Where Will This Lead?
From the series Hope of Nations
In these troubling times, many believers are overwhelmed by the ridicule and harassment they receive as followers of Christ. In this message, John Dickerson explains how we can find lasting hope, and reminds us of our calling to save the lost.
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About this series
Hope of Nations
Standing Strong in a Post-Truth, Post Christian World
In the midst of these trying and challenging times, is there hope for America? In this new series called “Hope of Nations” our guest teacher John Dickerson, pairs his understanding of God’s Word with his skills as a reporter, to paint a picture of America’s potential spiritual future. Don't miss what we can learn from our past, and how we can protect our Christian values.More from this series
Let’s start by just talking about our normal, real lives. I don’t know if any of you have a recurring dream that’s kind of like a nightmare where you show up and you are unprepared. So, for my wife Mel, because she used to be in theatre, it’s being on stage for a play and not knowing her lines.
For me, I used to have this dream, thankfully I don’t have it anymore. But when I first became a pastor and had left journalism, I had this recurring nightmare where I, all of a sudden I woke up late on Sunday, I rush, and I get to the church and everyone is looking at me, and I look down, and I’ve got nothing. No Bible, no – and I don’t know what to say. Which, if you know me, is funny. The thought of me not having anything to say is not very realistic. But in my dream, it always felt really real.
Do you know the feeling I’m talking about? Can you relate to that feeling? That kind of panic or that sense of “I don’t have what I need”? Maybe you have shown up to a birthday party at some point in your life and you got there, and you realized, “I don’t have a gift.” Or maybe you have shown up at the airport and realized, “I don’t have my ID.” It’s this feeling of you’re in a situation and all of a sudden you realize, “I don’t have what I need.”
Well, today, we are talking about that feeling, not just in our dreams or at birthday parties, but when that feeling meets us in really more serious situations.
And the question we are asking is this: How can I know my needs will be met when the future is uncertain? How can I know my needs will be met when the future is uncertain? How can you know when you look out into the future and you wonder, financially, you get that feeling of, Ah, I don’t have enough. Or you look at where your kids are headed or you get a report from the doctor and physically, you realize, I don’t have what I need for the future. And that feeling of kind of panic and lack of provision crashes down on you.
For some of you, maybe it’s some of these things we have been talking about in this series of you look at the changing of world religions around the world or changes that are happening within the culture that we call home and you think, I don’t know, how will I be able to live in that kind of world and be strong?
Well, the feeling that we’re talking about is a feeling that God knows we have. And He’s very compassionate toward us when we do have it. Not only is He compassionate, but it’s actually a feeling He spoke directly about in His Word. And He gives us a solution to this very common human dilemma or problem.
And I want to give you Jesus’ answer to this question. It’s found in Matthew chapter 6, verse 11. And this is actually in the middle of a little prayer where Jesus is saying, “Here’s how you pray every day.” Jesus says this little phrase. He says that every day, you can go to God and you can say, “God, today, give me my daily bread. That is what I need for today.”
It’s really interesting, in this short prayer, Jesus uses the idea that God is our Father and we can approach Him like a good dad.
You know, when I woke up this morning, there were two children in bed between my wife and me. Two! And I have times, I’m kind of a private individual where I think, What are these people doing in my bed? But because they are my kids, they have all the confidence in the world. They know that I love them. And they know that if they are having a bad dream or whatever, that I want to meet their needs.
And the idea is that every day you can go to God as a Father, knowing He wants to meet your needs. He wants to keep you safe. He wants to help you. And so this word “give” is almost like a command, but it’s like a command from a child to a parent, knowing, “You’re in charge, but I know you want to meet my needs.”
And you can live life knowing that you have a Father who wants to meet your needs. And what’s interesting is Jesus says, “Give us today our daily bread.” Now, maybe you’ve heard of Wonder Bread or wheat bread or rye bread. What in the world is daily bread?
Well, daily bread, Jesus’ audience would have known exactly what this term meant, and I’ll explain it to you here. But the idea is that daily bread is having enough for today. So, it’s going to God and saying, God, here’s what I need today. It’s not saying, Here’s what I need tomorrow or thirty years from now. That’s where we tend to panic, right? What’s going to happen tomorrow? What’s going to happen five years from now, ten years from now, thirty years from now?
