“Questions About God: When Will God Come?”
In that great movie “Field of Dreams”, Ray Kinsella hears a mysterious voice prompting, “If you build it, he will come.” So Ray builds a ball field in the middle of his Iowa cornfield. Soon persons from the past – heroes who have become legends even though they were painfully flawed – come to play ball. Eventually the father Ray never really knew in life, returns to play catch with his unrecognized son. As Pastor Norman Stolpe reflected on the movie he wrote, “The film…rehearses the human longing for resolving rifts in relationships and for fulfilling the fantasies of fellowship between parent and child…Each one’s visit is as healing for that individual as it is for Ray.”
Like Ray Kinsella we, too, long to be liberated from our brokenness and to experience redemption for ourselves and our relationships. We long for that perfected world. We keep waiting for God to come. We wonder just when God will come. As Luke recorded the words of Jesus that we just read, he was giving us, first of all, A PERSPECTIVE OF HOPE: THE SON OF MAN IS COMING (25-27) “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” The brokenness of our world will end – because the Son of Man is coming. Jesus has not made His last visit to our world. He alone is the only hope.
And HOPE IS ESSENTIAL to the human soul and psyche. Without this hope, we lose the zest and purpose for living. Imagine the young couple, married for several years, unable to bear children. Having applied for adoption, they’ve waited anxiously for several more years for everything to come together. Now, on this day, they await a phone call which will inform them if today is the time. HOPE ENERGIZES their day.
Picture the young boy, barely 4 feet tall, dribbling, shaking and baking and finally jumping – straining to get as close to the rim as possible, all the while imagining he looks just like LeBron. HOPE KEEPS HIM WORKING AND DREAMING.
Hear the young girl, singing the scales over and over again, not always on pitch or with clear voice, but with great and even monotonous regularity. She’s just heard her favorite singer once again and she knows someday she’ll sing just like that. Her HOPE DISCIPLINES her.
Listen to the young husband and wife chat on the phone, late at night. He still has two or three more hours of work before he can come home. They know it’s the price to pay for starting their own business, but they hang on because they can taste the day when the business takes off and he can hire help and spend more time at home with his wife. HOPE KINDLES PERSEVERANCE.
Observe the young bride and groom, standing at the altar in front of family and friends, glassy eyed as they look at each other to repeat their vows. Hopes of love, glory, and success make this the greatest moment of their lives. Without that hope, they wouldn’t dare to enter into this relationship. HOPE INSPIRES COURAGE.
Yes – hope is essential. It focuses our energy like the magnifying glass focuses the sun to channel the heat and begin the fire. Hope drives us, burns deep down inside us. As someone said, “It is hope that gets us out of bed in the morning and shapes the contours of our day.”
GOD’S PEOPLE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN DRIVEN BY HOPE. In Jeremiah’s time, Israel was under siege and again in trouble. So Jeremiah recalled a promise of God, originally given during an earlier crisis, to assure them God had not forgotten them. (33:15 GNT) “At that time I will choose as king a righteous descendant of David. That king will do what is right and just throughout the land. The people of Judah and of Jerusalem will be rescued and will live in safety. The city will be called ‘The LORD Our Salvation.’” God will come to rescue, save, and restore.
Yet Jerusalem tumbled. But Jesus came! The branch grew. Righteousness arrived in the flesh. Hopes again were raised. But our Luke passage occurs just as Jesus is about to undergo betrayal and death, something the people did not know. So He’s answering questions about the future. People wanted to know “When will God come in all His fullness to usher in His kingdom?” His answer? “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” When the whole creation is in an uproar, He will come. But then Jesus died. Their hopes were dashed, their thinking confused.
We know what they felt like. It appears our world is coming apart at the seams. Human power keeps failing. Atomic weaponry looms larger and larger. The moral and social norms are decaying. Political powers are polarized like never before. Brutality escalates daily. Nature erupts more frequently. And you can add so much to the list. We know hopelessness personally as well. The doctor says “You have cancer.” The pink slip carries your name. The officer at the door says “Your son is dead.” Your daughter cries out, “I have AIDS.” Padlocks are placed on the doors of that business you were building since you could no longer pay the bills. You stare at your signature on the divorce papers as the reality sinks in. You see the big, red “F” on the final exam and your heart sinks. Yes – we know what it is to teeter on the brink of hopelessness.
