By Standing Firm You Gain Life

A Refection on Luke 21:5-19

by Rev. Lauri Ferring

Luke 21:5–19 NASB95

And while some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts, He said, “As for these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down.” They questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, when therefore will these things happen? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” And He said, “See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them. “When you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end does not follow immediately.”Then He continued by saying to them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.“But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. “It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. “So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. “But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name. “Yet not a hair of your head will perish. “By your endurance you will gain your lives.

By Standing Firm You Gain Life

H. G. Wells

Toward the end of his life, British novelist H. G. Wells grew despairing about the fate of the human race. One evening at dinner, Wells laid out his picture of the future. Mankind had failed because evolution had failed to produce in us the right kind of brain. Therefore, Wells claimed, we will destroy ourselves, die out as a species, and revert to the mud and slime from which we arose. “And we shall deserve our fate,” he said, adding that the human race had only “one thousand years more” to survive.

Today in the Word, November, 1996, p. 24

What a bleak outlook! I am so glad that I do not have to fear the future, yet there are many people who are afraid. In our nation, we often felt isolated from so much of the stresses the world faced. However, our nation is now facing some pretty big challenges and many people are living in fear. It is a common question for people to wonder what the future holds and the disciples were no different. Today we will look at what Jesus had to say about the future and the instructions He had for us.

I. What does the future hold?

One of my all time favorite vocalists was Doris Day. I bet most if us remember her soaring rendition of Que Sera Sera! It was a secular song, but there is some truth to it as we will see, but not quite like the world would have us to believe. 

Fortune-telling is a fairly popular thing. In some articles I read, one declared 15% of people in the U.S. admit to seeing a fortune-teller. Another article said that 1 in 3 people in China visit fortune-tellers. Another article declared that the under lying reason people go to fortune-tellers is that they do not have confidence in themselves to make good choices, so they rely on fortune-tellers to make the decisions for them. According to this reporter, this alleviates anxiety in their life. 

Whatever the reason, the truth is many people wish they could know the future. The disciples were no different. In fact, this was so important to them that three of them related the account of today’s passage. Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell of this conversation between Jesus and His disciples. I find this interesting because they each had different agendas in their writing. There were different things that stuck with them afterwards when they went to record various events. Sometimes stories were related by one disciples, sometimes two disciples, but this is one of those times when all three were so impressed with the event that they each wrote about it.

Matthew and Mark gave a lot greater details of this event as they were writing to the Jews and this passage had great pertinence for them and the nation of Israel. Their concern was about the future of Israel as a nation. However, I am not going to get into their accounts today. We will do so at another time, but for today, I want us to look at it from Luke’s perspective as Luke was writing for the Gentiles. For this reason, Luke puts the event in a perspective that speaks directly to us today as the things that Jesus was relating dealt with both the coming destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, but many of their experiences we will also experience as we get closer to the end times. Jesus gives us insight into those things and gives us instruction for how we are to respond.

The event takes place after the triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Jesus and His disciples are doing the things a Jew would do in preparation for Passover. As usual, Jesus had opportunity to teach while He was there, but the group must of dissipated and now it is just Jesus and His disciples. It is hard to know just what all was on Jesus mind. The moment of His arrest is fast approaching. The disciples do not understand this, but Jesus does. Jesus seems to take a moment to observe the people bringing their offerings. There were evidently several rich people, but then Jesus observes a poor widow and comments on her faithful offering. At this point, they leave the temple and head for the Mount of Olives continuing their discussion as they go, perhaps even still talking about offerings. The Temple they are leaving is Herod’s Temple. Herod was determined to make a name for himself through construction projects and one he undertook was the reconstruction of the Jewish Temple. The people were taxed heavily to fund the building of this beautiful temple. The stones were bleached white and it was said from a distance, it looked like a mountain of snow. Gifts had been given that provided large beautiful ornamentation. It was gilded with gold and it was said to sparkle in splendor when the sun hit it just right. Perhaps this is one of those moments. As Jesus and His disciples are leaving, the disciples are talking about its beauty and perhaps even the need for large offerings to sustain it to which Jesus replies…Luke 21:6 NRSV

“As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”

Luke 

What a shock this must have been to the disciples. After all, they had just witnessed Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The Jews had two understandings of time. First was this present time of waiting for the Messiah. The second was the time after the Messiah came and the expectation that the Messiah would bring an end to their servitude to Rome. In their minds, this must be what Jesus was referring to. This is what they have been waiting for. Jesus has just opened a door for them to ask what has been nagging at them for sometime.Luke 21:7 NRSV

They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?”

Luke 21:

What proceeds is one of the most revealing discourses Jesus gives on the subject. However, Jesus response is not quite what they were hoping for. As Jesus details the things to come, we also find very firm instructions for them and for us.

First, Jesus says,

A. Do not be deceived! (v 8)

Luke 21:8 NASB95

And He said, “See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them.

