When The World...
When The World Comes Tumbling Down
There are times in life when it just seems that everything is going wrong and when one wave of bad news hits after another. What does a relationship with Jesus Christ offer one at such times? What does a Christian do? How should a Christian react?
There are a number of problems that everyone experiences, believer, unbeliever, rich or poor, male or female. These are problems that are simply part of living in a body that is corruptible, "But though our outer man is decaying" (2 Corinthians 4:16) and in a world that is governed by the physics of decay, "They will perish…And they all will become old as a garment" (Hebrews 1:11-12); "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal" (Matthew 6:19). Every person and every family probably will experience trials related to health problems, and problems associated with owning material things. Since the world is unpredictable and no man can foretell the future, probably everyone will experience the frustration of buying the wrong thing, investing in the wrong thing, or missing out on some great deal.
"In the day of prosperity be happy, but in the day of adversity consider—God has made the one as well as the other so that man may not discover anything that will be after him" (Ecclesiastes 7:13).
This doesn’t apply to the afterlife, for the righteous knows what the future holds beyond this life (12:7). Rather, this applies to the events in this life (James 4:14). No man can predict the future; God mingles good days and bad, so that man never knows what tomorrow may hold. Such a verse should humble us and clip the wings of our self-sufficiency. We can rebel against this fact of life, resent it, determine to prove God wrong on this point, or we can accept it, be thankful that we don’t have to worry about the future and realize that the unpredictable future is always in the hands of a faithful God. Even the wise can’t predict the future. This should be a warning to every investor or forecaster. Just about the time that you think that you have every trend understood, figured out and predicted, God will throw you a curve ball. God has so arranged life that good and bad experiences happen to everyone, saint and sinner alike. Therefore: 1. Prosperity isn’t infallible evidence that you are right with God (Luke 12:15-21; Psalm 73:5 "They are not in trouble as other men"). 2. Hardship, set backs, "bad luck" isn’t a proof that God is punishing you (Psalm 73:13-14; The book of Job). God has so arranged things that it is impossible to tell from outward circumstances (such as prosperity or adversity), whether a person is saved or not. One probable reason for this is that if God instantly blessed good deeds and instantly punished evil deeds, people would start following God for the wrong reason (John 6:26). God wants people walking by faith, not sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
The attitude described in the above verse is important: When times are good, one should enjoy the prosperity; when times are bad, one should reflect on the fact that this too is from God’s hand. Compare with Philippians 4:10-13. Note the word "consider". Instead of complaining, reflect! Instead of being tempted to find fault with God’s management of this world, learn from the hardship (Psalm 119:71)."A little classic on the right approach to good times and bad, which is to accept both from God for what they can give: not with the Stoic’s impassiveness, nor with the restlessness of those who cannot bring themselves to accept a bonus with delight, or a blow with an open and reflective mind" (Kidner p. 68). Those who can come to terms with the above verse will find peace. Those who cannot are destined to live a life that is frustrating. In good times don’t become arrogant, rather be thankful. In hardship, don’t abandon or blame God, rather, grasp and learn those lessons which only hardship can deliver (Romans 5:3-4). But how many people resent the bad times, and then miss the good times because they are always saying, "This can’t last for long, I know something bad is right around the corner"?
Remember, God is impartial (Matthew 5:45). It is unreasonable to complain, "Why is this happening to me?" As if it is all right if it happens to someone else. Everyone gets their fair share of rain, sunshine and other physical blessings; hence, we shouldn’t abandon hope when our share of suffering comes as well.
First Century Trials
If Christians in the First Century had merely endured the type of trials that we endure today, they probably would have considered themselves fortunate. We tend to forget that much of the suffering and trials that are described in the New Testament, have to do with enduring persecution because of one’s faith (Matthew 5:10-11; Luke 6:22; Acts 14:22; "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken: struck down, but not destroyed…For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake" (2 Corinthians 4:8-10). God not only expects us to maintain our faith when we encounter the things that everyone else encounters, but also when we are singled out and persecuted. Here is one area where many of us need to pray,"Lord, increase our faith"!