But we also know Jesus rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven. He is seated on the throne. So WE ARE DRIVEN BY HOPE! We are driven by hope even in the midst of a world which often seems hopeless. For it was Jesus Himself who said, “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” This despair will all come to an end. So JESUS IS ASKING FOR US TO TRUST HIM. Degeneration is part of every generation. So we must not lose ourselves in bemoaning the current state of affairs. Rather let the times remind us of our need for a Savior – let them point us to Jesus. When the quakes shake and the mud slides and hundreds are killed and thousands are homeless, when the grieving piles up, when our lives are in radical crisis, Jesus says “It’s a sign. Something, Someone greater is on the way. New life is coming; redemption will occur. History has a goal – that I will be Lord of all! See this as an opportunity to re-focus on Me. Trust me.” Trust in Jesus is our perspective.
Where Matthew and Mark continue Jesus’ teaching here to dwell more on the specifics of the end of the age, Luke gets personal and deals with the ‘now.’ Now is more important than the future. So Luke teaches us that Jesus offers us A POSITION OF HOPE: WE CAN LIVE WITH PURPOSE. (28) “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Stand up – get busy – live with a sense of urgency. THE LIFE OF A DISCIPLE IS NOT ONE OF SPECULATION AND OBSERVATION, BUT OF BEHAVIOR.
And Jesus gives us some instruction on how to behave. (29-31, 36) He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” Then He gave the application. “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen…” First, WE WATCH. The basic idea is that of knowing what is going on. As the budding of the trees indicates that summer is near, so the occurring of these signs indicates that the Lord's return is near. “Watch” does not mean to stand around looking for signs. It means, "Be awake! Be alert! Don't get caught unprepared!" It is so easy for us to "get weighted down" with the cares and temptations of this life. During difficult times, it is easy to give up and start living like the unsaved world; so we must "watch" and resist temptations, in order to be ready when Jesus returns. The important thing is that we know that God is keeping His promises and that His Word will not fail. There is a legend told that Satan and his demons were having a Christmas party. As the demonic guests were departing one grinned and said, “Merry Christmas, your majesty!” At that, Satan replied with a growl, “Keep it merry, my friend. If they ever get serious about it, we’ll all be in trouble.” Be serious. Be always on the watch.
The second behavior Jesus teaches is that WE PRAY. We pray so that the coming of Jesus will not overwhelm us and the judgment will not overtake us. Hold on to the spiritual dimension of life. Prayer, at its noblest, does not seek to get us something but to bring us closer to God. So pray like a sentinel on guard, always seeking and desiring to be made strong. As the Psalmist proclaims so poignantly, in Ps. 91 (CEV): “He will spread his wings over you and keep you secure. His faithfulness is like a shield or a city wall. You won’t need to worry about dangers at night or arrows during the day. And you won’t fear diseases that strike in the dark or sudden disaster at noon. You will not be harmed, though thousands fall all around you. And with your own eyes you will see the punishment of the wicked. The LORD Most High is your fortress. Run to him for safety, and no terrible disasters will strike you or your home. God will command his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will carry you in their arms, and you won’t hurt your feet on the stones.” Here, and here alone, lies our safety and strength.
Our behavior of watching and praying, puts us into AN ATTITUDE ANTICIPATION. “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” Anticipate STANDING BEFORE OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, and hearing the words “Well done, good and faithful servant! …Come and share your master’s happiness!” Watching, praying, being faithful here and now leads to the rich blessing of our Lord in the hereafter. These youth who this morning made public their profession of faith, have taken a stand. Their task, and ours, is to keep standing until the day we stand before Jesus.
The early church, like us, struggled with the question of “When will God come?” Peter answered (2 Pt. 3:9-13) “The Lord is not slow to do what he has promised, as some think. Instead, he is patient with you, because he does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants all to turn away from their sins…what kind of people should you be? Your lives should be holy and dedicated to God, as you wait for the Day of God and do your best to make it come soon…” While we wonder when God will come, God wonders “When are you going to reach the point when I can finally come?”
Jenny Lind, the late, great opera star, used to sit alone for a few moments in the quiet of her dressing room before a performance. Then she would strike one, clear, vibrant note and hold it as long as she could. Then she would pray, “Master, let me ring true tonight. Let me ring true as Thou art true.” RING TRUE! Ring true, until He comes. Ring true, so that He comes. Ring true. If you have never given Jesus permission to be Lord of your life, do it now – and start ringing. If Jesus is already Lord of your life, ring louder, clearer, and stronger than ever before. “Stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”