12th September 2020
Our Dear Brethren,
As we talked for a few minutes the other night I could see on my phone the evidence of the 19 years that had passed by so quickly. The first grandchild in our family, the first of many nephews and nieces to come later. His birth was nearly overshadowed by a very tumultuous time in history. Within a few days everything changed for our family. It was the beginning of a series of ups and downs for us, but also for the country and the world.
War was on the headlines of nearly every newspaper and on the screen of every television that September as I prepared to enter my first real attempt at independence as an adult. I had grown up hearing about times of war before, when one nation or another had again attempted to dominate the world. I half expected that our nation would be completely immersed in battle very soon. In many ways it was the beginning of what I knew was coming, but as it is with our expectations of prophecy, things never unfold exactly how we think they will.
"And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet" (Matthew 24:6). These words rang clear through the minds of many of God's people, but we had to know that the end hadn't yet come, even as it seemed our world was beginning to crumble. There would still be times of peace yet ahead, a lull before the real storm. "For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows" (verses 7 & 8).
The times we have behind us and the times we have ahead of us -- times of personal and international tribulation, times of hatred and offense, times of lies, rumors, speculation, conspiracy, and lawlessness -- should not surprise us. We've known that these things would happen even if we didn't know when or exactly what this would look like. The prophetic unfolding of events should be no surprise to those of us who read the word of God. All of these things must happen before things get better.
The difficult part is the instruction from Jesus Christ to endure to the end through all of these things. We must wade through the events that happen around us without getting caught up in the stream of distractions. Otherwise we'll miss the point of it all. We wait and we watch faithfully, praying that our Savior will return to us soon so the truth will finally be revealed to the nations of this world. And while we wait, we must remain faithful.
How do we remain faithful? What will last through even the fervent heat of the day of the Lord? Is it enough to know who our enemy is? Is it enough to have a glimpse into the future unfolding of end-time events? Is it enough to expose every conspirator and every malicious individual? Is it enough to have the book in our hands which tells us everything we need to know? Is it enough to have the knowledge and to speak it from the rooftops, from the street corners, from every internet platform and media venue available to us today?
It isn't enough.
At the end of this age, when we look back at the experiences that we have gone through, the things that we have endured, and the events we have witnessed with our own eyes -- battles fought, death of loved ones, pain and suffering, triumph and trials, calamity and abuse -- none of it matters if we have not used the hardships of life to build up godly character. This is what will endure. This is what matters at the end of the day. This is what God sees when He looks at the hearts of His people. This is the point of everything that we now do. This is our focus in life.
"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night...both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness...Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless" (2 Peter 3:10-14).
Our love is with you,
Pastor, United Church of God
NYC, NJ, CT, Malawi, Zimbabwe