The Devil Is Still Very Active
Whether we face unfaithfulness in the lives of fellow Christians, Christians teaching or being sucked into error, unfaithful members of our own family, such as parents, children or brothers and sisters, all of this only confirms the truth that the devil is real and that he is very active (1 Peter 5:8). In addition, none of this should shock or surprise us for Jesus has already told us: 1. The only person’s salvation that we can guarantee is our own (Luke 13:24). 2. Jesus and the apostles could not keep people from falling away or making bad choices(Luke 22:31-32; "For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ" (Philippians 3:18); "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine" (2 Timothy 4:3); "Any many will follow their sensuality" (2 Peter 2:2). 3. Congregations in the First Century experienced all sorts of problems. Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised if things aren’t always smooth and perfect in modern congregations. 4. Jesus already told us that His teachings are going to divide families and cause problems between even the closest relations, "For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household" (Matthew 10:35-36). The apostles experienced this firsthand (Matthew 19:29). In fact, Jesus even encountered problems with His own physical family (John 7:5).
Constructive Things to Do
- Pray: Sadly, this is sometimes the last thing we do. "Casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7). Pray is the practical demonstration of our: 1. Lack of power. We can’t control the future and we can’t force even our loved ones to serve God. 2. Our faith in God. That is, "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much" (James 5:16). All things are possible with God, including people overcoming tremendous temptations and ending up saved (Matthew 19:26). 3. Faith in God’s power and His providence. God can be around when we can’t, that God can hear conversations, work behind the scenes, and bring about circumstances favorable for repentance, things that are completely beyond our power.
- Don’t Panic! Jesus pointed out that each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34), and that we don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow (James 4:14). Don’t assume that if someone is weak or unfaithful that they will be this way forever. Don’t assume that what people are doing today is what they will do for the rest of their lives. When it comes to change, there is always the word "perhaps" (2 Timothy 2:25).
- Don’t concentrate all your energies on one person. Lost people surround us; others also need to hear the gospel (Matthew 10:11-15). Remember, our spirituality is not solely determined by whether a mate or child remains faithful or not.
- Solicit the help and prayers of other Christians (Galatians 6:2)! You will find that other Christians either have or are experiencing the same trials and temptations that you face. Somebody did face this same challenge before (1 Corinthians 10:13).
- Don’t give up and become discouraged: Especially when people in the congregation or family members aren’t living right, in fact, they probably are looking at you very closely to see if your faith wavers. If it does, then they will justify their own unfaithfulness. But if you remain steadfast, positive, strong, active and hopeful, then this can shame them into changing. For the longer you endure, the longer they appear to be self-centered and selfish. Draw a line in the sand and say, "Everyone else may forsake God, but I won’t".
- Overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Instead of letting the unfaithfulness of others discourage you, re-double your efforts. Being active in good-works is a great way to keep your perspective (Titus 3:14).
- Remember, you are on the narrow-way (Matthew 7:13-14). And as such keep the following in mind: 1. The truth will never be popular or trendy with "the crowd". 2. You will always be an "outsider" as far as the world is concerned (John 15:18). 3. Some people will tire of the narrow way and decide that they would rather be with everyone else on the broad way. 4. Christianity demands effort, sacrifice and work (Luke 9:23). People don’t end up saved by accident, being luke warm or a half-hearted effort. 5. True Christianity will never appeal to the masses, and there isn’t any way to make the truth acceptable to people who want to remain in sin. There isn’t any way to "market" the gospel. 6. "Few" there will be who find it, Jesus has already told us, we aren’t going to save everyone; in fact, we aren’t going to save most of the people that we come in contact with. Jesus is also telling us, "Don’t think something is wrong with you, because others aren’t wanting to follow the Bible". "Don’t think that you are angry, judgmental or unloving when you realize that the vast majority of people, even religious people (Matthew 7:21-23), are lost".
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017