And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:4-13)
We live in a sinful world, that much is obvious even to someone who is not a follower of Christ. Sin and its effects are everywhere, interwoven into the fabric of our culture and world, and at times the tragic consequences seem too much to bear. We see war, hatred, famine, natural disasters, and persecution daily, whether it is in person or in the headlines from around the world. Jesus was not ignorant of this reality, both in the days of his earthly ministry and throughout history. As he is preparing to go to his death, Jesus wants to prepare his disciples for what is to come, and so into this bleak picture Jesus speaks a command:
“See that you are not alarmed.”
Our human reaction to suffering is often shock, surprise, or even “alarm” as Jesus says. It is as if we expect to live in perfect harmony with the world around us, never experiencing hurt, pain, persecution, or any trials whatsoever. This goes against what Jesus says to his first disciples. He says to them that they will experience tribulation, temptation, be put to death, betrayed, and be hated by all nations (which would include their own). But again, Jesus says not to be alarmed by this, but to expect it. Our temptation is to insulate ourselves from the suffering and pain of this world, and in a way try to pretend that this place is our home. For a believer in Jesus Christ, it isn’t, and that is something we should rejoice in! As followers of Christ, our hope is not found in this world, and thus our ultimate goal should not be to make ourselves as comfortable as possible by cushioning our lives against the suffering of the world.
We can be bold, understanding that suffering will be a part of our life! Through this, we can have hope that this world is not our ultimate home, and we should not be alarmed when we see it experiencing the effects of sin. Allow the Lord to use the pain we see and experience to mobilize us to be his hands and feet, and to increase our longing to be home with Jesus.
Questions for contemplation:
- What is your reaction to trials, great or small? Are you surprised by them? Take time to consider whether you are more focused on boldly living a life that glorifies Jesus, or making your life as comfortable as possible.
- Take some practical steps to “uninsulate” yourself from the suffering of the world. Step away from technology, entertainment, or anything else that might be a distraction from our ultimate hope and purpose as believers.