Summary: Who is winning? Churches stand empty or partially filled as compared to last year. How does Jesus expect us to make it through? "Look around and listen!" told his disciples and tells us.
As Jesus and his disciples were walking through the busy city of Jerusalem, the disciples began to comment how impressive this place was. No matter how many times they had been there before, they couldn’t help but be amazed by the great structures that surrounded them: Herod’s palace, the mighty temple, the massive city walls. It seemed so strong, so stable, so secure. As they walked along ooing and ahing at the majesty of this city Jesus announced, “Do you see all these things? Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2). Woe, woe, woe! To think that such massive destruction would come to this place was nearly inconceivable to Jesus’ disciples. The disciples naturally had a few questions for Jesus. First, when was Jerusalem going to be destroyed? Second, what kinds of things should people expect in the time leading up to Jesus’ return which will mark the end of the world?
Jesus’ weaves together an answer to both of those questions. He begins by describing what type of things we should look for leading up to Jesus’ return at the end of the world. You might be familiar with that list sometimes called, “Signs of the End Times”. There will be: religions that claim alternate ways to heaven other than faith in Jesus; violence in society and among nations; natural disasters and mass devastation; persecution and hatred of Christians; lies that lead people away from Christ; a general lack of love or concern for fellow human beings. We might simply say that things are not going to get better for God’s people, but they are going to get harder. But did you notice how this section ends? “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations” (Matthew 24:14). Doesn’t that seem strange? You might expect that with all those things mentioned previously, that the message of Christ and its proclamation would be stifled, reduced or maybe even snuffed out completely. But no! It’s just the opposite! Even as all these things are taking place, the good news of Christ Jesus as Savior will be preached in the whole world!
I think about that this morning as Christian churches across the United States are completely empty. It may appear that the devil has gotten exactly what he wanted! People are not in church. And it was even their pastors who told them not to come! How easy was that! Is the devil going to try to capitalize on this situation? Of course he is! He’s going to try to use it to get people to question God’s goodness, to doubt God’s control, to tempt people to walk away from God because he isn’t doing what they think he should be doing and when they think he should be doing it. Yes, the devil never lets a good tragedy go to waist. He is going to try to use it for his damning purposes.
But remember that the Lord has a plan in this also. Last week we talked about how God uses hard times like these to prosper his people, to point us to the hope and the future he has given to us in Christ Jesus. If you missed that message you can go back and listen to it. But that’s not all. The Lord also uses these hard times – times like the ones that Jesus told us were coming – for his gospel message to go out to people and places that we had never imagined we could reach.
Last week we had roughly 300 views of our worship service – many of those views were by multiple people, couples and families, watching at the same time. That means there were an estimated 600-1000 who people heard what normally 200 people that attend our weekly worship services would have heard. How awesome is that! In some ways it reminds me of what happened in the 1st Century when Christians were being persecuted. Those Christians were forced to leave their homes, friends and jobs, but here’s the neat part, “But the Word of God continued to spread and flourish” (Acts 12:24). Why? Because they took what their Christian faith wherever they went. Here’s the irony – because we have been forced to STAY IN our homes, the gospel message of Christ as Savior is being brought to people and places we might never have gone before. It’s kind of like the little kid who though that he would get rid of the dandelions by blowing on them. He thought he accomplished his task when all that was left were stems. Little did he realize that by blowing on the dandelion he was spreading its seeds all over the yard and there would eventually be more dandelions than when he started. Could that be what the Lord is doing in these times when the devil seems to be blowing against us? I pray that it is and that we are prepared for it.