How many times have I heard someone say, “These must be the last days?” Actually, the Bible says that the last days had already begun in the time of Jesus. So yes, we are in the last days, but that doesn’t mean that Jesus will be coming back tomorrow, or necessarily any time soon.
However, such a statement is usually uttered when people look around and see the chaos and evil that is expanding in the world, and believing that it really can’t get much worse, they assume we must be near the end. Sadly, I can assure you that things can get worse, and that they likely will get much worse. But again, that may be quite some time down the road.
Some of the things bringing out such a view are the current increase in immorality, seeing those who are considered in poverty sliding deeper into poverty, as well as new numbers of people falling below the poverty line. We see an increase in violence in the Middle East, and an increase in terrorism exported from the Middle East. There has been an increase in saber rattling from such countries as North Korea, and increased threats to Israel from Iran and others.
In addition, on the home front, one of our candidates for president stated religious beliefs and cultural codes must change so that new laws can be passed, and the targets of her remarks are clearly Christians. That kind of rhetoric scares many people, rightfully so, to the point where they think the anti-Christ is about to jump on stage.
Let me remind you that the world has seen and heard these kinds of things again and again throughout history. That doesn’t mean you are to ignore them; it simply means that this is the way it has been, and if Jesus tarries long enough, it will be that way again.
Much of our problem, as American Christians, stem from the fact that for us it really hasn’t been at this level, at least not in our lifetime. Christianity has been fairly well tolerated throughout our history, and even favored through much of our history. But if we look at our brothers and sisters around the world, we see that their lot has been much different for a long time.
There are many countries where Christianity is barely tolerated, and some where it isn’t tolerated at all. In many places, Christians can find their church shut down with no notice and even burned down with little consequences to those who burned it down. To be clear, this kind of treatment for Christians has been occurring since the birth of the church at Pentecost, and it will continue until Jesus returns.
What we must ask ourselves is not, “What are we going to do about this?” but rather, “How does Jesus desire us to respond to such things?” When Jesus learned that John the Baptist was unfairly imprisoned, did He run off to rescue him from the evil plans of Herod? When Jesus was arrested, did He ask His disciples to spring Him out of jail?
Persecution is a fact of life in Christ that believers must realize and accept. In fact, Jesus said in John 15:20, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”
Now by all of this I do not mean that you should run out and seek to be persecuted or thrown to the lions. Personally, I would rather not be eaten by a lion. But neither should I be ignorant of the fact that many times Jesus warns us that the world will hate us if we love Him. (John 15:18-19)
Just as important is for us to remember how we are to treat those who hate and persecute us; we are to love them, bless them, and pray for them. What? Are you crazy?
Well, I guess if you think Jesus is crazy, then I guess I am crazy. But if you believe Jesus, then you must believe what He says, even when it is difficult to hear, and maybe even more difficult to do.
You either believe that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him, and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), or you don’t believe it. Personally, I choose to believe everything God’s Word says, and if you are born again through faith in Christ, then you should believe the whole of the Word of God, and not just the parts that seem easier.
Things may get worse, but God’s love never gets less; in fact, I believe His love and grace are poured out to match the need of our lives at any given point. Thus, if evil increases, so do His love and grace.
Remember Paul’s doxology in Ephesians 3:20: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or even imagine, according to the power that works in us…” That power is the Holy Spirit, who not only keeps you in Christ, but He also enables you to do anything God asks of you, including facing persecution.
McCartney is pastor of First Baptist Church of Tooele.