You're a World-Changer for the Gospel (Mark 13:9-11)Tuesday, August 09, 2011
Here's what kind of God I serve. The God who turns circumstances of evil into opportunities for righteousness...the God who turns what is wrong into what is right. He is a God who will NOT be overcome by evil, but a God who will overcome evil with good. He is a God who will use those who hate Him simply to show His mercy and grace. And in all these things, He uses His own people to accomplish these ends.
As Jesus predicts for His disciples the end of Jerusalem, it would be easy for a gloom to fill the air of their minds and hearts. "And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don't panic...Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in many parts of the world, as well as famines. But this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come." Wow! All this is just the beginning of the end?!!!
Then Jesus busts out with this truth: "When these things begin to happen watch out! You will be handed over to the local councils and beaten in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. BUT this will be your opportunity to tell them about me. For the good news must first be preached to all nations."
1. God uses the evil of men to accomplish the good of His gospel (vv. 9-10). Jesus builds a bleak background for the future, in order to paint an amazing foreground of victory. The birth pains, earthquakes, wars, threats, violence, rumors, famines, and persecution are all the first brushstrokes on the canvas of God's timeline. And the background must be painted first and allowed to set to dry...in order to begin to paint the beauty which was intended for the canvas to begin with.
God will not just allow His earth to fall into this state. No, it seems evident from the text that He Himself will SEND it into such a state for the express purpose of making His gospel known. The last phrase of verse 9 moving on into verse 10 is crucial truth. In the midst of all the chaos I will find my opportunity to tell them about Jesus. And I am one of many who will find themselves in this situation because this is all a part of Jesus' plan to preach the good news of the gospel to all the nations!
When nations experience famines and war, corruption and genocide, drug trade and terrorism, puppet governments and poverty, Jesus tells us that we should EXPECT to be treated harshly. The nations are in chaos, after all! Are we so special that we will not get caught up into the storm and become its casualties? Rather, it is in the MIDST of the storm that we find ourselves persecuted and brought before people whom we can tell about JESUS!
And it's not just ANY people. Jesus says we will be brought before governors and kings! Out of the burning and ashes of the chaos of the nations, Jesus makes sure HIS people are put in front of the LEADERS of those nations! Jesus is SO interested in bringing the gospel to all nations that He will make sure His people come to the attention of national leaders! And some of those people will stand in front of those very leaders themselves.
Chaos, pain, suffering, and death are all necessary preludes a message of victory and joy. These nations in and of themselves are just as much victims of all the chaos as Jesus' followers. Sin is the problem, not people. Satan is the source, not people. Jesus says that such times are golden opportunities to preach the Good News. This Good News is the same message HE preached in Luke 4. It was the Spirit-anointed message of release of captives, freedom and liberty for the oppressed. When Jesus brings His followers to the attention of governors and kings, it is because THEY too are held captive and oppressed and in need of the Good News! He loves them too!
All of this is SO, SOOOO much bigger than me and my pain and suffering and persecution and problems and issues! It is all a background sovereignly and providentially assigned and designed by God to do something FAR greater by comparison. My pain and persecution and suffering is NOTHING in comparison with the greatness of the good news and the vastness of the change, and the depth of transformation I myself am able to bring when I see such times as divine opportunities for the gospel among the nations.
2. God promises to prepare His people for His gospel in the very heart of the circumstances of evil (v. 11).
In these dire straights where chaos and pain and suffering and persecution and hunger and death seem to reign, God brings His people to the very edge of the cliff of opportunity. Will we jump? Will we have faith that even though it looks like we will land splattered on the bottom, we will actually walk on thin air...just like Peter walked on water?!!! The edge of that cliff of opportunity is painted with the word "Walk by faith, not by sight!" That means stepping forward in faith.
Faith is not motivated by my personal gain or security or safety. It would be easy to be motivated by that in times like that, where the very words you speak could bring a thumb up...or down from Caesar. But Jesus just said that such times are golden opportunities to tell them about HIM! This is CARPE DIEM moment! Sieze the day! Sieze the moment! TELL them about JESUS! Just like Paul did before Felix. Just like Paul did before Agrippa. Just like he would have done if he had ever made it face to face with Caesar himself.
Those moments of stepping out into thin air off the cliff of opportunity is called faith. And faith has two specific manifestations. First, Jesus says, "don't worry in advance about what to say." The same "don't worry" is commanded about how we look at our food and clothing. Why? Because what to say to those who hold your life in their hands is as small a thing to God as making sure you're wearing clothes and making sure you're fed! While this opportunity to tell national leaders about Jesus is a big deal to us, and a big deal for the nations, taking care of you in those moments is no more difficult to God than taking care of a sparrow or a field of grass.
Second, Jesus says, "Just say what God tells you at that time, for it is not you who will be speaking, but the Holy Spirit." Don't worry about what you'll say in those times. Don't let it even cross your mind to prepare some speech. Just go with it. Sieze the moment, step off onto thin air, and the Spirit will sieze YOU! If ever there was a time to experience the naked, raw leading of the Spirit it is then, in those times. And thank God too for that, because it is ONLY the naked, raw, transparent, supernatural moments of being led by the Spirit in a situation like that will change a national leader, a governor, a king...and a nation! Raw, unmitigated, undiluted spiritual power to speak for God Himself. That is what Jesus is saying here. That is the preparation HE HIMSELF will ensure I receive because HIS nations, HIS world, HIS glory, HIS fame, HIS reputation, HIS story is at stake here.
Don't panic when things get worse. Expect them to get even worse. And expect to be caught up in the chaotic storm. You and I are no more special than anyone else. But when we become pieces of the debris that are blown on the very doorstep of political leaders, SEIZE THE MOMENT! It is an opportunity for the gospel. And that gospel MUST go be preached to ALL the nations. You, in your little small corner of the world, are a part of world-change.
Instead of panicking, trust. See the precipice of that opportunity marked "DANGER!" and put on your 3-D glasses of the mission which turn the warning into "WALK BY FAITH!" Then step off the precipice of opportunity onto thin air and feel the Holy Spirit carrying you to places to see people you never thought possible. And in those moments, before those people, simply wait your turn to speak, and then open your mouth, and watch as the Holy Spirit takes control. Watch HIM take control of your heart and mind and mouth for HIS sake, to accomplish HIS purpose, and change HIS world. And in watching, be transformed in your view of yourself. You're no longer just a piece of debris caught up in the storm of national chaos. You are a world-changer.
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