No one doubts that these are difficult days. COVID-19 continues to rage, although it would seem its effects are less deadly than they originally were. War is raging in Europe. China is presently holding military exercises around Taiwan, even as a group of US lawmakers are visiting the self-ruled island. And that’s not mentioning other crises, such as wars in Ethiopia. And then of course there is the Taliban seizure of power in Afghanistan, as the U.N. warns that millions of Afghan children could starve. And what of Iran’s continual quest for nuclear weapons. Experts suggest that the war in Yemen is poised to get worse, resulting in even more pressure on oil reserves. What can this mean?
Additionally, at home, fuel prices are rising, and inflation is soaring. And there continues to be shortages of certain goods. Don’t believe me? Go visit an automobile dealership!
Some, of course, see all these as signs of the end times. To that, of course, faithful Bible readers will always respond in the same ways. We simply don’t know if that is true. Christ may come back at any time. But we do not know if this is the hour.
But there is biblical counsel for times such as these. Read the wonderful words of Psalm 46:1–3. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah”
The words “we will not fear” are imperative. Psalm 46 goes on to remind the reader of the city of God, in which God reigns supreme. And, says the Psalm, “The LORD of hosts is with us.”
I write these words while I am preparing to air a new series on the book of 1 Peter. I have been meditating on some of the verses intended to give courage to a beleaguered church. Peter begins by reminding his readers they have been born again to a living hope. He then affirms that they rejoice in this, even though, for a little while, they have been grieved by various trials. But, says Peter, these have come so that the tested genuineness of your faith may be found to result in praise and glory and honour.
1 Peter acknowledges that there is a wide gulf between the values of the newly formed followers of Christ, and the wider society in which they lived. Believers are ransomed from the futile ways of life they have inherited from their forefathers. By that, Peter means, that these new believers were won to Christ out of a largely Pagan culture. Indeed, in 1 Peter 4:4, Peter mentions that the Pagan world thinks it strange that the servants of Jesus do not join with the wider culture, and join with them in the sensuality that was so prevalent in those days. For this reason, the divide between the church and the wider culture was vast. The church could only hope to be viewed with increasing suspicion.
And then comes the telling words of 1 Peter 4:7, “The end of all things is at hand.” Peter doesn’t mean that he believes that the coming of Christ will happen immediately. Rather he means that the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus had already occurred. And with that, the Holy Spirit had come upon the church. This was the end, or the goal, of all things. And having said that, Peter then offers us a divine command, “Be self-controlled and sober minded.” Remain steady! Don’t be rattled! Be steadfast! Remain faithful!
Those are God’s words to Christians of today, who live in uncertain times.