Unless you have been living on another planet, I am certain you are aware of current world events that are most likely a harbinger to what is in store for humanity in the not-so-distant future.
While the crisis in Ukraine and the divisive political struggle over Covid-related mandates dominate the news, too many Americans still appear to be more focused on shallow and mundane issues such as pop culture than on the dire circumstances that threaten our very existence. Much of reality seems to exist in the next fun event on an entertainment agenda.
I’m sure many will pause when they see on television or social media the tragedy that is visiting other parts of the world. They will shake their heads in heartfelt sympathy, then after a moment of gratefulness for not having to suffer any of those atrocities, move along in self-absorbed lives with a false sense of security that it will never happen to them or the ones they love.
Perhaps I am being too harsh in my assessment. I realize that I have just painted a very grim picture of our nation’s current state of mind, but I see little real concern coming from the general public in America.
What I see is political squabbling and acrimony over what our nation is supposed to be and do. I also see freedoms that Americans have always taken for granted being systematically eroded by a runaway government that imposes policies and regulations upon its citizens in total disregard of the Constitution.
Serious Evangelical Christians are especially singled out as extremists and considered by some in power to be as equally dangerous as fanatical terrorists.
Government continues to inject itself into religious affairs by trying to regulate where and when a church can meet and what they are allowed to proclaim. Certain scriptures have become “hate speech” because they do not conform to the politically correct guidelines deemed suitable for modern society.
Those of us who protest the infringement of the rights of the people or the irresponsibility and corruption by those in authority are immediately labeled and attacked as right-wing radicals, bigots, and racists who are guilty of incitement and treason against our democracy. It seems impossible to have a reasonable political or religious discussion anymore, lest we might offend somebody.
A few of my friends have given up and refuse to even talk about anything that creates any sort of emotional discomfort. It’s easier just to hope that things will eventually get better. I’m sorry to say that they will not, at least not anytime soon.
We the people are not safe or secure. There will be no peace in our time, regardless of this or that treaty, agreement, appeasement, or coalition formed apart from the fear of God. It’s all in the Book and it’s not all good news. The Kingdom of God will become manifest to the world through the suffering of His people.
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
“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 24:3-14
Sadly, the most serious threat to the Church is not Communism, militant Islam, nor is it atheism or any other religion or philosophy. The most clear and present danger to God’s people is watered-down, powerless Christianity.
Let’s face it, the world has done a much better job of influencing the Church than the Church has done in evangelizing the world. For whatever reasons, believers over the last few generations have backed off their strong Gospel message and disciplined lifestyle. We have placated and accommodated a culture that has become increasingly hostile to a biblical worldview, and which seeks to muzzle the free expression of our faith.
The history of our nation is being re-written to exclude its religious foundations. Our traditional way of life has come under direct attack by those who hate God and the authority of His Word. This is all being done systematically with the full cooperation of our own government.
Meanwhile, Evangelicals grumble and maybe send a contribution to this or that organization which will officially complain on their behalf. While most believers continually and actively acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ, actualizing that confession in our daily lives is often sorely lacking. Mere lip service to solid doctrine provides no real foundation upon which we can take a stand, especially in difficult circumstances.
Are we, in fact, who we say we are? Will we become sidelined from meaningful debate about life’s meaning and purpose? God help us. We cannot afford to surrender our relevancy in the struggle for our faith.
According to Jesus, times are going to get even tougher. He warns us that the deteriorating global situation is heading toward absolute chaos which will severely test every believer.
It’s frightening that the love of “most” will grow cold as wickedness increases, and only those of us who stand firm to the end are assured of salvation. Standing firm to the end will require a great deal of faith, courage, and wisdom. The testing for which we must be prepared includes deception, alarm, and fear of persecution.
Deception has to do with being seduced and led away from truth and righteousness. The father of deception enticed Adam and Eve away from obedience to God with the false promise that they, themselves, could be like gods, living as they pleased. They caved, and the result is that humanity is stuck with a fallen sin nature.
In other words, we are born with a natural ego-centric perspective. Our sinful pride and ungodly desire to serve ourselves make us easy targets for false prophets who preach and teach a different gospel. At times we are tempted by moral shortcuts and compromised ethics that would give us what we want by avoiding any serious self-discipline.
It’s crucially important that we not be deceived by evil impostors who know how to manipulate our greed and fear. Our surest defense against deception is to know the full truth of God’s Word and to be totally committed to obeying it, regardless of the consequences.
With so many problems coming toward us at warp speed, it’s natural to become alarmed. Panic is a corporate fear that is highly contagious. Focusing on troubles, real or imagined, is overwhelming. Under duress we quickly forget that in Christ there is peace in the face of the trouble that surrounds us. Like Chicken Little, we freak out at even a hint of a bad report.
Yes, we could die, and most certainly will, eventually. But by now life and death should be a settled issue. God, in any case, is not going to renegotiate His covenant. The Word of God tells us that Heaven and earth shall pass away, and perhaps we might witness some of that happening before our very eyes. The end is certainly coming, maybe sooner than we think.
Jesus promises in the light of all this, that He leaves His perfect peace with us so that our hearts will not be troubled and we will not be afraid (John 14:27). We can either choose to live in His peace through the power of the Holy Spirit or be tossed around helplessly in the turmoil that presses in on us.
The fear of persecution can be very subtle. Most of us want to be liked and understood. As Christians, we try hard to “fit in” with our neighbors, yet instinctively know we are conspicuously different. After all, we have been sanctified, set apart from the world by God for His purposes. To the wise of this world, however, it seems we are foolish and simple-minded, behind the times, and somehow less intelligent or emotionally stable than secular folks.
That’s hard enough to endure, but I sense a much more serious struggle brewing. The extreme kind of persecution already being experienced by the Church in other parts of the world is on its way to the USA.
Soon public prayer will become illegal. Bibles will become contraband. Speaking ill of sin will be a crime. Paul explained to Timothy that everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). Being hated, handed over, and put to death puts a lot of pressure on one’s commitment. Many of those who presently profess Christ will eventually deny their faith and even turn against the faithful in an attempt to save or enhance their own lives. In doing so, they will lose their true life (Matthew 16:25).
The Church (faithful believers) are admonished to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ, to stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the Gospel without being frightened by those who oppose us (Philippians 1:27-28). We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved (Hebrews 10:39). Amen.
[LeRoy Curtis is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Asbury Theological Seminary. He served four years as a U.S. Naval Officer after which he became a pastor, Bible professor, educator, author, and missionary living in E. Africa for eight years where he and his wife developed a curriculum of biblical studies for untrained pastors in rural Kenya. His passion for training young church leaders takes him to various parts of the U.S., Latin America, and Africa. He and Judy are currently residing in Carrollton, Georgia.]