When Jesus tells us about the end of the Jewish nation, He tells us not to worry. And when He tells us about the end of the world, He tells us that we are to stand erect and raise our heads because our redemption is at hand. Why this is so? It is because of the following reasons:
The first is due to our faithfulness to God until the end. In the end, there is only one glory that lasts forever. All human honors will pass. All human glories will pass. The laurels will all wither. The only glory that lasts forever is our fidelity to Christ.
Second, it is because we are grateful to Him. Do you still remember the ten lepers who asked Jesus to be healed? Only one of them came back to Jesus and gave thanks. The other nine might have been guilty of ingratitude and gross neglect of their Savior.
What is gratitude? It is a deep and intense feeling of owing God for everything we have. But gratitude is more than feeling grateful, it is being grateful which connotes action as a response to God who gives us the gift. Just look at the gift we have received like our own life, have we ever dared think of what nonexistence would be that we might simply not have existed? This simple thought should inspire us to consider deeply and decide firmly what we can do for God and God’s cause in our short life.
And the third is that we are always hopeful. The Son of Man coming in glory and power was an image of hope for the early Christians and us. The Lord has promised us that He would return and reward our fidelity and love; would rise from the dead and He is faithful to His promise; will do it in our lives when we die to ourselves. He promised that we would undergo persecution and rejection for His name, and these have touched every Christian who has lived the faith authentically. But He also promised He would come again and bring the reward, peace and victory for which we yearn. How do we live our hope in our all-powerful King who is to come?
From an unknown source that a number of years ago researchers performed an experiment to see the effect hope has on those undergoing hardship. Two sets of laboratory rats were placed in separate tubs of water. The researchers left one set in the water and found that within an hour they had all drowned. The other rats were periodically lifted out of the water and then returned. When that happened, the second set of rats swam for over 24 hours. Why? Not because they were given a rest, but because they suddenly had hope!
Those animals somehow hoped that if they could stay afloat just a little longer, someone would reach down and rescue them. If hope holds such power for unthinking rodents, how much greater should is effect be on our lives.
Daniel: man of high esteem, great character, God gives him a view of the future. According to Daniel, God has control over human affairs. Among the lions, he is the witness of the power of God. King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians want to train him, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego to become part of their pagan culture. The 4 boys are inspiring examples of how to live a godly life in an ungodly world. By being faithful you will have a great influence on those around you like Daniel. Gods honors you when you take a stand for what is right. God is in control, He has a plan for the future.
At the same time, “God never promised us an easy journey in life, only safe arrival.” I think this is true because Jesus in today’s gospel says that our life in this world is not an easy one. We should expect thorns in the forms of persecutions, sufferings and hardships; we should learn to bear our crosses and find more meanings in difficulties. But we should not worry because God will provide us the means.
He says: “By patient endurance you will save your lives.” Are we ready to suffer and to shed blood until the end, if necessary, for our faith? It is because Christianity is a religion of martyrdom. Christianity is a religion of the cross. Jesus willingly shed His blood for our sake and He calls us to be martyrs too. The word martyr in Greek means ‘witness.’ Some theologians in the past said something about being a witness like Tertullian and others. Tertullian said: “The blood of the martyrs is seed.” Cyprian also said: “When persecution comes, God’s soldiers are put to the test, and heaven is open to martyrs. We have not enlisted in an army to think of peace and to decline battle, for we see that the Lord has taken first place in the conflict.” Augustine wrote: “The martyrs were bound, jailed, scourged, racked, burned, rent, butchered and they multiplied!”
God may call some of us to be martyrs. But for most of us our call is to be dry martyrs who bear testimony to the joy of the gospel in the midst of daily challenges, contradictions, temptations and adversities which come our way as we follow the Lord; to witness to the joy, truth and freedom of the gospel; by our life, and real-life testimony. What attracts others to the gospel? They are attracted to the Gospel and to Christianity when they see us: Christians love their enemies, being joyful in suffering, patient in adversity, pardoning injuries and showing comfort and compassion to the hopeless and the helpless.
What are the marks of a true witness of Christ? David Watson in his, Called & Committed: World-Changing Discipleship (1982 pp. 142-143) said that the marks of a true witness are:
- A witness must have a first-hand experience of Christ. Hearsay is not acceptable in a court of law as well as in the court of this world’s opinion. People will listen only to what we have personally seen and heard.
- A witness must be able to express himself verbally. We may witness effectively through our lives, our work, our relationships, our attitudes, our suffering and even our death, yet we must still “be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you.” We must do so “with gentleness and respect,” and with the integrity of our lives demonstrating the truth of our words.
- A witness will have confidence in the power of God. He relies on the power of the message of Christ and him crucified, and the power of the Holy Spirit. He knows that God can break through any defenses, and change any heart. This confidence will not be brash, but humble and sensitive, marked by much prayer. He knows that without God he can do nothing, but that with God all things are possible.
- A witness will have compassion for the spiritually lost. He will care for them as individuals who matter deeply to God: made in his image, redeemed by his Son and to be indwelt by his Spirit.