In The World You Have Tribulation

On the night in which the Lord was betrayed, He met with His disciples to observe the Passover.  At some point after the meal, and before He led them to Gethsemane, the Lord spoke in some detail on many topics of importance.  Of all the gospel writers, only John recorded the Lord’s words during this conversation with them.  At the end of this discussion the Lord made a statement that foretold the challenges that these men would face once He had returned to His Father in heaven.

In Jn. 16:32, 33 the Lord said, “Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.  These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.”

The Lord had on previous occasions predicted that His disciples would be persecuted for proclaiming the gospel, but this statement is particularly poignant for at least two reasons.  First, that very night the twelve, minus Judas, would indeed be scattered from the Lord as He was taken into custody in the garden.  Second, the Lord’s words suggest the ongoing presence of tribulation so long as the world stands.  He said, “In the world you have tribulation.”  In other words, as long as they were in the world the disciples would have challenges to their faith.  The record of the book of Acts suggests that these men finally came to understand the Lord’s meaning as they went about the business of preaching the gospel.  They knew they would experience tribulation and they were prepared for it whenever it came.

The attitude of the apostles and the early Christians about the challenges they faced because of their faith stands in contrast to the expectations of some professed believers in more modern times.  At some point in the last 300 years or so, with the rise of Premillennialism, some believers have come to expect a time of peace and tranquility on the earth.  They believe this will occur when the Lord comes to establish His kingdom in Jerusalem, from which they say He will reign on earth for 1,000 years.

As wonderful as this expectation may be, it is not consistent with what the Bible teaches.  Foremost in this regard is the fact that the Lord is already reigning in His kingdom, and has been since the church was established on the first Pentecost after His resurrection from the dead (Acts 2:38-41; Col. 1:13, 14; 1 Cor. 15:20-28).  Since the Lord is already reigning in His kingdom, the expectation that he will establish a kingdom on earth at some point in the future is a false expectation.

A second, and equally powerful point is that the earth is not the place where God’s people will experience the peace and tranquility that we all desire.  In Rev. 21:3, 4 the scripture says, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

The time of peace and tranquility for God’s people will only come at the end of time when He has taken them home to the place prepared for them in heaven.  In the meantime, while we are in the world, we have tribulation, but we may take courage because in Christ we overwhelmingly conquer! (Rom. 8:39).

Helping God

Recent and ongoing events in the Middle East have captured the attention of much of the world as the Arabs and Israelis are once again engaged in battle with each other.  If we take media reports at face value, which is rarely a safe course, the “gallant” and “overmatched” Palestinians are being systematically slaughtered by the Israeli army and air force.  Lost somewhere is the fact that the Palestinians started the current conflict by launching indiscriminate rocket fire into Israel.

Representatives of our government are trying to broker a cease-fire agreement, while making only veiled attempts to appear neutral in the conflict.  Prepared statements call on the Israelis to make concessions to the Palestinians, while asking very little in return from the Palestinians.  For the first time in the modern history of Israel it is increasingly clear that the U.S. President and his administration are more inclined to support the Palestinians than they are Israel.  In the meantime, the conflict continues to rage and could potentially explode into a region-wide war.

This is not the first time that Arabs and Israelis have been locked in battle.  The modern state of Israel was established in 1948, and almost immediately the Arab nations surrounding her went to war against her.  This brief conflict was just the first of four full-scale wars that have been fought, the second being in 1956, the third being the famous 1967 Six-day War, and the fourth being the 1973 Yom Kippur War.  In addition to these conventional wars, Israel has been subjected to nearly incessant terrorist attacks, and also, as in the current conflict, indiscriminate military aggression by their Arab neighbors.

While these conflicts have inflicted terrible loss of life and property damage through the years, they show no signs of ceasing.  No diplomatic efforts have been successful in addressing and resolving the underlying issues that keep Arabs and Israelis at odds with one another.  The left-leaning politicians of America and their counterparts around the world are loathe to admit that peace can never come to the Middle East so long as Arab factions are intent on the destruction of Israel.  Until that attitude is given up by the Arabs, there will never be peace in the Middle East.