Or sometimes we dredge up things from the past, but Jesus says, “Go to the Father every day and just say, Dad, Father, here’s what I need today, and then have the faith to trust that He is already in tomorrow providing for you again tomorrow.
Now, Jesus’ initial audience, they would have known that this term “daily bread” came from a true story about their ancestors, the Jewish people. When Israel was enslaved in Egypt, God sent them a prophet leader, Moses, who led them out of their slavery.
But their journey out of slavery and to a rich land that God called the Promised Land, led through a desert. And for forty years, they had to travel through a desert.
Could you imagine forty years? And as God’s people start moving through this desert, real people, real families, no Porta Potties, and no food! And they start to get hungry and they start to complain and so, God speaks to Moses and He says, “I’m going to start to provide food for the people. I’m going to actually rain down this kind of supernatural bread that’s going to come from the heavens. It’s called manna. But here’s the thing, Moses, tell the people every day it’ll be there when you wake up and only take enough for today. Only take enough for today. If you get a whole wheelbarrow and take a bunch back to your tent, it will spoil overnight. Only take enough for today.”
And here’s the thing: God was giving them a faith exercise. Because what God was teaching them was: You don’t have to stockpile for tomorrow, because I am already in tomorrow providing for you again. So instead of putting your faith in your stockpile, put your faith in Your Father who is in tomorrow.
So, when Jesus says, “Every day, say, ‘Father, Dad, give me my daily bread,’” this is what He means. God, give me enough for today, because I know that tomorrow You are already in tomorrow and You’ll give me enough again.
The idea Jesus makes in using daily bread is this idea that just like the Israelites journeyed for forty years through the desert, we who have placed our faith in Christ, we are also journeying through an uncomfortable world that is not our home as we make our way to the Promised Land.
So, you could put it this way: the world, this world that we live in right now, equals a desert. Now, not always. There are beautiful moments, there are sunsets and sunrises and wedding days and anniversaries. There are beautiful moments, but we know from Scripture this world is broken by sin and it’s not our ultimate home and so, we are journeying through this world to a promised land, which we sometimes call heaven, or Jesus called it the kingdom of God.
It’s a place where we will have glorified bodies that never get sick or never get acne or anything else. A place where there will be no crime, a place where there will be no injustice, there will be no murder or war or divorce. All of the consequences of sin that exist in the desert in this world will be gone when we get to the promised land of heaven.
And what Jesus is teaching through the Lord’s Prayer is these two very simple ideas. One, God will provide what I need today and you can know this when you have that feeling that I described in my dream of showing up and not having enough, or maybe you’re feeling in real life in a really big way around your finances or around your health or around the future. God will give you what you need today.
And secondly, God is taking you, it’s a journey through a desert, but He’s taking you somewhere far better. Does this make sense? Does this make sense? This is important for us, because what we’re talking about today as we continue in Hope of Nations is the ways that this world we are in may change.
And some of those ways may be uncomfortable for us in the future. We can’t predict the future, but God has allowed us to be born at a time where we know more about world events than Christians did in the time of the Bible. A lot of these Christians, they didn’t even know what the Atlantic Ocean was or the Pacific Ocean. They didn’t know what people on the other side of the world believed.
Today, we can look and we can see there are seven billion people in the world. Here’s what they all believe. Here’s where things are headed in the realm of ideas.
So, as we consider that, here’s the most important thing for us to know. Earth’s tragedies are temporary; Christ’s victory is eternal. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
In life, we will have some tragedies, whether it’s an oncologist telling us we have cancer or whether it’s another financial recession like we saw in 2008. We don’t know what the troubles will be but we know there will be some dry, hard days in the desert as we make our way to the promised land.
And so, our hope is twofold. One, we know God will always sustain us. He will give us what we need today. But secondly, we know this world is not our home. Christ’s victory ensures that we will spend eternity in a good kingdom, a rich kingdom, a Garden of Eden-type setting where all of our needs are met.
So, those are my two things that I hope you know today that I want you to leave here with is to know that in this world, you will be sustained, and that Christ is taking you to a better world.
