Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

   by Rayola Kelley

      Obviously, the recent events surrounding our nation should remind us we are living in precarious times. In the last couple of months, we have witnessed the strength of America being shaken as the stock market has been brought to its knees, followed by many losing their jobs. The blessings that America has experienced are ebbing away with each economic tidal wave that hits our financial and job markets. The financial investments of many hard-working Americans have fallen through the holes of the pockets of greedy politicians and heads of banking institutions. Many of these innocent investors are now tasting the bitterness of betrayal, the sorrow of loss, and the disillusionment of hopelessness. We collectively find ourselves holding our breath, as we wonder how far down we must go financially before we hit bottom, and try to second guess what will be the affects of it.

       Great darkness has surely come upon us as a nation. However, the darkness of this time reminds me of another time in history. It was a time that God’s people were subject to a tyrannical government. Many of His people found themselves in a balancing act between their devotion to Him and enduring the bondage of the religious and government systems they were subject too. Many were clinging to the promise that their Messiah would come at any moment; however, there was no sign of His appearance. They had cried in desperation, waited in hopeful expectation, and lamented their fate as they held tightly to what seemed impossible and hopeless.

       In the midst of this grave political and spiritual vacuum of darkness, a child was born and a son was given to the world. His name was Jesus. This child would prove to be the light that would break through the spiritual darkness of the people’s oppression, offering deliverance, hope, healing, and salvation.

       Even though many of these people claimed they were looking for Jesus, some refused to recognize Him when He stood before them, and others became insulted by His truth, while some followed and embraced Him as the Promised One. Those who followed Him had been looking for the hope of the Messiah in the midst of darkness. As a result, their eyes were prepared to behold Jesus as the Promised One.

       Twenty centuries later, God’s people once again are looking for Jesus. Only this time they are not looking for Him to return. Different prophets spoke of the time in which He would return to gather His people and to fulfill all of the promises God made to Abraham. Before Jesus was offered up on the cross, He also addressed this time in which He would return. The Apostles Paul and Peter recorded some of the events that would come upon the world surrounding His second coming, and the Apostle John also gave a detailed list of events that would take place prior to Jesus’ return.

       The Bible identifies that the countdown for His return started at Pentecost, when the Spirit came down on those in the upper room (Acts 2:16-17). The term to describe this time is the “last days.” Therefore, for the last two thousand years God’s people has been part the “last days” which is also known as the Church age, the dispensation of grace, or the times of the Gentiles. For centuries, this age has been winding down to the climatic event of Armageddon. Like the Thessalonians, each age or generation of people have witnessed certain events that would possibly identify their particular time as being the very end days of the last days. However, we are still here, proving that God will determine the times we live in.

       There are some clear signs that we could be living in what is known as the last generation. This generation will see all the events come together that will signal Jesus’ return. You might wonder what could possibly distinguish this period as being different from other ages that have witnessed similar events. There are three main factors coming together at the same time that could very well signal that Jesus’ return is close at hand. 1) The political events and challenges facing Israel is one of the biggest signs that the age of the Gentiles is coming to a close; 2) the world is now capable of bringing all mankind under a one-world government, economic and religious system; 3); and finally the number of scoffers towards Jesus’ return has greatly escalated. These scoffers are not only found in the world, but also in the visible Church.

       For years, watchmen throughout the ages have warned the Church to be prepared for Jesus’ coming. Christians have been exhorted to live in light of this one great hope or expectation. In the 1970’s and 80’s, many in the Christian Church were joyfully waiting in expectation for His return. However, in 1990 the trend among Christians digressed from living in expectation of Jesus’ coming, to securing blessings and security in this present world.

       Proverbs 13:12 best explains what happened to some of these people who had put their hope in the timing rather than in the actual event: “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick; but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.” The unrequited expectation of Jesus’ return took on a mythical status for these individuals. From this point on, many of these individuals turned their focus from the skies and put it on the world to secure their future. The greater their involvement became with the world, the more they succumbed to a mocking attitude.

       This brings us to the present day. How much of the present Church is ready for Jesus’ possible return? As believers, we must examine the attitude that resonates in us, as well as the rest of the Church in regard to this fundamental belief. We need to evaluate and discern the environment of this present age to confront the darkness that is taking hold of the hearts and minds of many.

       It is easy to point out the problems we are facing in light of the economic and moral decline of this nation. We, as a nation, are clearly facing bankruptcy and ruin at every level. As fear and uncertainty grips the hearts of many, we as believers, must not only make sure our stake is firmly in the Rock, but we must be ready to allow our light to point others to the solution. In order to gain our bearings, we as a people and a nation need to get back to basics, as we honestly evaluate our values, agendas, and purpose. Consider what it would take for people and this nation to get back on course.

       Come back to center: Coming back to center means to come back to God and line up to His righteous Word and ways. The pilgrims first came to these shores to establish their life in God. These people experienced tremendous hardships to secure their life in God, but their steadfast faith and determination to make God a center of their lives is recorded in our history books.

       History, along with the constitution and the laws that were established set forth in the infancy of this nation, reveal that in spite of their various beliefs, the founding fathers of this nation also understood the necessity of basing the laws, principles and rights on God and His Law. They knew that without the righteous principles and just laws of the true God serving as the moral conscience of this nation, that this nation would be void of real strength or protection. Without His righteous commandments serving as just boundaries to fortify against evil attacks on the sanctity of life (abortions), marriage (abominable practices), family (redefining it according to wicked agendas), property (government spreading the wealth), and inheritance (devaluing it), a nation would lack the moral fiber to stand.

       Never too late: Some people may be wondering if it is too late for our country to turn around. My answer to this question is that it is never too late for the people of a nation to repent. Repentance is turning away from the destructive ways of sin and the path of death to embrace the life God has ordained. However, such repentance must begin with God’s people.

