Summary: When it feels like we’re in the Tribulation, we anticipate the coming of our Lord so we can grow through the pain, go on in confidence, and glow with the glory of Christ.
One day, a cowboy was driving down a dirt road with his dog riding in back of the pickup truck and his faithful horse in the trailer behind. He failed to negotiate a curve and had a terrible accident.
Sometime later, a highway patrol officer came on the scene. As an animal lover, he saw the horse first. Realizing the serious nature of its injuries, he drew his service revolver and put the animal out of its misery.
Then he walked around the accident scene and found the dog, also hurt critically. He couldn’t bear to hear it whine in pain, so he ended the dog’s suffering as well.
Finally, he located the cowboy – who had suffered multiple fractures – off in the weeds. “Hey, are you okay?” the cop asked.
The cowboy took one look at the smoking revolver in the trooper’s hand and quickly replied, “Never felt better!” (Leadership, Vol.19, no.1; Bible Illustrator #496, 4/1998.3)
Sometimes we say to one another, “Never felt better,” but inside we’re hurting real bad. These are hard times for a lot of people, but these are also times to look ahead with hope.
And that’s what this season of the year does for us. It’s advent, a time when we look ahead to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, usually we think about our Lord’s first coming at this time of year, but in the 6th Century, Christians in Rome linked this season of year explicitly to the second coming of Christ. It was not until the Middle Ages that the church began using the Advent Season to prepare to celebrate Christ’s first coming. In fact, the liturgy in many churches today still emphasizes the second coming of Christ up until December 16th. Then, from December 17th to the 24th, they focus on His birth. (Christian History & Biography, 2002, Christianity Today International; www.PreachingToday.com)
So in the true spirit of Advent I’d like us to do the same thing. We’re going to focus on the second coming of Christ in the next few weeks up until the middle of December. It will help us gain some perspective in these hard times as we look ahead to the hope that’s before us.
Actually, there was a group of believers in the 1st Century that had it a whole lot worse than we. They were going through so much trouble, they thought they were in the Tribulation; they thought they were in the great and terrible Day of the Lord; they thought they were experiencing the end of the age.
That’s when the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write some words of encouragement for those of us, in any age, who are going through hard times. 1st of all, he assures us that we are NOT in the Tribulation. Then he gives us some practical advice on how to handle the hard times even when it feels like we ARE in the Great Tribulation itself.
2 Thessalonians 1:1-5 Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. (NIV)
Their suffering made them better. It made them worthy subjects. It made them better citizens of God’s Kingdom. It caused them to grow in faith and in love.
Codfish are shipped all over the United States mostly from the northeastern part of the country. Public demand is so great for the codfish that at first it posed a problem for the shippers. In the early days, they froze the cod before shipping it, but that took away much of the flavor.
Then they experimented with shipping the codfish live in tanks of seawater, but that proved even worse. It was more expensive. The cod still lost its flavor, AND it became soft and mushy. The texture of the meat was seriously affected.
Finally, somebody came up with a creative solution. They placed the codfish in a tank of seawater along with some catfish, their natural enemy. And from the time the codfish left the East Coast those ornery catfish chased them all over the tank until they arrived at their destination. When they got to market even on the West Coast, they were as fresh as the day they were first caught. There was no loss of flavor, nor was the texture affected. In fact, some said the codfish tasted better than before (Charles Swindoll).