While very few seem interested in trying to uncover the root cause of this conflict, it should be obvious to any serious student of the Bible.  The ongoing conflict between Arabs and Jews has come about because Abraham and Sarah tried to help God.

In Gen. 12:1-3 God promised Abraham that He would bless him, and would make a great nation of him.  God also said that in Abraham “all the families of the earth will be blessed.”  At that time, Abraham was 75 years old and childless.  In Gen. 15:4 God promised that “one who will come forth from your body, he shall be your heir.”  After ten years, however, Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was still barren.  This is when Abraham and Sarah decided they should help God.

In Gen. 16:1-4 Abraham and Sarah took the matter into their own hands.  Sarah had an Egyptian handmaid named Hagar, and she gave her to Abraham so he could father a child by her.  Hagar conceived and gave birth to a son named Ishmael.  They thought they had helped God keep His promise, but they had only made matters worse.

In due time God appeared to Abraham and announced that Ishmael would not be the son of promise, but Sarah would bear a son whose name would be Isaac.  This son would be his heir and God would establish His covenant with him (Gen. 17:18, 19).  As a concession to Abraham, however, God promised to make a nation of Ishmael’s descendants (Gen. 21:13).  The descendants of Isaac became the Jews, and the descendants of Ishmael became the Arabs.

It is often said that the worst fights are family fights, and in this case it has been true for multiplied generations.  Although Isaac and Ishmael were reconciled with each other during their lifetimes, their descendants have been fighting each other for centuries.  And they will continue to fight each other until the Lord comes again.  All of this grief, and all this heartache and destruction, has come about  because a man and a woman 4,000 years ago tried to help God, instead of trusting Him to do what He had promised.

Abraham and Sarah unwittingly unleashed a torrent of grief on the world when they tried to help God, but they are not the last to have been so presumptuous as to do so.  In modern times,  others have tried to help God with respect to salvation and worship.  These well-intentioned souls have not unleashed physical warfare on the world, but what they have unleashed is far more devastating than physical warfare.

As regards salvation, some people have tried to help God by altering what He has commanded in His word.  They have done so because by changing what God’s word requires, they have multiplied the numbers of people who have been “saved.”  The scriptures plainly teach that one must believe and be baptized in order to be saved (Mk. 16:16), but many people balk at the idea of being baptized.  So, well-meaning preachers invented the “sinner’s prayer” to help God save more people.  It didn’t matter to them that the sinner’s prayer cannot be found anywhere in the Bible.  What mattered was the thousands who could claim salvation just by saying those few words.

Like Abraham and Sarah, however, this “help” has created chaos in the religious world.  How many thousands, even millions, will be lost because they said a man-made prayer instead of following the simple command of our Lord Jesus Christ?  The damage created by this “help” will last into eternity.

With respect to worship, God’s word is also very clear.  Christian worship is simple and reverent.  From the New Testament we know that the early Christians met each Lord’s Day (Sunday) to partake of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7).  They also prayed together, and made contributions to the work of the church from their means, and proclaimed God’s word (Acts 2:42).  They also joined their hearts and voices in singing praises to God.  They did this without instrumental accompaniment (Eph. 5:19; Col 3:16).

This simple form of worship, however, doesn’t have the snap, crackle, and pop that so many modern people crave.  So, again, people tried to help God.  In the place of the simple New Testament example of worship, modern churches have everything from a piano or organ and a choir, to a rock-style band, replete with light shows and pyrotechnics.  There is no question that these things draw large crowds, but they profane God’s worship, and appeal to the desires of the worshipers instead of to the wishes of the Holy God who is supposed to be the object of our worship.

When humans try to help God they tend to go far beyond what He desires of us.  Of this John said, “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.” (2 Jn. 9).  The point to be learned is that God doesn’t need our help to accomplish His purposes.  He has told us in His word what He requires of us.  If we simply obey what God commands, that is all the help He needs or desires.



