Good morning and welcome to a new week of our Foundations Daily Podcast. My name is Liam, I’m part of the team here at STC and, as always, it’s a great privilege to bring a reflection from the scriptures.
Today’s reading comes from Matthew 24: 1-35. It’s a passage which you can hear read in full at the end. As we dig into this difficult and challenging text today, let’s keep in mind this fundamental question – How do we keep going? How do we last when things are really challenging?
The passage opens with Jesus and his disciples withdrawing from Jerusalem where Jesus has just done battle with the religious leaders of the day. Perhaps they were taking a break from their journey. They sat upon the Mount of Olives looking over Jerusalem and its temple building. Then Jesus tells his disciples this–‘You see all this, it’s not going to last – it will be destroyed –it’s all going to come crashing down.’
And Jesus was of course right. Rather than accepting his kingdom of peace, he knew that the religious leaders would choose the way of revolt – putting Him to death on the cross and subsequently finding themselves at the mercy of the mighty Roman empire. In AD 70, the prophecy was fulfilled and under Titus the Roman Army led a siege upon the city and it’s temple was completely destroyed.
But, as we read through this passage, Jesus prophecy points to something much greater and much more terrifying. A time of deception, of violence, of terrible suffering – the brokenness of a yet fully redeemed created world laid totally bare…before Jesus himself returns in glory – to bring judgement, to establish his kingdom and to reign forever.
Reading from verse 12, Jesus explains: ‘Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm will be saved.’
These are challenging words to read and somehow they feel even more vivid given the place we find ourselves right now and all that we see happening in our world. In the midst of all the chaos and destruction, Jesus gives his disciples one clear instruction: ‘stand firm’. We read this phrase on many other occasions in the New Testament, all referring to an attitude of believers who are being tested, challenged and/or persecuted but who choose to persevere, to trust God and to cling to his promises knowing that in Him they will be saved.
As I prayed over this passage, I was reminded of another one. We find it in Luke Chapter 8. The parable of the sewer. Jesus word there I think can offer us some real hope in how we can continue to stand firm in these challenging days. Luke 8:15 – But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
How do we last? How do we stand firm? We guard our hearts. How’s your heart today? If I’m honest, mines a little heavy right now. I’m stuck inside again when I’d much rather be meeting with our young people, serving our schools, seeing family. I think it almost impossible and perhaps unrealistic not to be personally impacted by what we see happening in our world right now.
Perhaps a better question might be….where are our hearts right now? What’s demanding our attention and focus? What’s driving our thoughts and behaviour?
As I read this passage again and again – to be honest I found myself getting a bit lost, sifting through various commentaries – I still don’t understand the end times! Perhaps maybe there’s something to that…. Maybe like me you find yourself asking the question….What on earth is going on right now? Typically it can feel like we lurch from one disaster, challenge or struggle to the next. My heart often feels like it’s all over the place. Like it’s pulled in a million different directions.
What we need to read in these difficult days is not yet another fatalistic headline, and if we’re not careful that’s what this passage could potentially feel like, but to listen to the words of our Saviour in the midst of all the prediction of impending destruction.
Jesus says listen to my word. Heaven and earth may pass away – he certainly paints a vivid picture of that…. but my words won’t. Stand firm upon my word.
Never before have we so desperately needed to hear and receive the word of God if we are to stand firm with Him today.
So what do our rhythms look like at the moment? Are we opening our Bibles up and asking God to speak? Are we carving out those spaces and times when we put down whatever we are doing and listen to his voice?
Please hear me – this podcast is not meant in any way to slam us down but rather to encourage us upwards. Where are our hearts?
A bunch of guys from my family church small group have taken to doing shared reading plans using the Bible app. It’s been fun, challenging, repetitive, frustrating at times (probably through my own questions) but what it has done is really helped each of us focus on listening to God’s voice for ourselves. Podcasts are great. Sermons are helpful. But are we personally mining the scriptures to hear God’s word of faith to us in this season?
Today a simple encouragement that I bring myself…Lord, give us ears to hear and open hearts to receive from you afresh.
Lord, we find ourselves right now in a chaotic and confusing world that appears to be out of control. We bring before you our conflicted and troubled hearts and ask that you protect and fill them today with your love, peace and joy. Help us today to listen humbly and to cling tightly to your unchanging word. May we stand firm in the battle this day. In Jesus name. Amen.
BIBLE READING: Matthew 24:1-35
Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. ‘Do you see all these things?’ he asked. ‘Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.’
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. ‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’
Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am the Messiah,” and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth-pains.
‘Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
‘So when you see standing in the holy place “the abomination that causes desolation,” spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the reader understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equalled again.
‘If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Messiah!” or, “There he is!” do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you in advance.
‘So if anyone tells you, “There he is, out in the desert,” do not go out; or, “Here he is, in the inner rooms,” do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.
‘Immediately after the distress of those days
‘“the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”
‘Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
‘Now learn this lesson from the fig-tree: as soon as its twigs become tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.