Prepared for Tribulation

For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.  Unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.  So if anyone says, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it.  For counterfeit christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect.  See, I have told you beforehand.                     Matthew 24:21-25

Boy, what a bummer! “Man who is born of a woman is of few days which are full of trouble; He fades away like a flower, he is as fleeting as a shadow” [Job 14:1-2]  Job’s words are pretty familiar – they’ve been used for funerals for decades, perhaps even centuries.  But you didn’t come to church today to particularly hear about a funeral, did you?  THIS is to set the tone for the rest of your day and the rest of your week??

Well, then, let’s turn to the Gospel lesson for today – usually that’s better.  Usually there is some parable to think about, or perhaps Jesus healing someone or doing some other astounding deed, like feeding the five thousand.  Oh, good!  Jesus is speaking – we get to hear the very words of Jesus Himself – that’s good, because I do enjoy Him as well as worship Him – so Jesus, speak on!!

What’s this?? Tribulation??  a tribulation so great that were it not for the sake of the Christians, nothing would survive??  Even then there will be all sorts of counterfeit Messiahs and false prophets trying to grab at my soul with such powerful deceptions that it will be tough to turn away from them??  Oh, great!  I have this to look forward to??

Kinda makes you want to go back to bed and bury your head under the covers, doesn’t it?

For those who come and just want to hear nice things, the lessons today just won’t cut it.  In fact, it would feel good to simply cut such passages out of the Bible totally and then we won’t have to deal with such things ever again.

Why do we have to have such downers as we get close to the end of the Church Year? Why don’t we just talk of heaven, Jesus’ return and the glorious hope that we Christians have through Him?  Life is tough enough – why need to add this dark cloud on top of it?

Well, for one, when these things happen, we will remember that Jesus warned us about them.  Years ago, a political cartoonist depicted then-US President Jimmy Carter’s face reflecting foreign policy — so one panel was “the face of approval,” another was “the face of disappointment,” then “the face of disapproval,” and so on.  The caption on the last panel said, “And each of these faces would be preceded by … the face of surprise.”

The cartoonist was criticizing the intelligence-gathering agencies in the US, because they seemed to do a rather poor job of keeping President Carter informed as to world conditions.  So, every time something major happened in the world, it would frequently come as a surprise, even a shock, to the US government.

But what Jesus was doing was reminding us that that is not the way it is with God.  When Satan goes on his last desperate binge, it will not be as if God turns around and in utter shock discovers how so suddenly the situation has deteriorated.  Rather, Jesus wanted us to know that God has already been prepared for this from the time of Jesus – and even from before that.  Jesus emphasized such things so that we will know that God is all set up, ready, and waiting for when the time comes – it will not catch Him off-guard, it will not catch Him unprepared, it will not catch Him short-handed.

By telling us that such a difficult time will come, ultimately we will find comfort in the confidence and reassurance that God prepared for and is able to handle even a “great” tribulation, even though we may not particularly enjoy hearing about it right now, nor even in having to go through it.

What about you – are you forewarned and ready?  Will you have the resources stored and ready, will you have the spiritual armor-plating in place, the endurance and stamina built up, the lines of communication to the Lord open and well-used, will you be dug-in into the fortress which cannot be moved – or will you be caught out in the open, defenseless and unprotected in the middle of the field, vulnerable on the housetop, unsuspecting in workplace?  God will be ready – will you?

When things go well, we feel we are indeed in charge of our lives – everything will turn out, and we can handle anything that comes along.  What today reminds us of is that if we go on this way, then someday we will find ourselves almost – as the saying goes – “without a prayer of a chance…”  Satan is out to kill and destroy – powerful spiritual weapons are lined up against us and he has been practicing for some 6,000 years.

