faith is more readily found when everyone is in agreement with you as to what should be believed.
It’s a bit more difficult when one is standing all alone, in opposition to everyone else. Faith is harder to maintain when everyone is telling you that what you believe is wrong. Courage is harder to find when you are friendless, and surrounded by those that are hostile. Doing the right thing becomes harder when everyone around you is pressuring you to join them in doing the wrong thing.
We recognize this phenomena, and label it with terms such as peer pressure, the effects of which can be either positive or negative, depending on what your peers are pressuring you to do.
When it comes to serving God, the numbers are always going to be against those that want to do the right thing. “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19; ESV) Likewise, Jesus reminded us, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (1 John 15:18-19; ESV)
A good portion of the Bible recounts to us the experiences of godly individuals of faith who, because of their faith, had to stand alone. Noah, for a hundred years, preached alone, except for his family, to a wicked world that refused to listen to him. Joseph, sold into slavery by his brothers, found himself alone in a heathen land, alone in with Potiphar’s wife, and alone in prison. Yet through it all he held true to God. Example, after example could by multiplied. Moses and Aaron stood alone before the Pharaoh, Joshua and Caleb stood alone before the Israelites. Elijah stood alone before the prophets of Baal. Jeremiah found himself alone, at the bottom of a cistern.
Not least, abandoned by His disciples, Jesus stood alone before the wicked Jews who sought His life, alone before Pilate, and was crucified surrounded by His mocking enemies. Psalm 22 prophetically and poetically describes the predicament of our Lord, with its plaintive opening: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1) In His suffering, Jesus perfectly encapsulated all the experiences of those who struggle to remain faithful to God in the midst of a hostile world: “I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; ‘He trusts in the Lord; let Him deliver him; let Him rescue him, for he delights in him!” (Psalm 22:6-8; ESV)
Yet Jesus was not alone. Jesus knew that God was with Him, for He knew the same Psalm testified: “He has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the Afflicted, and He has not hidden His face from Him, but has heard, when He cried to Him.” (Psalm 22:24; ESV)
This is why Jesus could say, with confidence, even as He died, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
Though men of God have often been required to stand alone against the world, in truth, none of them have ever been alone. God was always there for them, and one, with God, is always sufficient.
Perhaps this is why the last words of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of Matthew are these: “And behold, I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20b)
Elsewhere we read, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5b)
When we know what we should do, when we know what God wants us to do, we should never back down from doing it, simply because it appears to be unpopular. Even if all the world stands before us, warning us not to do that which God has commanded, we need to remember that God is there with us. Christ is there with us. Don’t make your decisions based on how many others around you are making the same decision. Make choices according to the will of God, as revealed in His word, remembering that when you stand with God, you are never alone.
If you would like to learn the word of God, and the Gospel of Christ, the church of Christ invites you to study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any questions, please share them with us through our website: chapelhillchurchofchrist.org.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.