Of all people, God’s saints should be shining examples of what it means to live in peace and triumph in these fearful days. He has given us an ironclad promise for life on this earth, especially when the enemy of our soul tries to walk over us. “My people shall know My name; therefore they shall know in that day that I am He who speaks: ‘Behold, it is I’” (Isaiah 52:6).
In other words, God is saying, “When you’re in your darkest trial, I will come and speak a word to you. You’ll hear me say, ‘It is I, don’t be afraid.’”
In the New Testament, Jesus reiterated this promise on many occasions, one of the most familiar instances being when he spoke to the disciples who were out on the boat in an awful storm. As the boat was being tossed about by wind and waves, the panicked men saw Jesus walking toward them on the water. Scripture says, “When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’” (Matthew 14:26).
Jesus immediately spoke to them, eager to ease their fears: “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid” (14:27). The word cheer means to be happy, relieved. And here, in the disciples’ time of distress, Jesus tied the word to his identity. Remember, these men knew him personally and he expected them to act on his word by faith. He was saying, “The Father has promised that I’ll come to you in your storm, and now I’ve come. Yes, it’s me, Jesus, here with you in the midst of it all. So, cheer up!”
The Lord expects the same faith reaction from us in our distressing times. Think about it. Our Lord has never once failed his people. He urges us to look back and remember how he has delivered us time after time, in every instance. He has never allowed the enemy to destroy those who trust him.
The Lord longs for us to find our fulfillment in him and trust him completely. King David said, “All my springs are in you” (Psalm 87:7), meaning, “All my satisfaction is found in you, Lord. You alone are the wellspring of my fulfillment and you are all I need to be complete, joyful, happy and at peace.”
“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:2-3).
We all know that Christians in the first century faced great tribulations. They endured severe testings, hard times, persecutions that were life-and-death. But they didn’t break down under the stress. Paul says the church in Thessalonica endured the loss of everything they owned, yet these believers were not rocked by the experience.
Paul attributes their strength to the power of the Holy Spirit: “Our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power; and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance … And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:5-6).
These believers had been “much afflicted,” yet they possessed true joy. They didn’t complain about their circumstances and they didn’t question God. Instead there was rejoicing among that body of believers. And Paul told them, “You became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth … Your faith toward God has gone out” (1:7-8).
In America, the greatest problem is stress. There is widespread anxiety about the future, about job security. Some families are on the verge of losing everything and are succumbing to despair. Multitudes of elderly people are in pain because they cannot pay for their medications and it is heartbreaking.
In the midst of this chaos, there is hope! You see, there is living in us the Spirit of Almighty God and his Christ. The Holy Spirit is working in us in great power … at this very moment! His power is released as we receive him as our burden bearer. The Holy Spirit was given to us for this very reason, to bear our cares and worries.
Beloved, God allowed every one of Paul’s trials and it forced the apostle not to rely on himself, but to fully trust the Holy Spirit to deliver him. Scripture says, “And having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13). Let God do it all and he will accomplish your deliverance.
In his epistle to Titus, Paul left behind powerful instructions for us regarding Christ’s Great Commission to preach the gospel. He had just left the island of Crete, where he had encountered persecution, and when he departed to evangelize in other cities, he left behind Titus and some other leaders.
Crete was a wicked city, overrun with sensuality, and the young leaders’ hearts told them to leave. But Paul instructed them to stay, explaining to them that it was for good reasons: “This is why I left you in Crete” (Titus 1:5). He then stressed the necessary, practical working out of salvation in the daily lives of both the elders and the congregation.
The dilemma in Crete parallels ours today. America has seen a vast decline in religious faith in the last few decades; in fact, our nation’s transformation has been dramatic. We are no longer a Christian society that has moved to secularism, but a secular society moving rapidly toward paganism.
These young leaders in Crete had gone there to raise up a church, appoint elders, and establish a Christian presence, all of which they accomplished, but only with great difficulty. Paul trained them and acknowledged their hardship: “One of the [prophets] of their own said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons’” (Titus 1:12). Why would Paul leave them in a culture so dark and evil? To display the life and light of Jesus Christ.
