Is this religion a hobby? If so, when persecution comes, it will slide away. Go to God and ask for help to endure trials. Don’t ever let God turn into a hobby.
These are the notes taken live during services as captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing. This is not a word for word transcript. For the exact wording, please consult the audio recording.
How many of you have a hobby? Hobbies are a great thing. I love hobbies. Think of a couple of your hobbies that you enjoy doing when you are bored and trying to decompress a bit. One definition of a hobby is a spare time recreation pursuit. In other words, something you pursue in your spare time. A hobby can help reduce your stress levels. It can be a form of an outlet. It can be relaxing. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Jack has hobbies. Hobbies help break up the cycles of work. They help us become an interesting person. It is nice to be able to ask what a person likes. Hobbies are very casual. For the most part, you aren’t serious about it. You like to crochet, but if something better comes up, you do that. Hobbies are good at taking all your spare money. Do I put it in savings, or upgrade my fishing equipment? Or do I take a class on this? Maybe you had hunting and fishing on your list. Crafts. Woodworking. One of my favorites is eating deserts. Maybe you are into model trains. My father-in-law has a restored Model A Ford truck. He sometimes has to have help to get it back to the garage. Maybe there is musical instrument. Maybe you journal. You paint. You take pictures. You do salt water aquariums. You do puzzles. My dad and I did one every year.
Mom knew here table would be out of commission a month or so. Maybe you are into symphonies or dancing. Maybe you will do some of these tonight after sunset. When I was growing up, I was into Legos in a big way. We had a ranch house. Half had an attic. My parents bought a 4x8 sheet of plywood. I had a whole city in that place. Across the attic, I had a castle. If you were bad, you went to the dungeon. I would spend hours up there. Hobbies can reduce your stress. They can cause you to be more balanced in your life style. Did you write down Church? Loving your neighbors? Having compassion for others? Seeking out sin? Searching out sin? The big four: Prayer, Bible study, fasting and meditation. Paying tithes. Godly love. I venture a guest that no one wrote down any of those things. That is good. You may say those are things you have to do. Of course they wouldn’t be on my hobby list. Revelation 22:14 Revelation 22:14Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
American King James Version×We should not consider God to be a hobby. That is good. That is the right conclusion. Let me ask another question. When things get rough, what is the first thing to go? What gets the back seat? Generally, our hobbies. When the budget gets tight, do you cut the mortgage payment or the hobbies? Sorry Mr. Mortgage Holder, can’t pay you; I’m saving for a big boat. (Laughter.) Do you stop buying groceries so you can keep going to the symphony? Do you stop putting gas in the car so you can buy a new fishing rod? No, that is ridiculous. The hobby is one of the first things to go.
2 Timothy 3:12 2 Timothy 3:12Yes, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
American King James Version×Here is the reality of the life we have committed to. This is one of my least favorite scriptures. Oooh. This is not fun. We cannot be hobby Christians. We cannot let our relationship with God dwindle when the going gets rough. God can’t take the back burner. We can’t afford to upgrade our hobby instead of making the mortgage payment. These are the times to beef up our prayer and Bible study and fasting and meditation. If we desire a godly life, persecution will come. Today, let’s be resolute in not letting persecutions make God your hobby. Is persecution ever good? Can any good come from it? Does it indicate you are obedient to God? If you are made fun of for going to Church on Saturday, do people see you as weird and really different? Does that indicate obedience to God? When was the last time you thought about persecution? Was it just back in the Bible time? Or off in the future, but not right now? What kind of persecutions are there? When you think of it, certain gruesome images pop to mind. Let’s read about some faithful members who suffered some terrible things. Hebrews 11:35-38 Hebrews 11:35-38  Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:  And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yes, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:  They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;  (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
American King James Version×Vs. 36 – Think of Jed Sy in the Philippines. Did nothing wrong. Locked away for life for something she didn’t do. Vs. 37 – Traditionally, Isaiah was sawn in two. Vs. 38 – How many today wander in dens and caves? I don’t see anyone wearing sheep skins or goat skins. There are some historical accounts of extreme hatred of God’s people. Anti-Semitism. That is a hatred of the Jews and God. Read Romans 1 and Esther. They hate God and everything He stands for. The early members were burned alive on stakes by the streets to provide light. When was the last time you heard about this sort of thing? Not in the paper today. So are we being persecuted today?
