To be in relationship with God and to serve God has value without measure for this life and our eternal life. But it is not without cost, as Matthew 24 so clearly states, and that cost will intensify as the time of Jesus’ return draws closer.
Yes, it sometimes costs tremendously to follow Jesus. Jesus said, “The nations and kingdoms will proclaim war against each other, and there will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this will be only the beginning of the horrors to come. Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because of your allegiance to me” (Matt. 24:7-9). We fear these things, and our minds shy away from the possibility.
But it is a reality, as persecuted Christians around the world know. And yet they steadfastly continue in their faith and loyalty to Jesus Christ. They count their relationship with Jesus as more precious to them than physical well-being or even life itself. The words of Matthew 24 are not abstract to them; they are a hard reality. How do they do it? The answer, I believe, is that none of us could do it without help—the help of the Holy Spirit. It is beyond an ordinary human’s capacity to stand true and strong through these types of trials. But along with the trial (not before) comes the Holy Spirit’s guidance, comfort, and strength.
Matthew 24 continues, as does the picture being painted: people led astray by false teaching, sin rampant everywhere, and love for God grown cold. Are there days when you feel like you’re walking amidst this landscape? As followers of Jesus Christ we dwell among these conditions, but we must be different. We need active, vibrant, and clear-eyed faith to stay close to God. How do we develop this kind of faith? Through knowledge and diligence.
Knowledge comes from knowing God’s word—words of the greatest value. Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will remain forever” (Matt. 24:35). It’s no surprise that this verse is right in the midst of this chapter of horrifying prospects. God’s word is a mighty gift and is able to provide us with reassurance and courage and bring us into the presence of Jesus. Jesus says that everything else we now know will disappear, be replaced, and be made new; but God’s word stands as it is with no need for renewal. Revere it, and make it part of your life, as nothing is its equal.
Diligence begins through prayer and the Holy Spirit’s help. It grows as we practice loving God and others. It grows through obedience to God. It grows as we trust God to lead us through both the good and bad times we face.
The chapter concludes with Jesus telling us to be ready at any time for His final return to earth. Thank God we are ready at all times when we trust Jesus as our Savior and acknowledge that He makes us acceptable to a holy God. Matthew 24:44 concludes with, “For the Son of Man will come when least expected.” Although it may be unexpected, Jesus will not return until everyone at least has the opportunity to hear His plan of reconciliation and love, because God longs for each person to join His family. As we begin to more fully understand Jesus’ sacrifice for us and the immense love behind that sacrifice, these verses compel us to share with others God’s desire to be in relationship with them.
This chapter used to frighten me, as it may frighten others. Why? Because it is natural to fear pain and persecution. Because we wonder if we have what it takes to stand true. Because there are people we love who may not be ready for death or for Christ’s return.
This chapter challenges us to wholehearted commitment while providing the hope of Heaven and our new life to come. And with that commitment and with that hope come reassurance and peace.
© 2010 Arlina Yates