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[5] Fighting against the current

Vultures circling roundWhen we look at how Jesus describes the time leading up to the end of the world – it can all seem very scary! … 

This is what He said:

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.
At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.
Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:9-14 (NIV)

When I hear these verses, I get a very vivid picture of myself, clinging onto a branch of a tree, in the middle of powerful flood waters. The mighty torrent roars by, and thunders down a huge chasm, taking virtually everything in it′s path to destruction.

All that I considered as being stable, and dependable is being ripped away.
All those things I hold as being fair, and noble, and honest, are just uprooted and destroyed.
Where is true justice when I am handed over to be persecuted and put to death purely for being a Christian, and for doing good!
Where is the fairness in being hated, just because I believe in Jesus?

What happened to God′s help, in that many turn away from the faith?
And they not only fell, but they also betray, and hate each other.
And there are so many false teachers who mislead many.
And the flood of wickedness gets stronger and stronger. Am I the only one hanging on, in these forceful waters?
Jesus says:

“But he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

That seems such a simplistic solution, in overwhelming circumstances. Paul wrote:

“Stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you.” (2Thessalonians 2:15)

The most secure and dependable thing in this life, is what is written in the Bible, the Word of God.
It is totally trustworthy, because it is God breathed.
It′s contents come from God, who will never fail, and who is unchangeable and constant.

What God has said, He still sees it the same way, 1000s of years later!
If He changed His mind, it would be from some error of judgement, but that is not possible, because He sees all things from infinity to infinity.
He is the source of all knowledge and wisdom, and nothing catches Him by surprise.
Therefore, He never has changed His mind, so as to alter what He has promised.

Autumn leaves fallingSo the safest thing for us to do, when the mighty torrent rushes at us, is to hold onto the Bible′s teachings, and promises.
Isaiah says:

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40)

So putting our faith and trust in God′s Word is the most powerful, safest thing we can do.

Paul describes how we remain in God′s olive tree only by faith. He wrote that Israel was

“broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith.” (Romans 11:20)

When times are treacherous, and everyone seems to be giving way under the pressure of this world, let′s remind ourselves to stand by faith, and to hold to the teachings from the Bible.
And in the peaceful times, we still need to do the same.

From what Jesus said we can see three bad effects of persecution:

[1] Firstly, when it really starts to cost being a Christian, then many will be put off, and will fall away, and will desert Jesus.
Paul complains in his letters of people who began well, but they became deserters.
The suffering times are shaking times, and so this exposes the foundations that people have built their faith upon.
If our foundation consists in us hanging all of our hope upon the invisible God, and the invisible world to come, our foundation will stand.
But if we hang our hope on this world the foundation will crumble.

[2] Secondly, when persecution is in fashion, there is a sudden rise in malice, and a shortage of tenderness and moderation.
The world is always full of wickedness, but when persecution comes in, wickedness abounds, it increases, and all hell seems to break upon the church.
The undercover aggression towards the church, suddenly breaks out into the open, and so persecuting times are times of discovery, because the wolves that were in sheep′s clothing now throw off their disguises.

[3] Thirdly, because wickedness increases in times of persecution, the love of many grows cold.
At first this sounds very negative, but notice Jesus said that the love grows cold, and not dead. There could still be life in the root, and it will spring up again in due course.
The winter of persecution has come, but new growth will appear in the spring time.
Also notice it is the love of many, and not the love of all that grows cold.
God always has a remnant of believers that hold fast their integrity, and retain their zeal.

For all those who are overcomers in times of severe trial, the crown of Glory will more than make up for all the loss and hurt we may have encountered.
In Revelation, Jesus promises:

“Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life – He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.”

Vulture image: thanks to Serif ARTGallery CD
Leaf image: thanks to GSP 100,000 clipart CD

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