Now, in this series, we have been talking about those times in world history when the world shakes. Times like September 11th when the terrorists flew the airplanes into the World Trade Center and into the Pentagon and thousands of Americans died. Times like the day that JFK was assassinated, and the world shook. Times like the financial recession of 2008 when the world shook.
And what we are seeing is that as these trends play out, that we are looking at, they look almost academic, because I’ve got them on charts and they are graphs and they are kind of nerdy. But they are real belief systems that real people around the world hold to and act out and eventually, they will bump into our little lives.
Eventually, the kind of cocoon of insulated suburban American life, we are really pretty insulated from a lot of the trouble that other people out in the world feel. Eventually, as the world keeps changing, our little bubble might get burst in some ways.
Here’s some ways that I have seen changes around the world affect normal people like us – I knew a family in Prescott, Arizona when I served as a pastor there. They had a daughter named Kayla Mueller. Kayla went over to Syria as a follower of Christ to do humanitarian work and she was in Syria and she got kidnapped by the Islamic State.
They ended up holding Kayla for ransom, they ended up killing her eventually. Something her family thought – how could that happen to a suburban American? Well, the world out there, things are happening, things are changing.
I have friends who were vacationing in Nice, France on the day when a terrorist in France got into a moving truck and drove into a crowd and mowed over about a hundred people and eighty-some of them died. They were just like you! They were on vacation and there they were and all of a sudden there was the world shaking around them.
You might remember the time in Dallas, Texas when a sniper set out against the police department and in one day, killed a number of police officers. One of those police officers was a guy who worked on the security team as a volunteer at a church almost just like our church in Dallas, Texas. People like us.
People who are afraid to drive in certain areas because of the color of their skin and it’s just a reality that they face in the world they live in today.
What do we do when the world shakes? Well, if we understand that God will give us our daily bread and He’s taking us somewhere better, we can feel the emotion of it, and the injustice of it without being overwhelmed by it. We can acknowledge the pain of it, but we can have a faith that is unshaken within it.
You see, Jesus said in this world you will have trouble, and so when these things happen, it doesn’t shake our faith, it actually affirms our faith that our greatest hope is for Christ to return. And this is the really mature, if you will, Christian hope is knowing, not just praying that my circumstances will get better. That’s a good place to start.
But the really muscular Christian faith is this belief that Christ is going to return and He is going to set everything right. As you read through the New Testament from the gospels all the way to the end, this is the recurring theme: Christ will return. He will set things right.
And sometimes because we have been born into a time when we are the wealthiest, most comfortable, most free Christians in all of history, we can accidentally place our hope in just our circumstances always being good.
Well, the big idea of this series is very simply this: Christ is going to return; He’s going to make everything better. Christ will return and make everything better.
I want to tell you a story about my daughter, Evie. Evie, many of you know, we adopted and she lived about the first three years of her life at an orphanage. And in the orphanage, they did not brush her teeth or take care of her teeth at all. And so, we have been taking Evie to the dentist and he said, “There’s about eight teeth that they need to do major, major work on.
And so, Evie doesn’t like them poking around in there and so, the doctor suggested that we actually need to have Evie have an anesthesiologist, take her to a hospital and have them put her, put her to sleep for surgery, and then she’ll wake up and the surgery will be done. So, Mel and I have been thinking through: How do we explain this to a four-year-old? How do we explain pretty much the doctor is going to give you some medicine, you’ll fall asleep, you’re going to wake up and have eight new teeth, and then your mouth will be a little sore and you’ll get a bunch of ice cream. That’s pretty much the kid version of it, right?
Now, as grown-ups, we know there’s a lot more to it, there are needles, there are other devices and tools that we don’t want to think about that will lead to a better place, and it’ll go through a hard time and it will get better in the end. And really, with a childlike faith, all she needs to know is the doctors will give me medicine that makes me fall asleep. I’ll wake up and be a little sore and then I get ice cream. And here’s the thing about the Christian faith.
In this series we are looking at world events and things that may happen. Really, all you need to know is Jesus is going to return, keep believing in Him, everything will be okay, and eventually you’re going to wake up in a place where there is unlimited ice cream, okay? That’s really all you need to know. Okay?
