”This will be a time for you to bear testimony” (Luke 21:13)
Christians are made for crisis. The great events of salvation history are wrought out of a long chain of crises: the flood, the childless patriarch, slavery in Egypt, the exile, the cross — human dead ends, moments when all seemed to be falling apart with no hope of recovery. And yet God has consistently shown himself faithful, sowing redemption amidst catastrophe, allowing no disaster to stand in the way of his gracious will.
Every Christian must die to himself before new life in Christ begins. For many, this will come in great moments of personal crisis: sickness, intense loneliness, bankruptcy, the implosion of an important relationship.
Our lessons look forward in different ways to the final crisis — the great Day of Judgment, when God calls all to account, and completes his work in creating a new heaven and earth. The lessons do not promise any shortcuts in God’s plan. Those who claim to know the precise time, Jesus warns, are
deceivers. Nor will the path to the great Day be an easy one. Evildoers often seem to prosper, Malachi laments , disregarding God’s command with an arrogant disdain. Judgment often seems too slow in coming. Jesus predicts a long sequence of catastrophes leading up to the day of deliverance. The temple itself will be destroyed (a catastrophe that nearly leveled second-century Judaism), and persecutions and natural upheavals will follow.
These disasters are not signs that God has abandoned the world, but opportunities to bear witness. Do not be afraid, Jesus commands, but remain steadfast. In the moment of crisis, God will supply words for you, words that will put the world to shame. You will have things to say, and many, at long last, will be ready to listen.
For God does not forget his faithful ones. He will rise like the sun, his healing rays shining across the earth to bring healing. The book of remembrance will be opened and the righteous will be vindicated. They will greet that final crisis like calves set free from the stall after a long winter’s confinement —kicking and snorting for joy, while the arrogant evildoers will perish like stubble in a summer fire.
The same crisis is coming. Some have prepared for it by consistent faithfulness, while others have ignored it, or look ed for easy ways around the serious questions it provokes. In this month of the dead, when every falling leaf calls out its reminder of the last things — be sure that, when it comes, you will be ready to meet it.
Look It Up
How does Stephen’s testimony in Acts 6-7 fulfill Jesus’ prophecy?
Think About It
How has God used you to bear witness in times of crisis?