World events in recent days and weeks require a sober-minded response on the part of Christians and especially Christian leaders.
There are many thoughts and responses by Christian leaders to the Japan earthquake, just as there were many responses to the earthquake in Haiti and New Zealand. In recent months and years many people have quoted Jesus’ prophetic declaration in Matthew 24:7-8 “There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Any time you have people writing and speaking about interpreting world events in relation to the ‘end times’ you have guaranteed controversy, so it is with a sigh and a groan that I wade into these topics.
What is on my heart is the response that Jesus himself called for among Christian believers: “Therefore keep watch (and pray) because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” -Matt. 24:42
Here are a few ‘obvious observations’ from Jesus’ dialogue about the end of the age in Matthew 24:
- Jesus gave numerous descriptions of the signs of the times, so that we would know them and look for them (see Matt. 24:6-25). He event says ‘”See, I have told you ahead of time” (v. 25)
- Jesus told us to learn lessons from the signs in world events. “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: as soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out you know that summer is near. Even so, when see all these things, you know that it (he) is near, right at the door.” (v.32)
- Jesus also was clear that nobody will know the specific time of the return of the Lord. “No one knows about that day or hour” (v. 36), and “…the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (v.44)
- Jesus wants us to respond to the signs of world events by entering into PRAYER. “Therefore keep watch (and pray) because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (v. 42). Also, Jesus clearly says that he is looking for believers who will be ‘faithful and wise servants’ (v. 45) and that the activity of waiting and praying is what distinguishes the wise from the foolish believers.
Now I want to be very practical and specific at this point: The majority of Christians find it difficult to spend extended periods of time in prayer, by themselves. The reality of the human condition is that we need community. We need to be part of communities of believers who will gather together to watch and pray. If we are going to actually respond in the way that Jesus is calling us to respond, the majority of us will need to find some expression of a community of people who are seeking to go deep in prayer. Yes, some people will be able to do this on their own, and solitary times of prayer are vital and important, however the majority of Christian believers need the support of others around them in order to truly enter into the reality of diligent waiting and prayer before the Lord.
There must be a clear voice that sounds an alarm about the times that we are living in and are heading toward: The days ahead are going to become more difficult and perilous that anything that we have yet seen and we MUST alter the way that we live in order to begin to live lives that Jesus would describe to be faithful and wise.
Right now God is raising up houses of prayer in cities and nations around the world. Many of these are communities of people who are taking the call to prayer and worship seriously. I want to urge you to work to find a local house of prayer in the area where you live and actually get involved and begin to watch and pray! The time for merely talking about how important prayer is but not actually doing it is over! Jesus has warned us that if we do not respond and live as wise and faithful servants who watch and pray then our love for God will grow cold and many will end up being offended at God. However, to the ones who will enter into lives of prayer and worship and extended times of waiting on the Lord will be be able to stand firm to the end and they will be saved! (see Matt. 24:13)
This is NOT a response that is based out of fear; it is the only way to live free from fear in the days ahead! Jesus told us many of the signs to look for and told us ahead of time what to expect, so that we would not be “alarmed”, or full of fear. A lifestyle of prayer and worship is the pathway to live in confidence before God, able to rest in the revelation of his love and sovereign power.
I conclude with a sobering question: How would Jesus describe your lifestyle right now? Are you living as a ‘faithful and wise servant’? These are the questions I am asking myself as I look at my own life! This is the time to throw ourselves into lives of waiting on the Lord in prayer and worship and to call everyone around us to do the same.
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