As Christ’s witnesses, we are called to a seemingly impossible task. We are asking the world to lay down the things that are most dear to them: their sins. In their eyes, the Christian walk — a life of purity and holiness — looks like a form of slavery. Our idea of heaven seems to them more like hell. When they hear us talk about the gospel, it is an offence to their lifestyle. Christ’s gospel calls them to repent of the sins they love, to repent of rejecting the God who died for them on a cross. It calls for a life of holiness, when for years they’ve tried to silence their conscience, to kill any notion there might be a coming day of reckoning.
Christ’s gospel also tells them their own personal goodness cannot merit eternal life. It asks the self-made man to die to himself and his selfish ambitions, and to give his life for others. It declares that his own sense of integrity is nothing in God’s sight. Such a gospel is a threat to his pearl of great price: his personal achievements, the things he has worked long and hard to obtain. If you tell him his righteousness does not merit salvation, he will despise you. During his final time with the disciples before his crucifixion, Jesus warned, “Some of you will be rejected, some will be imprisoned, and some will be killed. All of you will be persecuted” (see John 16:2).
At the Last Supper, Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love another” (John 13:34). Note this was not an option, it was a commandment. And it is where every evangelistic effort must begin. According to Jesus, only this particular love — a love for fellow believers — will gain the attention of a lost generation. It is the same kind of self-denying, sacrificial love that Jesus shows to each of us. Such love for our kin in Christ cannot be accomplished in word alone, but must be in deed.
The world needs illustrated sermons — powerful personal examples — of God’s love. In John 17:21, Jesus made this prayer: “That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
Dear saint, obey his new commandment and remember his Word: “By this all men will know you are mine” (see John 13:35). Love others as Jesus loves them and watch as God works through that love.
The promises of the Lord are always “yes and amen.” His promises never change — and that includes his promise about saving the lost. When God commanded us to go into all the world to win souls, he didn’t include an exemption clause: “Preach the gospel of my Son Jesus Christ to all nations — except in hard times.” And he didn’t say, “Believe for the salvation of many — except when there is a great shaking in the world.”
Thank God, he has never said the world is too wicked, too hardhearted, too given over to lust to be reached by his Good News. At no time in history did the Lord ever limit his tender mercies — and he never will. Right now, America and the rest of the world could still be spared judgment if there is true repentance. Of course, such repentance would require a great humbling and a mass return to the Lord. But our God has never rescinded his amazing offer of mercy.
Jesus declared that he came to seek and to save the lost. He who had power to subdue the winds and waves, who could send fire down from heaven to destroy the wicked, who embodied righteousness — this same Jesus came as a humble servant. He set captives free just as he claimed he would and he faithfully broke every form of bondage he encountered.
The gospels speak of Christ as kind, patient, longsuffering, forgiving, full of tenderness and mercy, willing that no one should perish. He was called a shepherd, a teacher, a brother, a light in darkness, a physician, an advocate, a reconciler. He went about doing only good and no one ever had cause to hate him. So why the deep, vicious hatred toward Christ?
Jesus was hated by the world because he came as a light to deliver the world from darkness. “The light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:19-20).
Jesus declared of himself, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (8:12). Walk in his light and life today!
Hard times are coming, and the next generation of young people need to know that the only thing they need to fear is living in fear — cowering and retreating from the glorious gospel that Jesus has equipped you to share with others.
The truth is, persecution will continue to grow worse because the gospel keeps frustrating those who walk in darkness. God continually subverts their anti-Christ efforts, and that just makes them angrier. Thus John writes, “Let the one who is doing harm continue to do harm; let the one who is vile continue to be vile; let the one who is righteous continue to live righteously; let the one who is holy continue to be holy” (Revelation 22:11).
John is prescribing our response to the world as it grows filthier and angrier toward us. His words echo those of Jesus: “God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs” (Matthew 5:10).
Let your heart be ruled by the love of Jesus Christ. All our power rests in his love; indeed, the power of our witness is in preaching his Word with mercy, and in remaining holy amidst a corrupt generation.