False teachings and false leaders have existed since the fall. First was Satan in the garden with Eve. It has continued ever since. We must not deceive ourselves that we are not vulnerable just because we have put our faith in Christ. The scriptures are full of warnings to the believers to not be deceived.  warns us that there are many who masquerade as agents of light, including Satan, so we must be careful who we listen to. We must be discerning and not take for granted that all preachers and teachers are correct. That is why I struggle with television preachers. You do not have enough association with them to see what they are really like.1 Timothy 4:1 NASB95

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,

The second thing Jesus tell us is…

​2 Peter 3:17 NASB95

You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness,

B. Do not be frightened! (vv 9-11)

​Luke 21:9–11 NRSV

“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

Luke 21:

Remember, Jesus is talking to the Jews. This was around A.D. 30 something. In about 35-40 years time, war will break out and Jerusalem will be destroyed. Jesus is preparing them that when that happens, do not assume it is the end. It is easy for us to make that same mistake. In our U.S. history, whenever there is a major war or disaster, church people get all a flutter that the end is here. Now do not get me wrong, I believe we are getting new the time of the tribulation. But it is not due to wars and disasters as much as to moral delinquency and statements in the book of Revelations that are suddenly making sense. However, we cannot allow those things to cause us to be frightened.

B. Do not be frightened! (vv 9-11)

Our own national politics and the moral decay of our nation is causing many Christians to fear. Some are getting fanatical trying to change things that are beyond our control. We need to remember that no matter how bad things get, God is in control. It may feel like things are getting out of control to us, but the changes taking place have always been before us in the scriptures. If you read about the end times we see it is a path of destruction that this world is on and we should not be surprised by it.

Events  Matthew Revelation

That does not mean that we hide under our covers and just let it happen. We do what we can by voting, by speaking out (in love!) and sharing with others so they may be saved and do the same things. But we need to remember that God is in control even when it seems that the world is out of control.Proverbs 19:21 NRS

The human mind may devise many plans, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established.

​Isaiah 46:9–10 NRSV

remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My purpose shall stand, and I will fulfill my intention,”

​Proverbs 21:1 NASB95

The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.

God is in control. God knows and understands that things need to follow this track until all is fulfilled so that He can make it all right in the end. We do not need to be afraid as God is taking care of us.John 10:28–29 NRSV

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.

So we have nothing to fear and that brings us to the next instruction Jesus gives…

C. Do not worry! (vv 12-19)

Luke 21:12–19 NRSV

“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.

It feels like we have come full circle. When we began this year, we started with talking about the persecuted church around the world, then we talked about persecution in the U.S. as we discussed how we can feel like exiles in our own nation. We have walked through this year following Jesus as He traveled and taught and now we are coming to the final three sermons on this topic and we are once again back to persecution. 

Jesus tells us what we can expect to happen

1. What will happen 

a. Persecution from officials
b. Persecution from loved ones
c. Death
d. Hatred

However we do not need to worry and Jesus tells us why. We do not need to worry because of…

2. What God will do

a. God will make you His witnesses

This is an opportunity for us to shine. We can be bold and share about God.

b. God will give you words and wisdom that will confound your adversary

We do not need to sit around fretting over what we will say if we are caught. God will take care of that. He will give us wisdom and our wisdom will confound those around us. Allow me to share a few excerpts of Aida’s story from 1968 (Hearts of Fire, pgs 79-80, 89-91)

If God can do it for Aida; God can do it for us. Not only in times of persecution, but anytime we feel the prompting to share the gospel of good news with someone. 

c. Give you everlasting life

If these are not enough reasons to now worry, there is one more even greater.

c. God will give you everlasting life! 

Death may seem scary to us, but it is not. God has something much better waiting for us. That does not mean we run out and kill ourselves. This eternal life comes when we “stand firm.” That is, we work to accomplish what all God has for us to do. We trust Him with our future and trust Him to bring us home when our life here on earth is over.Matthew 16:26 NASB95

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

​1 John 1:1–2 NASB95

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—

We do not need to worry about the future. We already know enough about the future to know that we do not need to depend on the faith of another, or be frightened about the things happening around us or worry about how we will deal with it. All we have to do is keep our eyes on God and follow Him. The rest will fall in place for us. However, if we do not believe and follow God it is another story.

The world is promoting this crazy notion that “all things happen for a reason.” This is a good way to feel good about bad things. However, the truth is that there are many evil and bad things that do not happen for a reason. They just happen because evil is alive and at work in our world. The idea of all things happening for a reason is a deception of Satan that tells people they cannot expect anything different. As Christians we no the truth. Many bad things happen due to the sin in our world, however.

Conclusion:

Romans 

Let me ask you a question. Are the things in our nation causing your blood pressure to rise? Are you restless and unable to sleep at night? Are you glued to the Fox Network for fear of what will happen next? Remember, “these things must take place first” and what follows for us is a much better place. Then remember…

Here is a good rule to follow for distress escape…

Finally, follow the instructions in Ephesians…

So as Ephesians says,

Ephesians

Oh, and smile because God loves you!

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