Working at the homeless shelter, CoVid 19 has caused some issues. People have to be screened one at a time, They have to be separated by six feet, with masks. Because of this, they have to wait outside, in a "socially distanced" array for an hour or longer to come in. There are limited beds inside also due to social distancing to prevent spread of the virus, It's cold weather now in December. They shiver in the cold. I bring them coffee while they wait. I make it strong; I serve it black and piping hot. I give them chocolates. Bitter coffee and sweet chocolate. It helps.
The gospel--the real gospel--is like that. If you are suffering in this life, as I was, and many others are, salvation is the sweetest thing there is. And the sweetness lasts, not like worldly pleasures that are ecstatic for a time and then turn to ashes.
But there is a price. Some churches downplay this part. I think this is why many young people leave the church. I include myself, 50 years ago. Youth wants excitement, challenge, even danger. Something real. Strong coffee, not weak tea.
In other parts of the world, people who spread the gospel of Jesus Christ are liable to prison, torture and death. There the price is easy to see. Here in America it is less obvious, but still real.
I encountered it when I wrote I, Witness, and started promoting it on social media. I got some vile, hateful responses. But, I recalled Matthew 5, and that persecution and scorn is the anticipated result, and I believe, actually proves that I am doing it right. The plain, unvarnished gospel is poison to the enemy.
Also, like Peter, we are meant to be sifted, tested, and chastised. We have to be prepared for God's Kingdom. You do not get to be saved and then expect a bed of roses. Christ carried the crown of thorns!
As Christ spoke to the church in Laodicea in Revelations 3:14-22, you can't just be fat, rich and happy and truly walk in His footsteps. Do you ever dream of a bigger house, a fancier car, winning the lottery, looking great in clothes and jewelry, moving up in status? Most people do. We are naturally sinful, we can't help it.
Thus being imperfect, we have to be sanctified, purified. The Lord advised the Laodiceans to buy from Him gold refined in fire. Ore is put in a crucible and heated until it separates into gold and "dross". The dross is scraped off and discarded. The gold is precious and beautiful and pure. So is the spirit, Our worldly suffering is the fire. It burns hot. It hurts. We are severely tested. I am talking about things like loss of a marriage, a child, your life's savings, or cancer. For some it is addiction, loss of a career or even prison. Even death. But as James points out in James 2:14-26, if you talk the talk, you have to walk the walk.
Also, even the best of us gets off track once in a while and needs a spanking. We are God's children. The way we know we are really His is that He chastises us. Hebrews 12:1-13.
Lastly, when we seriously set about God's work, the enemy works hard to hinder us.
For example, a year ago, the city fathers imposed strict regulations on homeless shelters, making it hard to operate. Only by perseverance and extremely hard work were they able to fulfill the mission to help the homeless.
Another example, when I started promoting I, Witness, the message of the gospel started reaching hundreds of thousands of people. Then all of a sudden one morning I found that Facebook had blocked all my "boosted" posts. Why? They gave excuses like violations of policy. What policy? I had scrupulously avoided issues of gender, politics, etc. I had gone out of my way to keep the page clear of any reference to the intense election battles going on in the country. There certainly was nothing vulgar, violent or sexual. And I blocked vulgar comments by others.
Could it be that FB actually has a policy against Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
Satan acts through people, even "good" people (though all are sinners). He does not want the gospel told to millions of people, especially in STRONG testimony.
My homeless friends like strong, hot coffee. They are suffering in the cold. It warms them up. The sweet chocolate gives them energy, they burn up shivering and trying to keep warm. The demonstration that anyone cares gives them hope, hope that is worth more than coffee and chocolate.
I am warmed by the fact that God set me this task through the Holy Spirit, no one asked me to do it. And neither cold wind nor CoVid fears, nor cancer will stop me as long as I am physically able from serving them according to the calling. And it is my greatest joy that I can send people I will never meet in person the news that Jesus Christ is alive and well and when everything else looks black, He will save those who come to Him with a willing heart. Strong coffee, sweet chocolate.