In February 2013 a husband and wife were walking their dog on a hillside section of their rural property in Northern California.  As they walked along they came upon a rusty can partially buried in the hillside.  When they dug it up they discovered it contained what looked like a batch of discs covered with dirt.  They took the can home and began cleaning the discs.  This is when they discovered that the can contained nearly perfectly preserved gold coins.  They returned to the site where the can had been unearthed and found more cans.  When all was said and done, they had more than 1400 gold coins with a face value of $27,980.00.  The coins are extremely rare, dating from 1847 through 1894, and have been appraised at about $10 million.

The discovery of such a treasure would be a dream come true for most people, and has been in this instance for the couple who found it.  However, the treasure has also created some issues for them.  Once the discovery was announced, opportunists surfaced claiming that the treasure was buried by long-lost ancestors.  In addition to this, government taxing agencies suggested that the couple may owe as much as half the value of the coins in taxes.  For over a year the couple has worked through these issues, and apparently is now beyond most of them.  Some of the coins have been put up for auction, and one coin recently fetched $15,000.00.

The discovery of this treasure, and the resultant issues surrounding it, reminds us of something the Lord said about treasure during His earthly ministry.  In the Sermon on the Mount the Lord said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  (Mt. 6:19-21).

If our focus is only on earthly things we’re going to be disappointed, no matter how much wealth we may amass.  The reasons why are summed up in the Lord’s statement.  Treasure on earth is subject to decay and will always be the target of thieves.  Not only this, but when we die our earthly treasure is left behind.  The Lord told a parable in Lk. 12:15-21 about a rich man who hoarded his wealth.  In vs. 20, 21 Jesus said, “But God said to him, ‘You fool!  This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’  So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”  This fact of life is summarized by the statement, “You don’t see any Ryder trucks behind hearses.”

In contrast to this, if our focus is on spiritual things, we will never be disappointed.  Paul spoke of this truth in 1 Tim. 4:8, where he said, “For bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”  One who puts God first is promised that all his physical needs will be provided (Mt. 6:33).  He may not be wealthy by the world’s standards, but he will be rich toward God.  His life will be better because he pursues godliness, and at the end of time, he will be better off because he will enter the place prepared for him in heaven (Jn. 14:1-3).

The possession of earthly wealth is not condemned in scripture.  Making earthly treasure one’s sole focus in life, however, is condemned.  The Lord’s command is for us to store up treasures in heaven.  We do this by putting Him first in our lives, and by living obedient, godly lives in preparation for eternity.  Those who store up treasures in heaven will receive the everlasting treasure of eternal life.  Where is your treasure?

One Small Step, One Giant Leap

July 20, 2014 marks the 45th anniversary of the first manned lunar landing, which occurred on this date in 1969.  Those who were alive at that time will remember that our nation had been challenged by President John Kennedy to land a man on the moon and return him safely to the earth before the end of the decade of the 1960s.  This was primarily a response to the space efforts then underway by the Soviet Union.  The competition between the two super powers was dubbed “The Space Race,” and it was taken very seriously by both nations.

Early on the Soviets held the advantage, launching the first successful man-made satellite, putting the first man into space, and into earth orbit.  President Kennedy’s challenge shifted our space program into high gear, and it wasn’t long before the United States caught up to the Soviets and began to edge ahead.  The Apollo 11 mission was the first attempt to completely fulfill President Kennedy’s goal, and on Sunday, July 20, 1969 the world watched on live television as the Lunar Module, Eagle, safely landed on the moon.  A few hours later, Astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the lunar surface.  As he stepped onto the moon he said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

this statement tried to put this successful effort into perspective.  As a technological achievement, the entire space program, including the moon landing, was small compared to the much larger need for mankind to learn how to live together in peace.  Even though the moon landing was the result of competition between diametrically opposed political systems, there were signs that going into space might actually bring us all closer together.  Whether this hope was founded or not does not take away from its significance at that time.

