Wars and Rumors of War
By Marty Norman –
As I watch television these last few weeks and as I sit with a newspaper and a cup of coffee before me, I hardly can believe what my eyes and ears are seeing and hearing. It is as if the entire world is on fire. And the hardest part is that I do not know whether this is good or bad. To my eyes, there is only chaos. I see no evidence of the gospel, though that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I hear no verbal thanks to God for this struggle for freedom in which so many are engaged. I am told by the nightly news that I am witnessing a fight for democracy, followed by a desire and stand by the brave to overthrow tyranny. I pray that this is so.
But as I ponder and pray, I can’t help but wonder if this freedom is not a false freedom. How can one truly be free if one doesn’t understand that it is only through Jesus that we are truly free. How can democracy be implemented if there is no understanding that the Creator endowed mankind with the gift of freedom, that it is the word of God and the truth of his testimony that bestow the gifts of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness upon all men. How can freedom be established if one does not acknowledge the giver of these gifts?
I wonder if the protestors know all of this. I wonder if they know what freedom is.
I ask myself, have they not heard, have they not experienced the freedom that a life in Christ brings to those who hear the good news and accept it with joy? Do they not rejoice in the strength of Christ’s victory over sin and death rather than the death of a tyrannical state or dictator? There is no crown of glory without the cross of suffering. Yet I’ve heard no word of thanksgiving to a loving father for the gift of freedom and salvation. Instead, it appears that God has been removed or at least set apart from the conversation as if this freedom fight were totally apart from the will of his hand.
That brings us to the season of Lent. As we meditate on the cross and its meaning these forty days, it is so important that we reflect on Jesus and his words to us in his last days on earth.
Watch out he tells us. “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors 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” (Matthew 24:4 NIV).
I do not know if we are at that place in time. The scripture is clear that we are not to try to figure out the day or the hour, for only the Father knows. But what I do know is that the world is a dark place. There are many hurting people in many countries. Nations, as well as individuals, feel hopeless, believing that there is no life, no hope for a future for them in their circumstance.
My heart goes out to these ones. Obviously many do not know Jesus and his promise of freedom.
If they did, they would understand the fullness of the gospel. They would look toward the Father as their deliverer and Jesus as their savior. That’s what this Easter is all about, a celebration of the cross and resurrection as the very things that bring hope and freedom. No longer would there be a need for demonstrations and riots. Instead a sense of thanksgiving would be instilled in each heart, coupled with the joy and knowledge of eternal life with the Creator. The truth of God’s word would be sought, and they would believe.
So as I approach Easter, I look at it with different eyes. Time is short. The hope and promise of the cross screams at me to listen to our Lord’s words for he tells us there is no hope for the world apart from him. And then he calls us to join him. “Go ye, therefore”, he says, “and make disciples of all nations.” In other words we are to do what he did, go to the ends of the earth and tell the good news that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. I ponder my role in the Great Commission. I wonder how I, in my small sphere of influence, can make a difference this Easter. I struggle with my desire to share the story of the empty tomb in light of current events, and I ponder how to share the good news of the resurrection to a hurting world.
I was reminded recently in a book by David Jeremiah What In The World Is Going On? that the tomb was not really empty. It was almost empty. This was something new for me and I have been pondering it ever since. Dr. Jeremiah reminds us that although Jesus’ body was not present, the grave clothes were, and they bore an imprint of his body. The shroud wrapped around his head, which he calls a napkin, was folded and placed apart from the grave clothes. I had not known the significance of this placement until then. Apparently in some mid eastern cultures, the custom regarding napkins is that if someone leaves the table the condition of their napkin is an indicator of their position in the meal. If it is crumbled and left on the table the indication is that he is finished and will not return. But if it is folded and neatly laid beside the plate it is indicative of his return. This puts a whole new light on the empty tomb. For not only did Jesus say he would return but the symbolic gesture of the folded napkin, confirms that he definitely plans to return.
So how does that affect me?
A good place to start is to put aside the fear of wars and rumors of wars and concentrate on the person of Jesus. His presence and authority alone overpower any doubts or fear that I might I have. Instead I can concentrate on his resurrection and how I can partner with him in building his kingdom. I can pray for believers in that part of the world who have been placed there for such a time as this, that they might be bold, that they will stand firm in their faith. But most of all I can pray that they will share the good news with the hurting world in their sphere of influence.
So this Easter I am approaching the season with a two fold approach, a double edged sword you might say. First I give thanks for Jesus and his sacrifice for me on the cross, his resurrection and the empty tomb which allows me to have eternal life because he lives. But secondly, I give thanks for the “almost” empty tomb, for his promise that he will come again. I look forward, not in fear, but in anticipation to that time, whether I be here in body or on the other side of the veil in spirit. I give thanks for the scriptures which act as my guide and teacher, and I look forward to his second coming as king and conqueror whenever that might be.
Hallelujah he has risen. He has risen indeed!