No one looks forward to hearing bad news. We don’t even like the possibility of bad news. There’s not a person you know that would relish the opportunity to sit in a doctor’s waiting room as tension builds, wondering how the test results turned out.
Neither is it enjoyable to deliver bad news. But doing so is one part of being a pastor. It is part of being a fellow member of a local church. It is part of being a Christian.
From the days of Noah to the end of the age, bad news will remain a staple of our fallen condition. And faithful messengers will continue to deliver it.
I am going to speculate here, but I don’t believe what I am about to say is much of a stretch. If you pay even the remotest attention to current events, this seems to be a pretty safe prediction: Persecution is coming in our lifetime, and this hostility-inciting issue of homosexuality is the initial domino that will bring it to pass.
Are you ready for what is coming?
Frankly, it scares me to think about. But burrowing beneath the covers is hardly an adult response to a fearful circumstance. And it’s certainly not an adequate one.
We are headed for times of fear and loneliness. Persecution will purify the Church, partly by revealing who is truly among us and who is not. We will lose those we once considered allies, friends, family in Christ. We will be abandoned, forsaken, and abused. Professing Christians will capitulate to the pressure. It happened today, and it happens every day.
Are you ready? I’m not. Yet.
To the majority of past generations of Christians, this earthly distress was the norm. The forsakenness, the betrayal, the abuse, the loss of jobs, loss of family, loss of friends, loss of spouses, loss of health, loss of limb, loss of life was nearly standard protocol. Perhaps this is why they were often so much better than we are at longing for a better country, one whose builder and maker is God. Perhaps this is why they worked and toiled and labored under a brighter banner than our feeble eyes have seen, for there eyes were so trained Heavenward that no suffering of the present age could hope to be deemed comparable to the glory that awaited them on the other side. Maybe it was the realization of the briefness of this struggle and the eternal weight of unsurpassed joy in the presence of the Lamb that drove them onward and upward, “further up, and further in,” as C.S. Lewis put it.
I’m not ready. But how I want to be! How do we prepare?
I don’t purport to offer exhaustive solutions. But I have some initial ideas. And as the substance is of Divine origin, it is undoubtedly the best place I could point you. I’ll offer these thoughts:
1. Do not be surprised. Jesus did not obscure the divisiveness of truth from our view. He did not trick us. He did not bait and switch. He clearly told us what to expect, and then encouraged us to count the cost before following Him.
Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. Luke 12:51-53
Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:25-33
2. Take the 10,000 year view. Really, it’s the eternal view. But somehow 10,000 years seems more comprehendible to me. It is this: when viewed in light of our future around the throne of Jesus, our seventy-year (maybe) blip on planet Earth is infinitesimally small. It is nothing. Even if every day of our entire earthly existence were spent intensely suffering for Christ (I’ve already been given a minimum 31-year reprieve on that possibility….you?) it would be nothing compared to eternity with Him. Seventy divided by infinity is really hard to calculate, even with a TI-89.
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:15-18
3. Beg the Father to show you His glory. There is no portrait we can seek that compares to the glory of God. If we see Him as He truly is, laying aside our preconceived ideas, our Westernized aberrations that obscure our view of Him, our sinful and idolatrous gods of our own devising (yes, I am still talking to Christians here), we cannot help but be changed. We cannot help but be more like Him. We cannot help but love Him better. Christianity is not about us. It is about Him. So seek His face!
Moses did (this whole chapter is worth a careful study):
Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” Exodus 33:18
The Psalmist did:
As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God. Psalm 42:1
Paul saw it in the face of Christ:
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6
Ready or not, the time is coming when the cost of following Jesus will become starkly apparent. He plainly warned us. He promised us an incomparable reward. He gave us something perfect to gaze upon as we struggle through the vaporous trial.
Look to Him. As you prepare to suffer for Him, you are preparing to stand before Him and hear, “Well done.” There is no better prize.
11:05 P.M. Update: Another article on World Vision’s tragic denial of Biblical authority.
*All Scripture quotations in this article taken from the ESV.