That’s all you need to know. So, but bear with me because here’s one of my heart for you as a shepherd. I want you to have a childlike faith.
But I also want to be part of a movement where we have a growing faith. And where we can grow and Scripture uses this metaphor of that you start with the milk of God’s Word. Just like a newborn can’t eat steak because they don’t have teeth yet.
But then as you grow in your faith, eventually you’re more and more able to read God’s Word for yourself.
And eventually, Scripture talks about the meat of God’s Word, the thicker things of God’s Word. And you kind of have to slowly grow in those. And here’s my heart for you: My desire for you is that the next time some world calamity happens, that we are a Church that is not shaken by that, but a Church that says, “Oh yeah, I remember when John was freaking me out with all that stuff and he said, ‘Place your faith in Christ.
Be prepared, and you can have an unshaken faith when the world shakes around you.
In other words, all we need to know is the basics, but it doesn’t hurt to know a little more. It’s actually a good and healthy thing to grow a little more. So, I want to answer this question today: where will this lead? So far in this series we have looked at what is happening in the world, why is it happening? And today we are asking and answering the question: Where will all of these things lead?
We have seen the rise of Western civilization as it pursued truth and then the rejection of truth. We have seen globally that the economies are going to shift and within the United States, beliefs are changing dramatically.
Where will these things lead? And what I’m going to do is just very quickly give you my opinion, not God’s Word, but my opinion as a researcher, again, believing that God allowed us to be born at a time where we have this data and information.
I’ll get through my opinion really fast, because then we’ll get to a much more important opinion, what does God say? God actually speaks directly about where all these things will lead. So, let me give you my opinion really quickly. And I’m just going to mention three things. They are not on your outline.
The first is that I believe we will continue to see social division within the United States. You see it on social media, you see it in downtown cities, you see it in the occasional riots. There’s a major social division that is happening in the United States. And when you look at the data, it breaks down largely along generational lines. And also, a little bit geographically.
Most of the people who live on the coasts believe significantly different than people who live in the heartland, or the Midwest. Most of the people who live in really urban areas believe a little differently than people who live in rural areas.
And most of the people who are older than forty-five view the world very differently than people who are younger than forty-five. The change is so dramatic among younger Americans, my age, Millennials, and younger, and we are going to start to see these things that have been discussions around Thanksgiving dinner tables, we are going to start to see them reshape who gets elected into office and what the laws are and what the policies are.
I’m not necessarily saying it’s good or bad, but I’m saying that we will see, we will continue to see, and in my assessment as a researcher, dramatic social change. I don’t want to use the word “revolution” per se, but there’s going to be a major, major shift within the United States.
So, we will continue to see that. Most likely, it’s not just going to go away. Again, we know no matter what happens, we’re okay. We’ve got our daily bread; we know where we’re going, okay?
But let me tell you two other things in just summary of all the research I have done is the reshuffling of the global order.
We could call this the post-World War II order. In other words, after World War II, because the United States and England, the UK, won, they set up essentially, a new world order. And all the manufacturing and industry, all the industrial powerhouses around the world had been destroyed in the war except for the U.S. and the UK.
So, they owned manufacturing, they owned the economies. And they took these two defeated nations under their arms and said, “We will rehabilitate you.” And for really most of our lifetimes, these four nations: Germany, Japan, the U.S., and the UK have more or less led a world order that lived out, not necessarily a theologically Christian view of the world, but a lot of Christian principles in society.
Because the U.S. and the UK in the 1940s when World War II ended were both ninety percent or more Christians – the individuals within the societies.
So, as this started to reshape literally the planet, when countries like Sudan or Saudi Arabia would say, “We want to sell you our oil,” the Western world could say, “Well, then you have to outlaw slavery.” And so much of the world changed. There is a lot of societal global norms because of this that we take for granted.
This is according to according to accountants at Pricewaterhousecoopers, so bear with me. If you’re an accountant, that excites you. For the rest of us, we will just get through this, okay?
But here’s the thing, according to their projections of how economies are changing right now at today’s rate of change, you project that out thirty years. So, by the time my kids are my age, China will have overtaken the U.S. to be the number one economy, India will have overtaken the U.S. to be the number two economy. The U.S. will be in third place and then Indonesia will be in fourth place.
