A Time of Testing

“Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world.”
‭‭Revelation‬ ‭3:10‬ ‭NLT

Again the Philadelphians were commended for their obedience in obeying Jesus’ command to persevere. But what does perseverance look like? Jesus gave us a glimpse, as recorded in Matthew 10:22, “And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved“. The disciples were under no illusions as they mulled over this statement from the Master. Being a Christian, a follower of Christ, is not a popular life choice. It means living a life that does not conform with the lives of those unbelievers in the world around us. A Christian reaches out to them with love and acceptance, but receives hatred, animosity, and even violence in return. Why should that be? Because the kingdom of the world is devil-run, and the Kingdom of Heaven, the domain of Christians, is God-run. Two opposing forces. We know who wins in the end, but for the Philadelphians, living their daily lives, it must have been a constant temptation to give in to the worldly pressures and swap sides. But they persevered in the face of the persecution, being obedient to Jesus’ command. That’s what perseverance looks like.

There is no difference for today’s pilgrim. The same battle continues. The longest battle in history. The clash of the two kingdoms is no short military campaign. It will only cease when Jesus comes again, when all the nations will declare His Lordship. And we are given the same command as the Philadelphians – persevere to the end. Jesus’ half-brother James wrote right at the start of his epistle, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”. I don’t know about “pure joy” but the message is clear – we will face many trials in our Christian lives and at times our faith will be sorely tested, but we have to persevere. There is no other way. We cannot flip-flop between the two kingdoms.

John goes on to write about a “great time of testing”. I can hear the protestations. Surely we are being tested enough, you say. The Philadelphians would have been alarmed when they heard these words read out to them, but also relieved when they were told that it would pass them by. There was no explanation for them about what the “great time of testing” would be, though they would have had access to Old Testament scriptures such as Daniel 12:1, “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people – everyone whose name is found written in the book – will be delivered”. Christians today also have the benefit of reading what else John wrote in his Revelation, and we will come to that in a few blogs time. Suffice to say, that there is coming a time of testing, called by many the Tribulation – perhaps that is what John was writing about in his message to the Philadelphians.

We Christian pilgrims are continually tested in this life, because the kingdom of darkness is always trying to win over the Kingdom of Light, and for most of the time, that battle is taking place within us. The Apostle Paul very clearly and eloquently set out the dilemma we all face in Romans 7:22-24, “I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death”? But thankfully, verse 24 is followed by verse 25. “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord….” So, with Jesus’ help, we persevere in this life of strife, being obedient to Jesus’ commands. One day, there will be a “great time of testing that will come upon the whole world“. Something we may have mixed feelings about. But as I have said before, we may not know what the future holds, but we do know who holds the future. 

Dear Lord. Thank You that You have our future all planned out. You know the beginning from the end. We worship You, deeply thankful for all You have done in our lives, and all that You will do as we remain faithful to Your commands. Amen.

Obey for Wisdom

“Praise the Lord! 
I will thank the Lord with all my heart
as I meet with His godly people. 
How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! 
All who delight in Him should ponder them.
All He does is just and good, 
and all His commandments are trustworthy. 
He has paid a full ransom for his people. 
He has guaranteed His covenant with them forever. 
What a holy, awe-inspiring name He has!
Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. 
All who obey His commandments will grow in wisdom. 
Praise Him forever!”
Psalms‬ ‭111:1-2, 7, 9-10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

A Psalm that starts and ends with the praise of God. And the Psalmist scratches down his thoughts of God’s goodness and mercy, His provision to His people, His trustworthy commandments and the wisdom available to His people. In this Psalm there is perhaps even a prophetic glimpse of the coming Messiah, peering round the edge of the parchment. 

But there is a profound, far-reaching, and even mind-blowing statement in verse 10. Can we really achieve “true wisdom” by following God’s commandments? It might be said that there are many around lacking wisdom but who have still kept the commandments. But the Bible has many more “commandments” than those we find in Exodus 20. The word implies what is perhaps a way of life, a mindset devoted to follow and understand God and His ways. A devotion to mine the diamonds contained within His Word, the Bible, bringing to the surface all the wisdom-thoughts contained there. A commitment to assimilate God’s ways, thoughts and instructions, that have been implanted in print over a period of 4000 years or so. Accumulated wisdom that is available for our use. It’s all about aligning our lives away from the materialistic and worldly secularism around us and instead adopting a life-style crafted and modelled on God and His Kingdom. The driver for all of this is the use of the word “fear”. But it’s not a meaning that implies the thought that God could zap us any time we stray out of line. Instead it is the thought that He is our real, living, and ever-present Creator, inviting us to respond to Him with a holy respect, a sense of awe, and a serious appreciation of who He is. 

The word “obey” isn’t a popular one either. It conjures up thoughts of subservience at odds with our “Me – it’s all about me” society. Thoughts of “Who are you to tell me what I should do” rise up within us and lead us down a destructive path of rejection of God’s ways, of God’s commandments. But God has placed His wisdom within His Word for us to find and apply in our lives, and to do that we have to adopt an obedient and willing attitude, gratefully embracing all God has for us. And by doing so, His wisdom makes the transition from the pages into our hearts. 

The Bible is a wonderful book. It is truly “God-breathed” and I constantly marvel that every time I read a few verses, something new leaps out of the page. Let’s redouble our efforts in reading His Word – it won’t do us any harm, and it might just save our lives.