Summary: Every winning team has a game plan that will bring them the victories. So too with Christians. Watchfulness, persistence, faithfulness and God’s power and presence pave the pathway for victory.
Luke 21:5-19 “The Path Toward Victory”
What does the future hold? Is the world going to get worse, get better, or stay the same? Many people in the United States fear the future. After 9/11 they are scared. Certainly Islamic terrorism remains a threat not only to the United States, but to the entire world.
The increase in foreclosures and the collapse of the mortgage industry has many concerned about our economy. Gas prices over $3.00/gallon are rather unsettling, and it gets positively frightening when they talk about gas topping out at over $4.00 per gallon. The condition of public education and its impact on the future of this country has many concerned, also. Global warming is on everyone’s minds, too.
Jesus’ words that are found in the gospel lesson for this Sunday speak directly to us as we prepare to step into the future. His words are not meant to give us cryptic hints concerning when he might return—as it has become popular to suggest. Jesus’ words are meant to teach how God will move in the daunting future before us—how God will touch our world and our lives.
The picture of the future that Jesus paints for his disciples goes against the popular thought that Christians lead charmed lives.
Our idols will tumble. The temple proclaimed to all that God was present in Israel and that God was blessing Israel. Many Israelites placed their faith and trust in the temple. As long as it remained standing, there was still hope. Jesus foretold a time when the temple would be totally and forever destroyed. Times will come when those things in which we are tempted to place our faith and trust will collapse. Those things, which we look to for safety and security, will be swept away.
Our idols will fall and turmoil will rise up around the world. There will be wars, rumors of wars, revolutions, civil unrest everywhere. All of these bring pain and suffering with them. The world will groan under the burden of evil.
The troubles will get personal. The pain and suffering that we will witness all around us will touch our lives. As Christians, we will be persecuted, place on trail and imprisoned.
As we face such a daunting future, we find ourselves asking, “What are we to do? How do we prepare for such a future?”
Though the forces of evil will be rampant in the world, God’s plan will not be altered and God will not be defeated. God will bring good out of evil. When the church is persecuted, the church becomes vibrant and dynamic. We can plainly see this in Russia and in China and in some African countries. One of the good things that will come out of the evil times before us is that we will be able, as Christians, to witness to the world around us.
The people of the world want to hear more about God than that God answers all of our prayers and fulfills our greatest dreams. They want to hear what God does in difficult times, also.
We will be able to tell them of God’s grace and love that can never be taken away from us through persecution or tribulations.
We will be able to proclaim the reality of God’s presence and power in our lives.
The witness that we will share with those around us will be a life changing witness. Our lives will be changed and so will the lives of those who respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The writer of James tells his readers to count it as joy when hard times come, because the Holy Spirit molds us and shapes us through them. Paul echoes these words in his letter to the Romans. Hard times produce character, and can produce the fruit of the spirit in our lives.
What is needed in the midst of hard times is faithful endurance. As Jesus tells his disciples, those who endure will find their lives.
When asked what he would do if he knew that the world was coming to an end, Martin Luther replied that he would go out and plant a tree. In other words, he would continue on doing what he would normally do. We are challenged to live each day as if Jesus may come.
We tenaciously continue to believe in God’s love and grace. We continue to use our gifts and talents in the service of others. We don’t stop sharing the blessings that God has abundantly poured into our lives.
Jesus is coming again. This is most certainly true.
We are called as Christians not to waste our time speculating on the time of Jesus’ eventual return. Rather we are called to live the powerful lives that are ours because of the cross of Jesus Christ—his life, death and resurrection. Amen