“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet” (Matthew 24:6).
Here are some quotes from different sources this past week:
Right now, American resolve is crucial. And yet we can see the sunset of the American century.
It isn’t a foreign power that will defeat the US as much as it will defeat itself. Like empires past, it rots from the inside.
This Russian revanchist has become the most disruptive international leader of the 21st Century, the mastermind behind so much misery from Chechnya to Crimea, from Syria to the cathedral city of Salisbury. He has sought – successfully at times – to redraw the map of Europe.
He has tried – successfully at times – to immobilise the United Nations. He has been determined – successfully at times – to weaken America and hasten its division and decline.
Germany may be stepping into the gap, using the EU as the organization as a platform from which it can lead Europe without resorting to NATO. Europe may become a cohesive unit without the United States.
The implications of these comments (and there are many more like them) can be troubling. But Christ said we should not be troubled. The Greek word would indicate we are not “to wail” or be frightened. It implies calmness and assurance.
Being troubled can be a focus – the way we are seeing things and how we inculcate them into our mental state of mind. Clearly, Christ accepted that there would be events that could cause His people to be troubled. The quotes all point to very troubling times. Our nations are rotting from the inside and the European “beast” power is stirring.
If we only focus on this physical world, we will become deeply troubled.
What we are witnessing from afar in Ukraine is sad and distressing beyond words. However, there are a number of places in this world where people are suffering deeply at the hands of despots. Our hearts ache and we are all experiencing the full range of emotions. And so we should. At the same time, our main focus needs to be on what God has called us to do.
On the night before Christ was betrayed, He spoke at length to the disciples. Christ made a point that those brought to Him by the Father are in the world. A world dominated by the “evil one.” Christ acknowledged to His Father that members of the body of Christ would stay in the world while living lives that are not of the world. We have been sent into the world (see John 17:11-18).
We are close enough to Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread that we can be quite focused on God’s great Plan of Salvation. We are a part of God’s plan now. What the world is experiencing is the result of sin and we know that sin carries a penalty. We live lives where that penalty has been paid and removed. We live by the Spirit – not the spirit of this world, but the Holy Spirit which binds us closely to the Father.
Collectively we represent the body of Christ – the Church. The Church exists in the world, but clearly, it is not to be of the world. Each one of us is to let our light shine before men [the world], that they may see your good works [example] and glorify your Father in heaven.
It is a time for God’s people to be “strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles [schemings] of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11).
As a spiritual exercise, reread the quotes, but this time apply them to the interaction between the Church and the god of this world.
One of Satan’s powerful “wiles” is, and has been, to destroy the Church of God (whether physical or spiritual Israel). One of his methods is to have it “rot from the inside.” We note the classic example with Balak and Balaam in Numbers chapters 24 and 25. It is no different today. Satan – successfully at times – immobilizes and weakens the Church.
Put whatever spin on it you want, but the fracturing of the Church represents a divided Christ. But Christ is not divided. Our calling is to be of one spirit and one mind with Christ and the Father.
Think long and hard about what Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread represent in God’s great Plan of Salvation. That should be our calm and reassuring focus.