Now, we talked about ideologies. Bear with me. An ideology is a lens, a set of ideas through which you see reality. And when a whole group of people or a nation adopts an ideology, they march together in the same direction. And each of these other three, other than the U.S., of the top four emerging economies, have what I call a rigid or muscular ideology.
China is Communist, India is Hindu, Indonesia is Muslim. In all of those nations today, there are Christians who are jailed because of their faith. In all of those nations right now, this year, there are Christian churches that have been burned down or torn down by bulldozers and cranes, because Christianity, these are not nations that are friendly to Christianity.
Well, here’s the thing. The world we live in, all we have ever known is this world where the dollar is the leading currency, where we have stability because we are the number one player economically and as a military force in the world.
That’s going to change. We don’t know what the implications are going to be, per se, but we know that that’s a major reshuffling. Eventually, that will affect some of our jobs. Eventually that may affect our economy. Eventually, we don’t know exactly how that will affect us. But if we can understand where things are going and say, “Okay, right now, my faith is in Christ. He will provide for me my daily bread and He is going to lead me through to a promised land.”
Here’s the third thing is the global rise of Islam. Islam is the fastest growing religion or ideology in the world. It’s growing at a rate of seventy-six percent.
Right now, Christians are about one in three people in the world. This includes all your different brands of Christians. Your thirty-one flavors, you know? Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, all of them, okay?
About one in three people in the world today says, “I’m a Christian.” About one in five people in the world today claims to be a Muslim. That’s rapidly growing. And by the time we get to 2050, out of every three people in the world, one will be a Christian, one will be a Muslim, and one will be something else – either Communist or Hindu or atheist or agnostic. This is interesting to me. Sometimes we meet people in American society right now who say, “Oh, religion doesn’t really matter.”
Well, if you look at world demographics, religion matters big time. Religion in every century of world history has been almost the most important thing of what happens among nations.
So, okay, I have given you a little glimpse, but let’s ask a way more important question – what if we could ask Jesus this question: Where will all these things lead? Would anyone want to know what Jesus says? I mean, if we could bring Him out here and put one of these little microphones on Him, like, “Jesus, where will all of this lead?”
Well, believe it or not, we know His answer, because His disciples asked Him the exact same question. And it’s recorded for us in Matthew 24. So, let’s see the question and let’s see Jesus’ answer to the question.
“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, ‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen,’” “this” is when Christ will return to set up His kingdom on earth, “and what will be the sign of Your coming?”
Christians always want to know, “How do we know when it’s the end times? What will be the sign?” Christians always want to know, which is good, because we are supposed to be looking forward to it, okay? But Jesus said, “No one knows the day or the hour.” No one can predict and say, “Oh.” Isaac Newton predicted that it will be the year 2060. So, I’m hoping to live long enough to see if he was right. Who knows? We don’t know. No one can predict the day or the hour.
Even Jesus, when He was on earth said in His humbled form when He was on earth, “I don’t even know,” at that time. “So, what will be the signs of Your coming, and the end of the age?”
In other words, from the time Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden until Christ returns to clean up the whole mess and redeem it and judge evil, and sentence Satan to a lake of fire, and redeem those who have believed in Him, all of history is called “the age” in this passage.
That includes Egypt, that includes Rome, it includes the Soviet Union, and Napoleon, and us right now. We are living in this age that will end when Christ returns.
And the disciples say, “When is that going to be?” Well, Jesus starts to answer and we’ll pick up in verse 6 of His answer. He says, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. But see to it,” choose, “that you will not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.”
So, if we look back between where we are and when Jesus said this two thousand years ago, well, there have been lots of wars. There have been world wars, there have been civil wars, there have been regional wars, and there have been lots of Christians who have lived through those wars.
And Jesus says, “If you see war in your lifetime, don’t panic. It’s part of the process until I return, of humanity.” “See to it that you’re not alarmed.”
And then He says this, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom,” that’s when there’s a conglomerate of nations, “against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”
So, it’s like when a pregnant mother is at eight or nine months and the contractions start getting closer and closer and stronger and stronger. Jesus says if you see the world shaking, don’t let it shake your faith. It means that the contractions are happening and it’s getting closer and closer to the birth, which in this case, is Christ’s return.