Interestingly, Armstrong’s declaration has application in a manner he likely never envisioned.  As we go about our lives here on earth, there is a competition between two diametrically opposed forces, each seeking dominion over us.  Unlike the competition between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., however, there is no way for these competing forces to ever be reconciled.  God and Satan can never be reconciled, nor can their realms, because they are of completely opposite and incompatible natures.

As we live our lives we are drawn to one side or the other in this great struggle.  God the Father sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins so we may have the hope of eternal life.  Satan, a murderer from the beginning and the father of lies (Jn. 8:44), seeks to deceive us as he deceived Eve in the garden so we will turn away from God and follow him instead.  The competition is for our souls, and it is fiercer than any struggle mankind has ever experienced.

It only takes one small step for us to make our choice.  That small step is to bow in obedience to God’s revealed will by being immersed into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16).  This is how we enter the small gate that opens onto the narrow way that leads to life (Mt. 7:13, 14).  One small step starts us on the journey that ultimately brings us to a home in heaven at the end of time.

This one small step results in a giant leap when we finally stand before God in judgment.  We may call it a giant leap because of how much higher heaven is than anything we can imagine, or have experienced in life.  The idea that mankind, as small as it is, can live forever in the presence of Almighty God is a giant leap.  But it is a giant leap that is made possible by the blood of Jesus Christ and by the one small step of obedience.


One of the most common attributes shared by humans is procrastination, which is defined as the action of delaying or postponing something.  We see this in virtually every aspect of life.  Students wait until the last minute to study for an exam, or to write a term paper.  Taxpayers put off filing their income tax returns as long as possible.  Husbands delay working on their “honey do” lists until it cannot be avoided any longer.  There are no good reasons for our procrastination, but still we do it time after time.

When we procrastinate we typically end up paying some kind of unpleasant price for having done so.  A student who puts off preparing for an exam until the last minute will often get a poorer grade than if he had prepared ahead of time.  Taxpayers who put off filing their tax returns may make mistakes that can cost them large amounts of money, or they may incur a penalty because their return arrived late.  A husband who delays working on his “honey do” list, may incur the displeasure of his wife.  In addition to these unpleasant consequences, a habitual procrastinator often gets a reputation that marks him as undependable.

The consequences of procrastination in our secular affairs can be damaging to us, but when we procrastinate in spiritual matters, the consequences can be catastrophic.  There are two important reasons why this is so.  First, there is the fragile nature of life.  Most of us go about our lives as though we will live forever.  We know this is not the case, but we act as if not thinking about our mortality will postpone it.  The scriptures teach us otherwise, however.  In Jas. 4:14 James said, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.  You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”  We must not put off obedience to the gospel, because our lives may end at any moment.

Second, we must not put off obedience to the gospel because we do not know when the Lord will return for judgment.  The fact that the Lord is coming back to judge the world is plainly taught in the scriptures.  The parable of the ten virgins and the parable of the talents each teach the reality of judgment, and the Lord followed these parables with a specific reference to judgment in Mt. 25:31-46.  However, the Lord does not want us to procrastinate in our preparation for judgment.  In Mt. 24:36, speaking of His return for judgment, the Lord said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”  Because we do not know when the Lord will return, we must not put off obeying the gospel.

The scriptures are clear that men and women in the first century did not put off their obedience to the gospel once they understood what they must do in order to be saved.  In Acts 2:41, three thousand who believed the message of the apostles that day were immediately baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.  In Acts 16, a jailer in Philippi was baptized by Paul and Silas just as soon as he understood what he must do to be saved, even though it was well after midnight.  These, and other examples, show us that there must be no procrastination when it comes to being saved.  We must act immediately in obedience to the teaching of God’s word.

We may procrastinate in every other area of life, but we must not procrastinate in response to the call of God to be saved.  God desires that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4).  Therefore, as Ananias told Saul of Tarsus, “Now why do you delay?  Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.”