Think of the horrific genocide that took place in Israel when Jesus was born. “A cry was heard in Ramah — weeping and great mourning” (Matthew 2:18). When Christ became a man he could have said, “Herod will pay for what he did. He killed all my Jewish brothers, so now I’ll bring him down.”
Of course, our Lord didn’t do that. Instead, he proclaimed good news, healed the sick and kept about his Father’s business. He even kept his focus when Herod sought to kill him (see Luke 13:31-33). He was saying, “I will keep on doing exactly as I’m doing and I won’t be distracted by persecution no matter how bad it gets. My Word will triumph over all and I will fulfill my purpose to set every captive free.”
May Jesus’ purpose fill our hearts fully as the world careens on its dark path. May we keep to his purpose, which is our hopeful calling. Hallelujah!
When Jesus asked the father of the demon-possessed son how long he had been that way, the man replied, “From childhood” (Mark 9:21). In other words, it had been a long time. It was this long, ongoing difficulty that sparked the father’s desire to seek God’s help. God will use the difficult season in our lives to bring about a desire to seek him and to have faith in his deliverance.
Take, for example, Elijah. James 5:17 says, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months.” Elijah knew that his prayer would bring about unprecedented hardship upon the nation. But this was necessary because the king of Israel had led the people down a sinful path. In essence, Elijah wanted the nation to turn back to God and was prepared to pray to that end, even if it meant it would take three and a half years to be answered. Basically, Elijah was saying, “Whatever it takes, Lord, whatever it takes!”
Now God could say immediately after Elijah prayed that it was done — it was answered. But there was a season between when the prayer was prayed and the answer was manifested. You can pray for family members who are not believers, and God can say, “Done! I’ve heard your prayer, and the answer is on the way … but it’s going to take some time. I need to allow them to go through difficulties so their desire is turned from the world to Me.”
When you read about the whole event in 1 Kings 18, you know that Elijah’s prayer was answered immediately when he prayed it, but God had a special timing for Elijah to see his prayer completely fulfilled. Likewise, when you pray, it takes time, so don’t give up! Three and a half years of false comfort would have to be taken away from Israel and they needed to go through hard times to realize that they needed God.
Back to the demon-possessed son, when the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Why could we not drive the demon out?” Jesus said to them that this kind of demonic possession only comes out with persistent prayer and fasting. In other words, “Don’t give up if you don’t see the answer immediately.” What God has promised, he will do!
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.
This message is for every Christian who is on the brink of exhaustion, overwhelmed by your present situation. You have been a faithful servant, feeding others, confident that God can do the impossible for his people. Yet you have lingering doubts about God’s willingness to intervene in your present struggle.
Think of those in the Body of Christ whom you have given words of faith and hope, people facing seemingly hopeless situations. You’ve urged them, “Hang on! God is a miracle worker, and his promises are true. Don’t lose hope — he is going to answer your cry.”
Jesus made a statement to believers in every generation: “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way” (Matthew 15:32). He is telling us, “I will do more for my people than heal them. I’m going to make sure they have enough bread to eat. I am concerned about everything concerning their lives.”
We all believe God can work miracles. We believe in every miracle we have read in Scripture. Yet, that is not enough. God’s question to all his people right now is, “Do you believe I can work a miracle for you?” And not just one miracle, but a miracle for every crisis, every situation we face.
Our faith in troubled times obtains for us the testimony of “a good report.” “For by [their faith] the elders obtained a good report” (Hebrews 11:2). The Greek word for “obtained” here means “to bear witness, to become a testimony.” Our ancestors in the Lord had a settled, anchored faith. And their unwavering faith became a testimony to the world of God’s faithfulness in the midst of troubled times.
As you rest in him through storms, holding your faith position, you are obtaining a “good report.” And you are serving as a beacon of hope to those around you. Those who watch your life — at home, at work, on your block —are learning that hope is available to them.
Our God has supplied us with everything needed to sustain our faith, even as calamities increase. We have been given the witness of the Holy Spirit, who abides in us, and God’s fully revealed Word in the Scriptures. These will sustain us, obtaining for us the testimony of a good report even as the world shakes.