Unrest in Egypt. Flooding in the Northeast of America. Disaster in Japan. War in Libya. These are just a small slice of what has been happening recently in our world. Since sin entered the world, the world has been in the birthpains of a creation that is fallen and under the curse. The effects of sin are seen in what man does and in the decay of creation. All of creation longs for its redemption of being made new. We certainly do know that these things- destruction, war, etc- point us to what is to come: Full redemption of a people belonging to God, judgment for those who reject Him, and the remaking of all things. And things could happen very quickly. But they could also take a long time. We don’t know for sure. Each generation since the ascension of Christ believed they were they ones to see the fulfillment of his return and the end of the age as we know it. This is not a bad thing. Urgency of the work of the Kingdom and the urgency of living a life ready for the return of Jesus at any moment is vitally important.
In a creation that is fallen we know destruction is certain. A prediction of destruction is as easy as saying the sun will come up tomorrow. Destruction of all sorts is part of the curse. (Now, when there is major destruction the cries of God’s wrath follow from some people. Whether or not “God did it” vs it being part of the process of birthpains is not really the point. But a prophet who truly prophesies about God’s judgment on a specific group of people needs to get out there to those specific people and prophesy among them…ok, I’ll leave this particular point for now) I was a freshman in college during the first Gulf invasion under President Bush Sr. Immediately the Christian community was flooded with books, predictions, and Revelation interpretation of the events. A war in the gulf region? This certainly was the beginning of the end. I wasn’t sure if I would make it out of my freshman year. Luckily I didn’t begin to live like it was the end. I would’ve failed out. (This begs the point that we must be mature enough to know that it may be that not all Biblical prophecy will be fulfilled in our lifetime as in the generations before us and that we cannot try to “force fit” current events into specific Biblical prophecy as the flood of books and so forth did during the first Gulf invasion.) I can only imagine if I was alive during either of the world wars and what kind of “the end is here” mantra I would’ve heard. A man with wisdom at that time during my freshman year simply told me this: “These things point us towards what is to come, but don’t get wrapped up in it that it drives what your faith is all about.” Good point. In other words, chill out. Know that things will happen and they could happen any time. Live your faith with urgency each day. But also live your faith as if you are in it till you are old and grey. I want to be part of the building of the Kingdom. I want to have urgency today to be a light to the world. I also want to be in the process of transformation, of learning how to love my enemies and live in forgiveness towards others, of picking up my cross daily, to be disciplined to the Word and prayer and worship, staying connected to God and allowing Him to work in me. In this way, no matter what happens in the world today or tomorrow, my approach to life doesn’t change.
This is a great lesson for teenagers to learn. Paul writes in Titus 2:13 that the blessed hope is the return of Jesus. No matter what destruction happens or even what blessings we can receive from God in this age, they will pass away. Our great hope is the return of Jesus, the resurrection of our bodies, and the remaking of all things. Teach them to put their ultimate hope in that. When they have that kind of hope, no matter what happens around them, peace will be with them. Then teach them what to do while we wait for His return. The verses around Titus 2:13 highlight dealing with sin. With this, we live with urgency while at the same time living a Christian life that is growing and maturing and transforming and becoming more like our Savior.
Onto a leadership tip: This Saturday I am heading out on our annual Youth Staff guys hike. This is an absolute blast and I really look forward to it. Not all of my staff guys are into it, but some are. If you oversee a volunteer team, make it point to do things that build community among your staff every now and then. Whether it be a hike, a summer cook out, a Christmas party, a ladies recipe exchange, etc. A staff that has community will stay together, grow together, and bear the burden of vision together. The better the bond of community among your staff the better you will work together as a body to see the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.