In fact, although it will not match the time Jesus speaks about we don’t need an historical time called “The Great Tribulation” in order for these weapons to be used against us. Actually, one might call our whole existence as Christians as a tribulation – and I don’t mean that we are to be the tribulation for everyone around us, either!
However, understand viagra pfizer prix some medical conditions can lead to more significant problems if they do not receive any benefit from external massage. And finally if you are not getting any desired effects with levitra discount prices the range or if you think that problems are increasing, better consult a doctor. Performing a gentle tadalafil 20mg generika massage of penis is unsatisfactory to complete a sexual intercourse. Use the dash when you have long page names that need separating.
What I do mean is that we constantly fight Satan’s attacks, his attempts to trap us and trip us up.  Two are out in the field (Matthew 24:40) – like Cain and Abel – and one succumbs to anger, hatred, and rebellion.  One is on the housetop, like King David, when he lusted after another man’s wife, and was taken by adultery, deceit, and murder.  And, like the women grinding out grain, preparing supper for their families [Matthew 24:41], even in daily tasks one can be conquered by selfishness, anger, and self-righteousness.

We need no “Great Tribulation” to be exposed to counterfeit christs and false prophets.  After all, their greatest emphasis is to divert our attention away from the Bible as our ultimate source of faith.  These counterfeit christs and false prophets parade up and down in front of us with “powerful signs and lying wonders” [II Thessalonians 2:9] – each clamoring for us to listen to them as having better information than the Bible.  There are all sorts of gurus and authorities to show how to have peace and serenity, as long as you look within and not to the God of all creation.

Yes, as we look around, we promptly find that this is already going on.  But the most curious thing are the ones who are leading such a parade – look closely, and you will find that they are you and me!!

How willing we are to rewrite the Bible whenever it inconveniences us!  How quickly we modify God’s commandments to suit our lifestyle, to whatever doesn’t offend the morality we practice.  Look at how quickly we will alter our Lord’s will to conform to what we feel like doing, to what is comfortable, and to that which requires minimum effort from us.

No, we don’t need a “Great Tribulation” for us to need the warning which Jesus gives us.  We may not like what Job has to say, but he does describe us uncomfortably well – our days are full of trouble, they are like a shadow, like a fading flower.

But there is something else about that passage from Job.  Notice how it begins: “man that is born of woman” – Isaiah 7:14 also speaks of one “who was born of woman”, particularly one born of a virgin.

What an interesting thing it is, to plug Jesus into Job’s speech:  Jesus was a man of few days – he spent 33 years walking among us – not even half of the Psalmist’s “70, or if by reason of strength, 80 years”.  He was full of trouble – not His own, but as Isaiah 53[:4-5] put it: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief… Surely he hath borne OUR griefs, and carried OUR sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”

“Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?” Job asks – we can’t, but God did, as God the Holy Spirit used the womb of a human being, infected by sin by nature, and there created the birthplace for God the Son to became flesh for our sakes.  Even verse 6 fits: “Look away from him” – as Jesus on the cross cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me.”

This is extremely valuable for us who go through “The Great Tribulation” – or at least any tribulation that accompanies our lives; it is valuable because we are reminded that Jesus had become one of us through that virgin, “the man born of woman.”  He also went through tribulation, even a tribulation the likes of which we will never ever see.

It means that not only is God prepared for whatever tribulation His Church and you and I may face, but Jesus has demonstrated that He is not afraid to go through it with us, as One Who is fully experienced in it, and as One willing to lead us through it.

This is where Baptism also comes in, as we are reminded by St Paul that here we have received the Holy Spirit – God’s “earnest” as the King James translators put it, “down payment” in more modern terms – either way, God’s unmistakable indication of His unbreakable commitment to be with us, and to bring us to Himself in the end.  Then here in Holy Communion, that same message is hammered away, as Jesus repeats over and over to each of us, “for YOU… for YOU… for YOU.”

So come, repent of our lack of preparation for the tribulation which we will encounter.  Repent of how we find our selves numbered among the “counterfeit christs and false prophets” which not only lead our own selves astray but also others.  Repent of our fears about a “Great Tribulation” in which we suspect God will not really take care of  us.  But then also rejoice in that Jesus had come to be our Defense and the Rock of our Refuge.  Remember that Jesus is already the preparation we will need for every time of tribulation.

Today actually is a day of comfort, despite what appears to be such “downers” for texts.  True, they do speak of things that are not our most favorite topic of conversation, yet we discover that there is comfort and reassurance to be found even here in these passages, all because of the One “born of woman” – Jesus – Who stands with us and Who does lead us each day, past every tribulation until finally we stand before His throne on the Last Day.

Leave a Reply