In my local Lifeway store I peruse the books turned front covers-out in the “Current Issues” section: Saving Freedom, Four Blood Moons, Harbinger, Epicenter, Implosion, Charismatic Chaos, Are We Living in the End Times, Unveiling the End Times, The End...
On my way out I pass the “Bestsellers” section and see: What Are You Afraid Of? You’ll Get Through This, The Reason for My Hope, Whispers of Hope and about 14 versions of Jesus Calling and Calling and Calling…And it strikes me…there’s a connection here. Who wouldn’t read the current issues books and feel like they need these best-sellers on hope and overcoming fear?
Families and relationships feel fragile as trust erodes. The faltering economy feels fragile. Iran, Syria, jihad--the world feels fragile. Even as in the Philippines and the Midwest this week the weather feels more and more chaotic. Add to this mix all the chatter about Biblical prophecies of end times and it’s hard NOT to feel hopes sink and fears rise.
I am a big picture person. I’ve been focusing for years on what Francis Schaeffer has called “the decline of Western thought and culture.” I can empathize with those who sound the alarm that we are teetering on the brink of catastrophe. Especially when I’ve been watching cable news and seen way too many advertisements for buying gold. With my age, my health and my poor, beaten up 401k I can get sucked into the vortex of fear so easily.
But I’m pretty sure that’s not the way Jesus wants me to live. He wants me to enter deeply into the brokenness of this world, weep with those who weep, but he says over and over in his word, “Stand firm. Be strong and courageous for I am with you.” Many times the verb is passive: “Be strengthened” in the Lord. It is an active passivity.
We are strong not necessarily when we engage in grand battles and heroic actions, but as we respond in simple faith and obedience to Jesus. In Ephesians (6:10) Paul tells us, “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.” Where are the battle lines drawn for children in Ephesians? In their obedience to their parents, as to the Lord.
Slaves stand strong as they obey their masters.
Fathers stand strong as they love their wives sacrificially and teach their children the “discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Wives stand strong when they voluntarily submit to their husbands.
We all stand strong as we walk in love and submission one to another.
Obedience to God’s commands strengthens our intimacy with Jesus, strengthens us.
How else can we be strong? Believe the Lord goes with you; Sometimes all we do is stand firm and he fights the battles for us. Sometimes we have to engage and he magnifies the impact of our words or actions a thousand times.
Sometimes the places we need to stand are so terrifying—betrayal, abandonment, separation—that we echo king David’s prayer in Psalm 56: “When I am afraid I will trust in you…In God I trust, I will not be afraid.” Sometimes there is very little distance between “When I am afraid” and “I will not be afraid.”
As Christians living in a darkening world what do others sense in our presence, in our facebook posts, in our posture of retreat or engagement… Do we join the chorus of those wringing their hands and bemoaning the darkness? Or do others sense the strong presence of the Lord Jesus?
The point of the prophetic passages about end times is not to scare us but to” be sober.” (ie. Get serious! Live serious in serious times.) “Be vigilant.” Be on the watch for the enemy’s attack. If we are fearful he has already attacked and we have succumbed. “Be strong and courageous for I am with you.”