He says this in verse 10, “At that time many will turn away from the faith.” So, Jesus predicts that as the end gets closer, some things will get harder for some Christians in some parts of the world. That seems to align with the data we’ve got. “Many,” He says, “will turn away from the faith.” Many will just say, “It’s just too hard to be a Christian in this world.”
And He says, “Many will betray and hate each other.” He says, “Many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people.” I want to camp on this for just a minute, because as I was reading this text, Matthew 24 is one of my favorite of the prophetic texts, because it’s from Jesus. The book of Daniel has got a lot of amazing stuff, the book of 2 Peter is rich, but this is straight from the mouth of Jesus.
And what was so interesting to me as I read this verse, having looked at all this data and research about world beliefs right now and where things are heading is this, that many – He says – many will turn away from the faith. So, there’s going to be a time when there are a lot of Christians and a whole bunch turn away.
So, the Pew Research Center, they actually have a statistic, it’s called “Switching in and switching out.” In religious terms, we call it “conversions”, when someone converts from Christianity to Judaism or from Buddhism to Islam. A person can convert. We all have our own free will.
And by Pew’s standards of measurement of what is happening today when they project it out over the next thirty years, the largest switching out of any religion in the world is actually Christianity.
There’s a minus sixty-six million. Sixty-six million people who were born into Christian families, raised going to church will abandon the faith at today’s rate between now and 2050.
Now, Christianity will hold its spot as a percentage of the population because Christianity is growing in certain parts of the world like Sudan, South Africa, southern Africa, China even Christianity is growing. But where will this minus sixty-six million happen? Mostly according to Pew researchers, in the United States and in Western Europe. Very interesting.
You know, Christianity in the world is so much bigger than the United States and we have to remind ourselves of that as Americans. But I was thinking, man, these words here: “Many will betray and hate each other.” It’s like, man, that just describes the political climate in our nation right now, doesn’t it? Many will betray and hate each other.
And then He says, “Many false prophets will appear.” You think, well, prophet. That’s such an old word from thousands of years ago. Who uses the word “prophet” anymore? Well, the one in five people in the world who are Muslim today, the one in three people in the world who are projected to be Muslim by 2050, they use the word “prophet” every day.
When they pray their memorized prayers to their god, Allah, they reference their prophet Mohammed. So, Jesus says as the end gets closer, there will have been many Christians and many will turn away. As the end gets closer, you’ll see people hating and betraying each other.
As the end gets closer, you’ll see many people deceived by false prophets. All of that seems to align with what we are seeing. I’m not giving a date or anything, okay? Don’t get me wrong. But it’s just very interesting, this was written two thousand years ago and the facts that I’m citing are all statistics from non-Christian researchers. It’s just interesting how God’s Word aligns with reality, even two thousand years later.
Because of these changes, Jesus says in verse 12, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most people will grow cold. But the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
This is my heart for you as a pastor, I just, I want you to stand firm to the end, no matter what happens in your life. I want your kids to stand firm to the end. I want your grandkids to stand firm to the end. I want us to be a Church of believers. It says, “No matter whatever happens in the world, or in our world, we will be the ones whose love does not grow cold and who stand firm to the end.”
Are you guys with me about that? That’s what this series is about. It’s not just about gaining knowledge, it’s about choosing to say, “We are strengthening our faith.” And verse 14, Jesus turns it positive. He says, “This good news of the kingdom,” the good news is that God loves all people, He died on the cross for the sins of the world, He desires all people to come to salvation and anyone who places their faith in Him has His forgiveness applied to them, and He wants this good news of the kingdom of God to, “be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations.”
Jesus wrote this, again, back before His followers, they didn’t even know what the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans were. They didn’t even know that South America existed. And He says, “I’m going to wait until I return until the whole world has heard about Me. I want every people group to have an opportunity to hear about Me,” and then Jesus says, “The end will come.”
So, what will all these things lead to? Well, whether it happens in our lifetime or two hundred years from now, ultimately, these things will all lead to Christ’s return. Ultimately, these things will all lead to Christ’s return.
And so, what we know as we make our way through a desert land at times, is that God will always give us our daily bread and that Christ is returning to take us to the promised land.
