As news agencies continue to report, we live in frightening days! This year has seen Australia’s Queensland flood disaster, followed by New Zealand’s Christchurch devastation and horrendous Japan tragedies.
People are asking ‘What’s going on? Why is the world’s southern region under attack?’ The bigger picture is that disasters, including earthquakes and famines, are happening in other world regions too!
We also hear of Christians mistreated for their faith, even killed; of pastors mishandled in Asia. The list of worldwide troubles – church and commercial – goes on and on!
Some Christians are saying it’s a sign of the times. That God is bringing nations and the church itself to repentance. That Jesus is obviously coming back soon!
Maybe! But understand something biblical! No matter how convincing any world renowned prophet’s orations predict about end times, with an attached decades-old ‘Jesus could come back tonight’ – know what scripture really teaches about these disturbing times and what we should be really focusing on.
What did Jesus himself say about end times? Jesus clearly stated in Matthew 24: ‘The exact day and hour? No one knows…not even the Son. Only the Father knows’ (V36). He warned: ‘Watch out for doomsday deceivers. Many leaders … will deceive a lot of people. When reports come in of wars and rumoured wars, keep your head and don’t panic. This is routine history; this is no sign of the end…Famines and earthquakes will occur in various places. This is nothing compared to what is coming’ (v5-8).
Worldwide events may be unsettling but Jesus said they are only routine history! In verse 14 he tells us what is really meant to be happening in every nation during these end times of crisis: ‘All during this time, the good news … will be preached all over the world, a witness staked out in every country. And then the end will come.’
So much still to do!
Of course Jesus could come back at any moment. But the truth is that he isn’t because there is still so much to do around the world beginning in our own suburbs! The gospel hasn’t been really staked out everywhere.
Jesus clearly said that he won’t return until every nation – ‘every Gentile’ – had been heralded with the gospel. We need to realise that globally there are still 6,782 currently unreached people groups representing 2.8 billion people. That’s 41% of the world! That includes lots of westerners!
An unreached people group is one that no one has physically gone to, doesn’t have translations of either outreach or Bible portions in its native language and doesn’t have an adequate number of indigenous believers to be a viable witness.
For years we’ve been saying that despite all our hi-tech gear almost half the world still hasn’t had an adequate gospel presentation! And that could include our own neighbourhood or suburb! There’s still much work to be done by every church and every Christian. Despite our technical gizmos we haven’t achieved what the early church did in only 24 months!
Yes, let’s deal with any sin in our lives and churches. But let’s also be taking every opportunity to witness for Jesus and share our faith! Let’s trust God to care for us and get on with what Jesus wants us to be doing in these troubled times…Matthew 24:14, staking out our witnessing! And that includes staking out locally!
That great Australian missionary statesman, Dr George Forbes, has commented: ‘I am convinced that “the end will come” when we “finish” the job of making disciples of all nations.’
The real question today
It’s not ‘Is Jesus coming back?’ but ‘Am I staking the gospel in my city, my suburb, my very church for that matter?’
Staking has several meanings, including taking a risk. When used as a transitive verb it means to secure, to mark out with stakes as in the old gold rush or oil well claiming days.
Apply this to following Jesus and doing what he wants in these days of ‘What’s going to happen next?’ and we realise that it’s time for action in our locale!
But perhaps we’re feeling inadequate or hemmed in by circumstances, enemies, opposition and Satan’s cunning. We may be thinking, ‘Hey, the troubles around me are heavy and I need a breakthrough.’ It’s okay to feel this way, but we should trust God to change the circumstances and renew us with a sense of purpose.
Our letterbox was broken, the upper portion having been damaged in a storm. A new box was purchased but before it could be staked the ‘heavy duty’ concrete that had surrounded the old one needed digging out. Our son applied a heavy plybar to that ‘enemy’, that opposition. It was tough going but he successfully dug deep.
Churches, as Acts 2 teaches, are meant to be all about fellowship. That includes members engaging in helping one another towards a common cause. Our ‘church family’ is there to help one another fulfil the great commission that is the heart fo God.
And God himself – the God of blessing – will help us in troubled, uncertain times as we trust him. Take Isaac for example…
Planting in famine time
Abraham’s mightily blessed son Isaac had to do some digging deep too. Isaac found himself in troubled times among the Philistines, perpetual enemies of God’s people. There was a great famine and he was tempted to move away.
Then he heard from God and obeyed in order to receive more blessings for himself and family. God told him: ‘Stay here in this land and I’ll be with you and bless you’ (Gen. 26:1-3).
Isaac trusted his God and verses 13-14 reports he did something strange that achieved incredible results: ‘Isaac planted crops in that land and took in a huge harvest (A hundredfold) God blessed him. The man got richer and richer by the day until he was very wealthy.’
What was the strange thing Isaac did as he trusted God? The Valley of Gerar (‘Subject to flooding’), where he stayed, had never produced great yields, usually only 25%. Isaac trusted God and, strangely, planted there in a time of famine. One of God’s blessings is that we too can prosper in a time of famine. This is not a time to move churches or stop tithing and generous giving!
But Isaac had also to dig deep
Satan gets jealous when God blesses us. He uses people and circumstances to upset us! Repeatedly envious Philistines clogged his wells with dirt and debris. At other times they disputed over ownership. Wells of life-giving water for Isaac’s family, servants and flocks were blocked!
But again Isaac heard from the God he trusted and envisened success. God’s encouraged him this way: ‘Don’t fear a thing because I’m with you, I’ll bless you’ (v24) and Isaac had his servants successfully dig yet again, discovering a well of fresh water that caused no further troubles.
When God speaks to us, keep digging deep! This is a really time to trust God, to sow in a time of famine to reap a hundredfold, to dig new deeper wells and be refreshed. And if there is some rubbish, dirt and debris we need to dig out, let’s do it.
At this unsettling time in 2011 let’s pray for troubled countries, but for the gospel’s sake let our major focus be on staking out all unreached territory for Jesus. (c) 2011