Summary: What if next year is worse than this year? What if there is more suffering? What if there are more trials? This message looks at how we can rise above all the suffering, trials and persecutions and remain true to our LORD and live a life filled with the Holy Spirit!
Theme: What if things get worse?
Title: What if?
Grace and peace from God our Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
It all started so well didn’t it, 2020 was our year, a new decade, and didn’t it just sound so amazing - 2020, a year we could accomplish anything! It was to be a year of great new adventures, new discoveries and new opportunities.
But it wasn’t so amazing by the time we got to March, April, May and June. The rest of the year wasn’t so amazing either.
Co-vid 19. Infection rates sky rocketing. Lock-downs. Stay at home orders. Ventilators. Riots. Job losses. Toilet paper shortages. Stock market plummets. Church doors closed. Sports venues canceled. Election results confusing. Second wave. Delays. More closings ….
There is a general mood that once the clock strikes 12 am on January 1st we can all put 2020 in the rear view mirror and things will magically return to normal. We lived through it and now things have to get better and better.
I really hope that they do. I pray that they do. I anticipate that things will get better. I want them to not only get back to normal but be better than normal.
But what happens if they don’t?
What happens, if, like in our story baby Jesus is born but then a madman (King Herod) demands that babies and toddlers are put to death?
What happens if the crops don’t grow?
What happens if people’s personal economies don’t come back?
What happens if the church in-house numbers and finances don’t return to normal?
What happens if the New Year is just a repeat of last year or turns out to be an even worse year?
None of us want to think about those things.
But we have to understand that it could happen. The Bible tells us that this is what happened to the Early Church. When things started going bad under Roman Emperor Nero ( full name - Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus) they went bad for quite a while.
Nero’s persecution of the Church started in 64 AD and it did not end for years. And while we think that we have had to endure some tough days, what those Early Christians faced was almost unspeakable. Listen to one report:
“In their very deaths they were made the subjects of sport: for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts, and worried to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and when the day waned, burned to serve for the evening lights.”1
I am sure that those living at that time thought that the persecution would only last for a few days or a few weeks. But week after week went by as families were hunted down and put to death by the sword, crucified or used as human torch lights. Week after week they hoped things would change but it took years before Nero was removed from the throne.
The same story could be written for people like Joseph and Job. The same story could be written by those Israelites that lived before the Exodus, those that lived in the times of the Judges and those that lived in the time of the Exile.
For the most part those of us living today are far removed the hardships that faced millions of people during WWI and WWII. We are far removed from the hardships that faced the people of the Great Depression of 1929.
That is not to say that we have not endured our own time of suffering. For we have many that are dealing today with the left over tragedies of the Vietnam War and the Gulf Wars. We have many that are still suffering from the effects of the global financial crisis of 2007- 2008 and now we have some that have suffered and are still presently suffering great loss.
But what will we do if the years 2021, 2022, 2023 are not better?
Hopefully, they will be and this message is quickly tossed to the side. But then again, for some 2021, 2022, 2023 etc… will be a tough year as all years can be tough years. So, what does the Lord have to say to us when things do get tough? How can the LORD help us endure tough times; times of suffering, trials and persecutions?
I. We have to acknowledge tough times/trials are a part of life
Jesus tells us in John 16:33
“In the world you will have tribulation.”
In other passages Jesus warns us that the last days would be filled with war, famine, earthquakes, diseases and other disasters. The last days would be filled with empty promises, false messiah and corrupt governments. The last days would see trials and tribulations coming to everyone.