Two weeks ago, I shared with you my belief that my father is the most patient man in the world.
Unfortunately, I did not inherit a full measure of his spirit—and sometimes, it gets the best of me…
Several years ago, I was stuck in traffic in one of the many towns I’ve lived in over the years. A construction crew had the road blocked, and I was in a hurry. But no sooner did I stop than I noticed an alleyway that was clear to my right—so I drove down the alley—and the Lincoln Town Car behind me followed me. And no sooner do I get to the end of the alley, I hear a siren—and I look in my mirror to see flashing red lights in the windshield of the Lincoln.
I pull over. And out of the Lincoln comes a large uniformed policeman wearing aviator sunglasses. “License, registration” he says to me. He takes them in hand, looks at me, and he says, “One-way street, sir. Three signs told you. Only an idiot would go the wrong say down that alley.”
By this time, I felt like I was an inch tall—and he walked back to his car. After a few grueling minutes of waiting, he returns, gives me back my registration, looks at me and says, “don’t do it again.” And he walks back to his car and drives off. I guess the double helping of humble pie he served me was penalty enough.
But this reminds me of how easy it is to lose my head when trouble comes along—even the smallest of inconveniences, like a few minutes of sitting in traffic. How much greater the danger is, in losing our faith, when real trials and tribulations come our way…
Revelation is one of the most frightening of all the biblical books precisely because it warns of crises and calamities, the likes of which have never been experienced in all of human history. Revelation warns of wars, violence, economic upheaval, famine, pestilence, and natural disasters. And Christians will not be immune from these troubles. In fact, Revelation warns the faithful that their faithfulness to Christ may cost them dearly—as much as their very lives.
Now it really isn’t for us to say where we are God’s end-times timeline, but there is no mistaking that these tribulations are in fact coming to pass.
Just think back to the last seven days. And, as awful as it is to say so, things are bound to get far worse.
Which begs the question: when tribulation comes, where will we turn? What will we do? Who will we trust? Will we remain faithful to Jesus Christ? Or, will we fall away?
We’ve heard time and time again how tribulations have the potential to shake our faith in God to dust. We’re trying with all our might to trust an invisible God in the face of unshakable agony.
It’s not as hard as we think to fall away from our faith.
It is in these times when we’re most tempted to forsake God; —when salvation doesn’t happen, either the way we want it or in the time we want it. This is when we are most tempted to seek “salvation” somewhere else: from material possessions; from relationships with other people; from quick fixes and cheap thrills… Whatever it takes to get to make us feel good and give us what we want, when we want it…
If our lips never speak a word of thanksgiving to Jesus for his love and provision, we’ve fallen away…
If we look out only for ourselves and do nothing for our neighbors in need, we’ve fallen away.
And ultimately, if we fail to cling to Jesus when tribulation comes along, we won’t make it.
But the good news is that our good shepherd is does not give up on us as easily as we give up on him. Salvation belongs to our God the Lamb—and he is not about to withhold that salvation from the sheep of his pasture, even sheep as foolish as ourselves. Who is our shepherd—but the one who makes us lie down in green pastures; who leads us beside the still waters; who restores us when we go astray; who leads us down right pathways. He walks with us through the tribulations and protects us from the evils that threaten not just our bodies but even our souls. These promises apply even to the most foolish and unfaithful of his sheep.
God’s will for YOU is to deliver you from the great ordeal that has come upon this world. That is precisely why God has become a human being, so to deliver you through it—to CONQUER all the chaos, all the evil, all the death. You belong in the throne room of the Lamb of God—and your destiny is to worship the Lamb forever and ever.
If you put your faith and trust in the good shepherd will make it through the tribulations. No matter what happens to you in life, no matter what calamities come upon this world—you will make it through because Christ is faithful. Even when you die, you die with Christ, and by grace, you shall rise with him too. All this trial and tribulation is going to end, but you will live forever.
What a freedom this is—that no loss, no ordeal will be permanent. So how will you live in this freedom? What will you do?
Challenge yourself to live your freedom in these three ways:
1. Give thanks in all circumstances—even the worst. Yes, there will be times when Jesus is hidden—but that does not mean that he is absent. Every day, there will be saving graces to get you through every tribulation. So look for them. And give thanks.
2. Turn to him. Cry to him. Seek refuge in his word. Worship him. Don’t look for a meaningful life in things, in thrills, or in relationships—because none of these will ever meet your needs and expectations. Salvation belongs to our God.
3. Live to serve others. Since your shepherd is handling all matters pertaining to your salvation, you’re free NOT to be constantly looking out for number one. Celebrate God’s goodness by sharing it with others. Since you are a sheep of the Good Shepherd, you ALWAYS have gifts to share; gifts that testify to the truth that the world is NOT going down in its own destruction. The selfless love of Jesus defeated death and the devil—and YOUR selfless love in Jesus’ name can defeat all tribulations just the same.