1 Peter 2:19-20 1 Peter 2:19-20  For this is thank worthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.
 For what glory is it, if, when you be buffeted for your faults, you shall take it patiently? but if, when you do well, and suffer for it, you take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
American King James Version×Vs. 20 – “Patiently” should be “with endurance”. In vs. 19 – “if you endure grief”. How many of you have endured grief? It happens. This is not about being sawn in two, or put up on a stake. In Greek, it means, sorrow, pain or affliction. How many then endure grief? Are we mocked because we don’t keep Christmas or dress up for Halloween? Or because we don’t go to the games on Friday nights? How many are given the cold shoulder because of clean meats? How many are sneered at by neighbors and poked fun at? Vs. 20 – “Commendable” means “thankworthy, or cause for reward.” There is a great reward that awaits all of us if we endure. If we take it on the shoulder. That is cause for reward. What kind of reward would you like to receive from God? I would like to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant. There are donuts in the back room. Help yourself!” If we endure through our grief, there is a reward waiting for us. Matthew 19:16-21 Matthew 19:16-21  And, behold, one came and said to him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?  And he said to him, Why call you me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments.  He said to him, Which? Jesus said, You shall do no murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,  Honor your father and your mother: and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  The young man said to him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?  Jesus said to him, If you will be perfect, go and sell that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
American King James Version×A young man begins a dissertation with Christ. If we had the opportunity to ask Christ questions, maybe this would be the one. Vs. 16 – What do I have to do to be part of the family of God? Vs. 17 – Keep the commandments. Simple. Vs. 20 – It is interesting that some of the commandments seem to be easier to keep than others. No one here has murdered anyone.
The Feast of Tabernacles is easy to keep. It is easy to keep 10% and go spend it for what you desire. That is easy. Vs. 20 – This man said he had done it all. What did he still lack? Vs. 21 – Christ tells the young man to give himself to others. Practice godly love. Endure the mockery. Stick with it. Don’t throw in the towel. Get ready for persecutions. Learn from them. Grow from them. If we aren’t 100% committed to God’s way of life, we hold God’s way as a hobby. The big question for us: Is God your hobby? Remember a hobby is something you do as a spare time, recreational pursuit. Do we pray when it is convenient? Do we study when it is convenient? Do we fast on Atonement and check off fasting for the year? God should be first and foremost in our life. God cannot be a hobby for us. Romans 8:35 Romans 8:35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
American King James Version×, 38-39 Vs. 35 – It seems simple. Nobody! Christ and I are locked together! We could paraphrase: Who or what situation could make God a hobby to us? Something at work? Something at home? Something at school? Something in your relationship with your spouse? Vs. 39 – You have seen padlocks. The locking mechanism swings in the same radius as the lock. You can’t get a saw in there. Round locks are unique. You can’t get anything in there to cut the bolt. That is how our relationship with God should be. Vs. 39 – We should be like a round lock. Locked on God so tight no bolt cutters will fit. Nothing can sway us. Nothing can push us off. Vs. 38 – “I am persuaded…” The word means to have trust or to have confidence. We should have confidence that we are locked on God. Are we confident that nothing can pull us away from God? Are you confident that nothing on earth, no spirit being can pull you away? We should be. Hobbies are a great stress reliever. But our relationship with God must not be a hobby.
Matthew 13:3-8 Matthew 13:3-8  And he spoke many things to them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;
 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
 Some fell on stony places, where they had not much earth: and immediately they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundred times, some sixty times, some thirty times.