So, how can we respond? I want to very quickly give you three ways we can respond. Number one, the world needs the Church more than ever. The world needs the Church more than ever.
What the world doesn’t need is just an empty, stodgy religious-looking building with a whole bunch of people who are only concerned about themselves. That’s not what the world needs. What the world needs is the living, breathing body of Christ that loves the lost, that seeks the lost, that binds up the hurting, that helps the addicts, that as the world gets crazier and darker and shakes that is a place of hope and recue and healing and repair and restoration.
I want to paint a mental picture for you of a giant lighthouse out on the coasts up in New England where you have got those rocky, rocky coasts and those cold Atlantic Ocean waters. And you’ve got these big lighthouses that warn the ships: Don’t come over here. There are rocks over here. If you come over here, you’ll be shipwrecked.
And you think back before GPS and back before electronic mapping, these lighthouses were a matter of life and death. And some of these lighthouses would have what was called a lifesaving club.
A lifesaving club was a group, sometimes they were paid like firefighters, sometimes they were volunteers. And they would, in a storm, man the lighthouse and make sure that the light stayed on. And then if there was a ship out there and a ship crashed on the rocks, they would actually go out into the storm to rescue the shipwrecked. And so, the lighthouse was a lifesaving club.
I was reading Car and Driver magazine yesterday. Really religious publication. My favorite read every month. And in Car and Driver there’s actually this column about a lifesaving club in Montana for motorists who drive off the cliffs there. And there’s all these guys who have Jeeps and rappelling gear and they rush out to save the life.
Well, I want you to imagine the Church as this lighthouse, that in the storms of life, is this beacon of light and it’s full of people who go out into the storm to rescue people. What we have to be careful about is that sometimes, a lifesaving club can turn into a country club.
And we all show up and we’ve got our plaques on the wall, we’ve got all the lifejackets properly in line, but we are coming to the club but it really becomes about us instead of about the purpose. And here’s the thing. When we understand the Word of God, the more mature we get as followers of Christ, we understand this world is not our home, but we are here for a purpose. And it’s not to just bunker down and hunker down and just survive the storms. We will survive the storms and we will gather together and we have a refuge in any kind of storm that can happen in our personal lives or in the world. We have a refuge here.
But the point of the refuge, the reason God didn’t zap us right to heaven when we believed is that every one of us is to be mobilized as part of the lifesaving club. Because there are people in our neighborhoods and in our families and in our schools who have shipwrecked on the rocks of life, and they are drowning in those icy cold waters.
And God has appointed us now to be His lifesaving club. Did you know right now, that the fastest growing cause of death in the United States is not cancer, it’s not diabetes, it’s suicide. Suicide is rapidly the fastest growing cause of death in the United States. Are neighbors are drowning. Our neighbors are drowning.
And all this stuff about how the world is changing, if we’re not careful, we can take an immature approach and just say, “Well, how does this affect me? What am I going to do?” But here’s the thing, we are here to be the lifesaving club, because we know how it’s going to end. We know Christ is going to return and make everything right. We know our daily bread will be met every day.
But a lot of our neighbors don’t have that hope. A lot of our neighbors, they don’t know where they’re going to spend eternity. They’re afraid of death. They don’t know every day that their needs will be met. They don’t have a heavenly Father.
And we are here to be a lifesaving club. The Church is needed by the world more than ever. The true Church, the pure Church, the Church that serves and loves the lost, the Church that is a light in the dark.
And secondly, the Church needs Christ more than ever. He is the light that we shine, the hope that we declare is not just human ideas of self-improvement. The hope that we declare is that the God who made every individual in His image and who loves them came to this world as a person in Jesus Christ, He died on the cross for their sins, and they can have freedom from shame, freedom from guilt. They can have eternal life and they can have peace and joy and fulfillment in this life. And all this happens through Christ alone. The Church needs Christ more than ever.
As the world around us gets darker, if we are going to shine a light that’s truly supernatural in its capacity and scope, it will only happen as we lift Christ high. And as we elevate Him, the light of the Church is Christ. We need His message; we need His power.
