Prepare and share
My dear friend, and possibly yours, John Maisel, is always a strong source of encouragement. If you’re around him for any period of time, he’ll share that “it’s going to get worse”. Doesn’t come across very encouraging, but it is reality in this world. John is just trying to help us focus on what is important and be prepared. He usually follows up with these two encouraging statements. “Stay in the word”, and “tell somebody about Jesus”. If things are only going to get worse, wouldn’t it be important that we stay in the truth and that we share Jesus with others which is their and our only answer to life, now, and eternally?
Jesus made it very clear at the end of his Sermon on the Mount through the Beatitudes. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mt.5.10-12). If you are mine, Jesus said, and you are faithful to your calling, it’s going to get worse for you, but cheer up!
You are blessed
Since God’s kingdom is an upside-down kingdom, you are actually blessed. We are to even rejoice! To the world, this seems insane. From where I sit, I believe the American church is going to have plenty of opportunity in the foreseeable future, if not already, to be blessed and have the opportunity to rejoice. Hanging from the cross, when the people were dividing up his garments and shouting all kinds of insults, he showed mercy. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk. 34.24). Will we have that same heart attitude?
Consider young Stephen, one of the first martyrs of the faith. Do you think he would agree with John at that moment, that things are only going to get worse? Stoned for his stand against the ‘religious establishment’. He called them out for their disobedience. They were enraged and cast him out of the city and stoned him.
Listen closely. “But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, behold I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, Lord do not hold this sin against them and when he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7. 55-60).
Look to Jesus
Finally, here was Jesus’ mindset while enduring the crucifixion. Could things get any worse? And the writer of Hebrews’ encouragement. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (vss. 12.1,2).
There’s an expression; “prepare for the worst, but hope for the best”. And heed John’s exhortation… stay in the word and tell someone about Jesus. Be blessed and rejoice!