American King James Version×This is the parable of the sower. Vs. 8 – It is a curious question to wonder what kind of seed we are. Are we those that land with the weeds and are choked by things going on around us. Are we a seed that follows God? Or just when it is easy? Oh, it is tough today… Matthew 13:18-21 Matthew 13:18-21  Hear you therefore the parable of the sower.  When any one hears the word of the kingdom, and understands it not, then comes the wicked one, and catches away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.  But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that hears the word, and immediately with joy receives it;  Yet has he not root in himself, but endures for a while: for when tribulation or persecution rises because of the word, by and by he is offended.
American King James Version×Christ interprets the parable. Vs. 21 – These are hobby Christians. This is not what we should be. The wayside Christian, the stony Christian – they are going through the motions. They are doing it because the have to, not because they want to. There is an interesting concept called complacency. That is a feeling of self satisfaction. You are on autopilot. How many years have you been in the Church? How many Feasts have you observed? I’ve been to 35. How many Passovers have you been to? Habits can be good. Brushing your teeth, for example. But falling into a rut is a bad thing. If your morning prayer is the same thing, that is bad. God doesn’t want a repetitive thing. It is good you are praying every day, but bad that it is repetitious. Do you remember your first love? When you first picked up a magazine? That burning desire to read and study some more? It was exciting and invigorating. There is a lady I meet with in Phoenix. She has this first love. She is zealous. She knew the religion she had before kept some of the commands. But she didn’t know what it meant. It didn’t connect the scriptures in the right way. Through God’s spirit, God is working with her. Light bulbs are going on. She is excited. That is first love. Remember it?
Matthew 25:2-9 Matthew 25:2-9  And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go you out to meet him.
 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
 And the foolish said to the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go you rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
American King James Version×All were virgins. They weren’t worshipping idols. What was the difference between the wise and the foolish? Vs. 3 – The foolish didn’t have spare oil. Vs. 4 – The wise had extra. They were working in their relationship with God. With this parable, all 10 had some of the holy spirit. But when the bridegroom came, 5 were getting low and wanted to borrow from the wise. Vs. 9 – Don’t be a hobby Christian. Don’t be a foolish virgin. Revelation 3:18-20 Revelation 3:18-20  I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white raiment, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness do not appear; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
American King James Version×Here, Christ counsels us to buy gold refined in the fire. Vs. 19 – Christ loves us all; He wants us all to be successful. He wants us to succeed in the quest; the life we have chosen to live. These people were satisfied with the motions they were going through. They were hobby Christians. Vs. 20 – This is the kind of relationship each of us wants to have with Christ. Those who are not yet baptized, I know you desire this, too. Let’s not be hobby Christians. Contentment is okay as long as we are not complacent. We should be content with being kings and priests. God wants us in the future to teach all of mankind. All who have ever lived. He wants us to be teachers, to encourage everyone to live this way of life. Live this way. Walk this way. We need to realize to the importance of being content with what God wants for us.
We need to lock hold of that goal. In conclusion, turn to: Mark 10:28-30 Mark 10:28-30  Then Peter began to say to him, See, we have left all, and have followed you.
 And Jesus answered and said, Truly I say to you, There is no man that has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's,
 But he shall receive an hundred times now in this time, houses, and brothers, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
American King James Version×Here, is the second half of the story we read earlier. After the rich young man left, the disciples came to Christ with questions. Christ encouraged His disciples by saying that they were here to endure grief. But, if everything is stripped away, He will multiply it back. If not in this life, in eternal life. Think of Job. He remained faithful to God. He lost it all. His family. His wealth. But he stuck with God and remained faithful. God gave it all back multiple times over. Do we have faith enough to endure persecution? Or are we just playing Church? Is Church a hobby? If we are playing Church, it is a hobby. It is a waste of time. Let’s recommit to our relationship with God. If it is a bit rocky, pray. Fast. Get back up on the horse. Is this religion a hobby? If so, when persecution comes, it will slide away. Go to God and ask for help to endure trials. Don’t ever let God turn into a hobby.