[Image above “Dega’s Dancer” 1880 — feeling perplexed but looking upward!]
The late Rev. Eugene Peterson describes discipleship as “the long obedience in the same direction.” This quotation is not original with him, but I like the way he uses it better than the one who originally wrote it!
We live in an instant-society with no deferred rewards or fulfillment of desires. One man confesses his anger at not getting what he wanted when he wanted it—
“Sometimes, I yell at my phone when the screen freezes. Just last week, I felt my heartbeat rapidly increasing and my legs shaking when the customer service representative from [an online merchant] put me on hold for a few minutes because my package didn’t arrive in two days. It turned out that my package got lost somewhere between [the delivery agent] and my apartment, so I had to wait a whole extra two days to receive my order. Waiting four days for a delivery seems like an eternity in today’s society, as more consumers have become accustomed to the instant gratification afforded by technology.” (See Study Break blog, below; emphasis mine).
People today are always living as if they are running out of time. I still remember good advice from a Christian mentor in my youth—”God is never in a hurry, but he’s never late!” God doesn’t work on our timetable, but on His own plan and timing. Trial etches this on our minds! Spurgeon said—”Suffering not only burns out the impurities, but it also burns in the promises!
When will I be rid of this illness? When will people stop persecuting me for doing God’s will? What did I do to deserve this? Where did that come from? These questions are legitimate! The definitive answer—in God’s timing according to His plan! What do I do in the meantime? Revelation Seven answers that question for the Christians in Asia Minor and for us today.
Note with me the principles that help us to endure severe trials.
I. We are only able to stand in trial and live through it by God’s direct help.
Much perplexes us when we are under trial. Let me cite two questions from Chapter Six that pertain to the application of Chapter Seven, in my opinion.
9 …How long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
17 …the great day of [God’s and the Lamb’s] wrath has come, and who can stand?”
I believe that Chapter 7 answers both of these two questions! Christians want to know, after the course of the entire age is so graphically presented in chapter six, when are the wrongs to be set right and how can anyone possibly stand through the pouring out of God’s wrath?
II. God gives His perspective on the trials we face.
(1) The perspective that God is in control of all things in creation helps us to stand firm.
God is restraining evil men and His judgment, even as he pours out his wrath on a sinful world that persecutes His church. Note in the Chart to the right (or above on a phone), believers are sealed by God and are received into heaven at the end of their lives.
(2) We are sealed by God so we can stand firm in our circumstances.
God has sealed us so that nothing can ultimately harm us. We will not suffer God’s wrath, nor will we apostatize, and leave “the faith once delivered to the saints.” We are not under God’s wrath as are those who persecute us. We are apart of that redeemed multitude that will be gathered in heaven.
(3) We have a hope in heaven, either after our death or at Christ’s return, that no one or no thing can take away from us.
When all is past, we will be forever with the Lord.
You might think these are only pious platitudes for Church. I would say no! These perspectives are the only thing that can hold us in the turbulent times in which we live in this world.
Let me cite an incident from the life of General Charles Gordon. The British army was defeated at Khartoum. Reportedly, a sword-bearing enemy soldier finally cornered him and said to him, “I can take your life!” Gordon replied, “You can’t touch my life; it is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3.) With one slash of his sword, off came Gordon’s head and he was set free to see His Savior face-to-face.
No one can stand against horrific odds without having the hope Christ gives. We long for the encouragement of the scene in heaven of myriads declaring in song the praise of our Redeemer! We desire to see His face and fall at His feet in worship. Until then, let us remain faithful to God where we are!
III. John’s scene in Chapter Seven is an inspiration and a comfort to the believers in all ages suffering persecution!
Note vs. 14 and the Innumerable Multitude — John uses the present tense to indicate that what he was witnessing was presently ongoing. The crowd was becoming larger and larger as he watched. People were walking into heaven after their deaths. The great crowd was swelling. The important fact about them is that they are a redeemed host. They have been “plunged into the fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins.”
We may not see Christ’s Second Coming in our lifetime, but we will make it into Christ’s presence at the time of our departure from earth. Nothing can prevent this from happening.
Isaac Watts has memorialized this passage of Scripture in a hymn—”How Bright These Glorious Spirits Shine”—
How bright these glorious spirits shine!
Whence all their white array?
How came they to the blissful seats
Of everlasting day?
Lo! these are they from sufferings great
Who came to realms of light;
And in the blood of Christ have washed
Those robes which shine so bright.
Now with triumphal palms they stand
Before the throne on high,
And serve the God they love amidst
The glories of the sky.
Our lives may indeed seem to be one long trial stretching into the future, but all will be well once we are in His presence.
Next time we move into Chapter Eight.
Study Breaks blog. (2020). Accessed 3 May 3 2020 from https://studybreaks.com/culture/instant-gratification/
© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved