“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). I’m convinced that the decision by true Christians to stand up for Jesus on certain issues will spark an onslaught of persecution against us that we’ve not experienced before.
We are living in a time of great crisis, but it is also time of great opportunity. The tension between living for today and looking for tomorrow is one of the realities of the followers of Christ. So we must be prepared for the challenges that lie ahead of us. New technologies are making our lives more convenient, but they also make us more dependent on those conveniences. We will and are finding ourselves living in a very different world from the one into which we were born.
The signs of the last days the Hebrew prophets told us to watch out for are all around us. These include famines and outbreaks of plagues and pestilences; unusual and violent weather; an increase in earthquakes and extreme weather patterns; a tremendous and rapid decline in moral standards and behavior; persecution of believers; secular humanism, the decline of nationalism and individual nation-states and the rise of global governance, an unbelievable increase in the amount of human knowledge, Jerusalem being a burdensome stone for all nations; wars and rumors of wars and ethnic conflicts, the frightening and sudden rise in lawlessness, corruption, including individual, corporate, governmental, and societal disregard for law and order; and economic chaos.
All these changes and challenges will confront us in the days ahead but preparing for Christ’s return is something each of us must do for ourselves. No one else can get our hearts ready to meet God. You and I must do that ourselves. Jesus urges us to do three things in view of His second coming:
- We are to keep watching: But take heed to yourselves and be on your guard, lest your hearts be overburdened and depressed (weighed down) with the giddiness and headache and nausea of self-indulgence, drunkenness, and worldly worries and cares pertaining to the business of this life, and lest that day come upon you suddenly like a trap or a noose; For it will come upon all who live upon the face of the entire earth. Keep awake then and watch at all times (be discreet, attentive, and ready), praying that you may have the full strength and ability and be accounted worthy to escape all these things taken together that will take place, and to stand in the presence of the Son of Man (Luke 21:21:34-36 AMP).
- We are to watch and be ready at all times: Watch therefore (give strict attention, be cautious and active), for you do not know in what kind of a day whether a near or remote one your Lord is coming. But understand this: had the householder known in what part of the night, whether in a night or a morning watch the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have allowed his house to be undermined and broken into. You also must be ready therefore, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him (Matthew 24:42-44).
- We are to remain faithful and serving: Who then is the faithful, thoughtful, and wise servant, whom his master has put in charge of his household to give to the others the food and supplies at the proper time? Blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied) is that servant whom, when his master comes, he will find so doing (Matthew 24:45-46).
How to Overcome the Onslaught of Wickedness
In meantime, what should we do to enable us to overcome the onslaught of wickedness that is increasing? First and foremost, we should spend quality time with God. This sets the tone of any other expenditure of time. We will not be at our best, emotionally or otherwise, if we do not daily cultivate our relationship with God by spending time in His presence.
R.T. Kendall reminds us, “When you stand before the Lord you may well regret how you used so much of your time, but I can safely promise that you will not regret a single minute you spent alone with God.”
Secondly, as Christians we are called not to conform to this world or let the world around us squeeze us into its own mold (see Romans 12:2). This is not easy as it is very difficult to be different. I read a story of a young police officer taking his final exams at Hendon Police College in North London. Here was one of the questions:
You are on patrol in outer London where an explosion occurs in a gas main in a nearby street. On investigation you find that a large hole has been blown in the footpath and there is an overturned van lying nearby. Inside the van there is a strong smell of alcohol. Both occupants-a man and a woman-are injured. You recognize the woman as the wife of your Divisional Inspector, who is presently away in the USA.
A passing motorist stops to offer you assistance and you realize that he is a man who is wanted for armed robbery. Suddenly a man runs out of a nearby house, shouting that his wife is expecting a baby and that the shock of the explosion has made the birth imminent. Another man is crying for help, having been blown into an adjacent canal by the explosion, and he cannot swim. Bearing in mind the provisions of the Mental Health Act, describe in a few words what actions you would take.
The officer thought for a moment, picked up his pen, and wrote: “I would take off my uniform and mingle with the crowd.”
We can sympathize with his answer. As a Christian, it is often easier to take off our Christian uniform and ‘mingle with the crowd’. It’s human to stand with the crowd; it’s divine to stand alone. It’s manlike to follow the people, to drift with the tide; it’s godlike to follow principles, to stem the tide. It’s natural to compromise conscience and follow social and religious fashions for the sake of gain and pleasure; it’s divine to sacrifice fashions on the altar of truth and beauty. Truth has been out of fashion since man changed his robe of fade-less light for a garment of faded leaves. Think about it for a moment!
Thirdly, human leaders will come and go. Some will be better, some worse and others will be what we deserve-a reflection of our own wickedness and sinfulness. But behind all human governments, God still reigns over the eternal destiny of mankind. Beyond this temporal world, God rules from His throne in heaven. He guides His children and overrules in the affairs of men and nations to accomplish His will and purposes. The Bible assures us, there is no authority except from God (by His permission, His sanction), and those that exist do so by God’s appointment (Romans 13:1).
Regardless of who our leaders are, we are commanded to offer petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings on behalf of all men. For kings and all who are in positions of authority or high responsibility, that outwardly we may pass a quiet and undisturbed life and inwardly a peaceable one in all godliness and reverence and seriousness in every way (1Timothy 2:1-2).
Fourth, the church of Jesus Christ is still precious and our mission is still clear. The church stands as the salt and light of God in society. “We are to declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). During this age and dispensation of grace, God is still working through His church to evangelize and disciple the world. Jesus gave us clear directions about what we are to be doing until He returns. He said:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen (Matthew 28:19-20).
The church may flourish or be persecuted in these last days, but she is to be faithful to her mission until Jesus calls her home to glory as the Apostle Paul tells in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
God Did Not Call Us to Win
If you choose to become a person who is deeply committed to a cause, the world won’t understand you; you will be alone. Noah built the ark and voyaged alone except for his family. He preached 120 years and never had a convert, and yet he did not get discouraged.
Don Wildmon, the founder of the American Family Association (AFA) stood boldly against the increasing immorality in our society for years, until his resignation in 2010. The sad thing is that he often reported that some of his main critics came from within Christianity and many of them were pastors!
He said the typical letter he got from pastors read something like this: “Don, you are wasting your time. Evil has greatly multiplied since you began speaking out about it. You need to face up to the fact that you are losing the battle”. Don responded by saying:
God did not call me to win. He called me to stand. We will not win until Jesus returns.
The Lord also assessed the faithfulness of the servants mentioned in Matt. 25:14-30, not by their net gain but their percentage increase. The servant who gained five talents was not considered more faithful than the servant who had gained two talents although he gained more talents.
It is on their faithfulness, as expressed in the percentage increase achieved, that their judgment is based. Whether one man originally received five talents and another one two, this was not the basis on which their faithfulness is assessed. Rather, each of these servants was considered equally faithful because each had achieved the same increase.
It is easy to lose the joy of serving Christ when we take our eyes off him. The more we look away from God’s eternal purposes towards our own sacrifices, the more frustrated we will become.
Baruch’s Service to Jeremiah
Baruch was the scribe who recorded Jeremiah’s words on a scroll. He had long been serving this weeping and unpopular prophet, writing his book of struggles and judgments and eventually Baruch became overwhelmed with his trials. God told Baruch to take his eyes off himself and whatever rewards he thought he deserved. Listen to what Jeremiah told him:
The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch son of Neriah, when he had written these words in a book at the dictation of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, saying, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, unto you, O Baruch: You said, Woe is me now! For the Lord has added sorrow to my pain; I am weary with my groaning and sighing and I find no rest. Say this to him: The Lord speaks thus: Behold, what I have built I will break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up—and this means the whole land. And should you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not; for behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, says the Lord, but your life I will give to you [as your only booty and as a snatched prize of war wherever you go (Jeremiah 45:1-5 AMP).
Sir William Smith, in his Dictionary of the Bible says, “Baruch plays a role familiar in normal human life today—that of having to take second place, having to play second fiddle.” He was of high birth; his grandfather Maaseiah was governor of Jerusalem in the days of King Josiah (II Chronicles. 34:8).
Considering all that Baruch was doing to make Jeremiah’s prophecies permanent by recording them for posterity, it is not surprising that he seems to have expected to share the prophet’s rewards. “To play a prominent part in the impending crisis, to be the hero of a national revival, to gain the favor of the conqueror he announced,” seems to have been his high ideal, his glorious dream.
When its realization was denied him, “he sank in despair at the seeming fruitlessness of his efforts” Yet Baruch is an excellent illustration of how little the gift of prophecy depended on men, and how completely it remained for God to grant or deny prominence and recognition to His perhaps equally deserving servants.
Each man’s eternal rewards are proportioned according to his faithfulness, and not according to his earthly recognition or the lack of it. Whether one man originally received five talents and another one two, this was not the basis on which their faithfulness is assessed. Our faithfulness is assessed in light of eternity.