I was thinking about this last night and I came up with a little bumper sticker phrase for us. It’s this: “Hope in Christ before the crisis so you can stand strong in the crisis.”
You know, I kind of chuckle in the physical realm whenever a hurricane hits Florida again or areas where they know there are hurricanes, on the news they always show how Home Depot and Walmart and everywhere, all the generators are sold, all the bottles of water are gone.
And I always kind of laugh, maybe it’s because I’m a person who kind of thinks ahead a little bit, but I think, If you lived there, wouldn’t you buy a generator and water bottles like right after you move into your house? You’re in a hurricane zone. Why wait until the storm to just react in panic? Why not just plan ahead and then when the storm comes, know: I’ve got a plan.
That’s kind of the gist of this series to know, I don’t know what storms life may throw at us, but I know what I need. It’s a lot more than generators and water bottles. It’s Christ. And so, I’m going to hope in Christ before the crisis so that I can stand strong in the crisis. And that will allow me and us as a Church to only provide for our kids and our loved ones but to be a lifesaving club.
And when other people are panicking and scrambling because of world events, that we are able to stand strong and have some stability and say, “We have peace. We have stability. Come on in here. We’ve got you covered.” That’s our heart in this series. We are hoping in Christ. We are choosing.
Remember, Jesus said, “You’ll hear about wars and rumors of wars. See to it,” choose, “that you’re not alarmed.” We can choose today, we place our hope in Christ before the storm so we can stand strong in the storm.
And so, on Christ, we have staked our lives, our fortunes, our eternities, our families, our hopes and dreams rest on this reality that Jesus of Nazareth is God of the universe, that He came down among us as Messiah, that He died on the cross for the sins of the world, that He rose again on the third day, and that He will return to establish a kingdom of peace and prosperity. And until then, He will give daily bread to all of His followers and He will sustain us.
Peter writes, “In Him,” in Christ, “you have everything necessarily for life and for godliness.” The Church has no power apart from Christ. But in Christ, the Church has all the power it will ever need. In Christ, you have all the power you will ever need. In Christ, you can do all the things that He has called you to do. You have everything necessary for life and godliness in Him.
Romans 15:13 puts it this way, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him.” It’s when you trust in Him before the storm and in the storm, that’s when He fills you with joy and peace, “…so that you may overflow with hope.” This is written to Christian who were running for their lives. This is written to Christians who were in an uncomfortable situation. And he says, “You will overflow with hope.” And they did! They continued to change the world. Why? Because they trusted in God.
And He filled them with His hope by the power of the same Holy Spirit who lives and breathes inside of you today as a follower of Christ.
Third response for us is that now is the time to go all in for the kingdom. Now is the time. There are moments in life when you get shaken and then you get perspective.
Very often, as we do marriage, counseling here for couples who are – usually it’s some kind of, either someone had an affair or almost had an affair. And they get shaken and they are, “We’ve got to work on this.”
Or sometimes you’re going along and in your finances and all of a sudden you realize, Whoa, I’ve got to make some changes. And the thing is, when we really see where the world is headed, outside of our suburban cocoon, but the rest of the world, where we see where it’s headed, if we have got our eyes open, if we’re reading the Word of God, it should shake us up a little bit to cause not a panic, but a sense of purpose and urgency with purpose.
We say, “Now is the time.” We are the richest Christians in all of world history. We are the most free Christians in all of world history. We have the ability to film a video or write a devotional about Jesus today and have Christians around the world hear it today. No other church in history has had these opportunities that are before us.
And we see this window of global peace and this window of prosperity and opportunity. It’s not going to last forever. Now is the time for us to go all-in in raising our kids for Christ and in using what God has entrusted to us to tell others about Christ. Because our hope is in the One who will carry us safely to the promised land.
When we understand where the world is headed, we can’t go on living like Jesus is just another hope on a buffet of hopes.
And here’s what I want to challenge us with that we live in such a time when a small group of people, the American Church is not the whole Church, but we are the wealthiest Church in world history, could turn the course of world events if we choose to go all-in.
And the question for us, maybe the world is too big to think about, but how about changing our kids’ lives at least? Is, will we go all-in in our faith? Will we be Christians who understand what is happening and where it’s leading so we can respond with a stronger faith, an all-in faith?