       As ambassadors of the kingdom of heaven, we as believers must consider the type of light we are emitting in the present darkness, as well as the quality of salt we are offering people (Matthew 5:13-16). Even though Daniel was not party to the idolatrous sins of the people of Israel, he became identified with their sins in order to intercede on their behalf as recorded in Daniel 9. Before the different financial tsunamis can be rectified, we must first humble ourselves, identify both personal and national sins, confess them, repent of our ways, and intercede for our nation.

       Point of reliance: One of this nation’s greatest sins has to do with its point of reliance and strength, which has been its wealth. This point of strength has recently been brought down, causing the confidence of many Americans to become shipwrecked on the rocks of broken dreams. Such misdirected confidence is understandable, but to God it is idolatrous, and He will not share His place or glory with any other god.

       God is the only sure source that will never let any of us down. As Christians, we are told that our faith must be towards God. It must be founded on Him to be able to stand when all else is being shaken; and we can be assured that all will be shaken according to Hebrews 12:27. We can also be assured that what is not of God will be brought to utter ruin. Clearly, our complete assurance must rest in our Lord to avoid the despair of betrayal, our trust must be hidden in Him to avoid being consumed by the sorrow of great loss, and our confidence must take root in Him to avoid falling into the consuming dark pit of vanity and hopelessness.

       Self-sufficiency: Americans appear to forgotten that it is God who blesses and who can also dry up such blessings. How many of us have taken credit for the blessings that have been bestowed upon this country, rather than honor God for giving us these blessings, and recognizing our need for Him to be in our midst as supreme ruler? How many of us have become self-sufficient in our own failing strength, while allowing God to be kicked out of schools, courts buildings, government, and churches? How many of us have ignored or placated the wickedness that has threatened the sanctity of all that is dear to our Creator, instead of mourning the sin of our nation, repenting for the ignorance and foolishness of wickedness, and interceding on behalf of it?

       Responsible stewards: God blesses people so that they can in turn bless others in the furtherance of His kingdom. However, many Americans have become greedy, as they hoard the world’s goods for their own self-serving purposes. The more these people have heaped upon their selfishness, the more indifferent they have become towards the needs of others, often shutting up any conscience of compassion or benevolence (1 John 3:13-18). When you consider that in America, women spend more on makeup products than is spent on the eternal work of God’s kingdom, is it any wonder that God is shaking our economic system? Many in America have become like the Dead Sea, taking in God’s many blessings, in order to lavish them on the vanity of self, while supporting overindulgent, worldly lifestyles.

       For believers, God is our true portion or inheritance. Our greatest desire should be to possess the fullness of Jesus in our lives. We must diligently pursue after this heavenly inheritance. Like Paul, we must be willing to count the things of this world as dung as we prepare to offer the best to our God. However, in all honestly, how many of us have thrown the leftovers, or the crumbs, to God, while heaping the best upon ourselves? Granted, God may not keep the best for Himself, as He offers it back to the person as a blessing. Nevertheless, it should be His choice to choose what He will do with the best offering. According to the Bible these offerings should include our bodies (for consecration), our lives (to be sanctified by the Spirit), our talents (to be offered up instead of buried), and our resources (which all belong to God). Such offerings will be made fit to do His bidding. As believers, we must remember that the investments we make on behalf of the kingdom of God will pass from this world into the next where they will be waiting for us.

       Live in expectation: A great cloud of witnesses serve as our example of what it means to live in expectation. Abel offered a perfect sacrifice in expectation of being counted righteous. Enoch had an inner testimony or expectation that he had pleased God. As a result, he was translated before he experienced death. Abraham did not live for the day when he would see his descendants possess the Promised Land; rather, he lived in expectation of seeing the city made by God’s hands. Expectation of this nature not only points to hope that will prevail to the end, but it also points to faith that will steadfastly endure to the end, and loving devotion that will cling to the sustaining testimony of God’s faithfulness, until it hears the voice of the Lord calling those who belong to Him.

       The Bible calls us to be watchmen in the days in which we live. As watchmen, we are to remain alert for any sign of our Lord’s coming. We must guard and maintain the precious value of the life God has given us. We must sound the warning when truth and faith come under attack. Even though we may not witness His coming, we must live in expectation of it, knowing that we will give an account of our service.

       As believers, we must also decide to cling to the promise of Jesus’ return. We must remember why He came into the world. There were a couple of reasons He came the first time: 1) to redeem mankind, and 2) so that He could come back for His people the second time. With such hope before us, there should be no reason why believers are not living in expectation of Jesus’ soon return. Clearly, we are living in dark, frightening times, but the light that penetrated the darkness of man 20 centuries ago is still shining in the hearts of believers, and is always capable of penetrating the darkness of the lost. The testimony that gave the inner witness and expectation of those who have gone before us is still alive and well in the spirit of those who are following in their footsteps of faith.

       In spite of the dark times surrounding this Christmas celebration, seize the time to take stock of your eternal inheritance as a believer. Consider the blessings He has already graced your life with, and thank Him with all of your heart. Let His light penetrate and drive away any despair and sorrow, as you remember that your real hope is not dependent on this present age, but has been firmly secured in the world to come. As you look beyond this present darkness towards the glorious bliss of eternity, consider flinging all upon Him as you recommit your life to His work and glory. As you allow Him to lift the heavy burden from your soul, permit your heart to soar upward on the wings of praise. And, while the things of the world are growing strangely dim in the comforting light of God’s sovereignty, do as the shepherds and wise men did so many years ago, be sure to worship Him as you offer the sacrifices of praise, while looking upward, knowing that your redemption draws near.

       Let us truly rejoice this Christmas, as well as take time to renew once again the passion of the hope that is firmly planted in the promise of His return.