This Present Distress

In 1 Corinthians 7:26 the apostle Paul issued some statements or judgments concerning whether or not a couple should marry during what he called the “present distress.” It would seem that a principle is to be found in his words that is applicable to areas other than whether or not one should marry.

Christians have always been in various stages of distress ever since the founding of the religion. When Jesus died on the cross that brought into effect His “last will and testament.” We call it the “New Testament.” While not everything contained in the New Testament may legitimately be said to be a “law” that went into effect, it does contain the directives and commands He issued both personally and through the agency of the apostles and inspired writers.

To clarify, some things that are stated in the New Testament are merely matters of history or, in some cases, matters of historical fact. For example, the fact that Jesus sat at the well in Sychar does not mean that we must also sit at that well. The fact that the apostle Paul often greeted a number of brethren at the close of some of his letters does not mean that we must greet those same brethren.

But the New Testament does contain the commands, directives, and examples that we are to follow today. Jesus had told His apostles that He would give them the “keys to the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:18, 19). They proceeded to use those “keys” during and after the events recorded in Acts chapter two. That was the establishment/founding of the Christian religion. From that time forward Christians have been under some type of duress or distress. In the following chapters both Peter and John were forbidden by the Jewish authorities to preach the gospel. They did it in spite of the restrictions placed upon them by the council and suffered beatings because of it. Paul and his traveling companions were often placed in positions of distress because of their work for the Lord (Acts 16).

While Christians today may not experience being thrown in jail or suffer beatings at the hands of the civil authorities as did those early Christians, some forms of distress are still prevalent today. Currently, Christianity is under attack both from without and within. Those who are outside the body of Christ are constantly attacking the beliefs and standards of conduct taught in God’s word as outmoded, old fashioned, and out of touch with the times. If a Christian reminds someone that such things as abortion (Proverbs 6:16-19), adultery, fornication, homosexual activities, drunkenness, and etc. (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) are sinful, that person will often be shouted down, derided, ridiculed, and ostracized. That’s not like being thrown in jail or beaten for your beliefs and practices but it certainly is stressful.

Even from inside the body of Christ those who hold to the “old paths” are often ridiculed for doing so. Many today would abandon Biblical teaching in order to include, or at least not offend, those who disagree with them. It is occasionally stated that we must “modernize” our ideas, beliefs, and practices or we will become irrelevant in this modern world. The idea is often expressed that if we are going to attract new people we must add talented performers, bands, and “glitz” so that people will be entertained, “moved,” and impressed with what we are doing. But that’s not what Jesus said. His statement was “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32). Our job is not to modernize the church. It is to lift up Jesus before the world in both word and deed. If we do that people will be drawn to Him, not us, and we will be drawn closer to the Lord, as well.

So, what do we do? How should we react to this “present distress?” It’s relatively simple: stay on God’s path. Jesus informed us that there are only two roads to follow. One leads to eternal life, the other to destruction (Matthew 7:13, 14). Stay on the road that leads to life. Yes, it is true that human beings often think they know a better way, but we are also informed that the way we should go is not something that is conjured up in the mind of mankind. Humans do not have the necessary wisdom to determine the right way (Jeremiah 10:23). When we think ourselves wise we are merely proving how foolish we are (Romans 1:22, 23). When we follow what we think is right rather than what God has ordained as right we are headed for certain death (Proverbs 16:25).

Stay on the Lord’s path and do not allow anyone or anything to deter you.