God always has a remnant people in a darkened culture. Even in the worst of times, he continually raises up a testimony of light amid darkness. As Jesus says, we are to be salt, an agent that preserves life in a decaying environment. “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (Matthew 5:13).
We are the ones God has appointed to be lights in a darkened place and time. You may not want to live in a sin-filled culture like America’s or bring up your children in a society that rages more and more against God, but Jesus has a design for your life in this time and place. You are here right now for a divine purpose: to show forth the glory of God to this generation.
It is amazing how many people want the power of Christ but not the path of Christ. They do not want to follow a Christ who uses His resources and power to help others. However, they will soon discover that following Jesus inevitably leads to a road of self-sacrifice. It is at this crossroads that many turn away from following the Jesus of the Bible.
We see in the Scriptures that multitudes came to Jesus because they were hungry and saw that He could multiply bread. Others came because they wanted to rule and reign, and they thought Jesus would overthrow the Roman Empire. What Jesus was asking for, however, was full commitment to the cause of God that was about to be unfolded in His life. He told them, “It is the spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). In other words, “What I am telling you will give you life, carry you, sustain you and keep you through difficult days.” Jesus added, “But there are some of you who do not believe,” for He “knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him” (6:64).
When they recognized what it would cost, many disciples turned away and walked with him no more. I believe this is how it will play out in our day too. When the truth of Christ is proclaimed, many people will realize that they did not sign up to be a representation of God’s life in the midst of a hostile generation. God is asking for a commitment that will take them to a cross — and suddenly it is no longer attractive.
Scripture does not say the people abandoned religion; rather, they abandoned Jesus Christ. In other words, they returned to “a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5). They went back to a form of religion, and perhaps they were even more zealous than before. But all of it was powerless. They went back to powerless singing, powerless reading and powerless praying — all because they were confronted with what a life of following Christ is truly supposed to look like.
The true power of God is ultimately found in reaching the lost. Once we are determined to give ourselves for the purposes of God and for the people around us, this Spirit of power will be realized in our lives.
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001. In May of 2020 he transitioned into a continuing role as General Overseer of Times Square Church, Inc.
Incredibly, many dread the sudden return of Christ. The very thought of their life coming to an end, and of having to face a day of judgment, is so frightening that they put it out of their minds. How could this be true of believers? According to Peter, their lives are dictated by “walking according to their own lusts” (2 Peter 3:3).
Peter is saying here that if you cling to a secret sin, the idea that Jesus will come and judge you is the most frightening thought any sinner could have. Hence, the thought of having to stand before God and give an account is something to be mocked.
Peter tells us, “Scoffers will come in the last days … saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation’” (2 Peter 3:3-4). Peter’s message is clear: “A mockery of God’s law is behind all the flippancy about Christ’s coming. It’s a hatred for the Bible, a despising of the Ten Commandments, a contempt for the evangelical gospel. That is the cause of all the lawlessness, the flaunting of sin, the powerlessness of the church. Mockers are preaching a new message: ‘Christ isn’t coming. We don’t have to fear a judgment day.’”
Just as Peter prophesied, those mockers are here today. They’re not mocking the law of the land; they’re mocking the laws of God. Their focus isn’t the Constitution, it’s God’s Word. And these mockers are in high places: in Congress, in high courts, in colleges and universities, even in seminaries.
The Holy Spirit knows exactly why Jesus hasn’t come yet — it is because our Lord is longsuffering. He is patient toward sinners, willing that no person should perish. In his mercy, he is waiting for the vilest sinner to repent, and for that very reason, the Holy Spirit will not let up on his assignment. Mockery will not cause the Spirit from coming again and again, convicting of sin and revealing the truth of Christ.
At the closing of this age, the Holy Spirit is making a final, midnight cry, “Jesus is coming!” “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44).
“Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). Christ’s soon coming should thrill your heart!