Matthew 24:4-14

Jesus answered them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah!’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birthpangs.

“Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name. Then many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come.  Matthew 24:4-14

When I was in middle school – perhaps the most impressionable period of my life – our family spent two years attending a very fundamentalistic, literalistic, church. I remember attending retreats and a week at a Bible camp where people would give their testimonies. The shape of the testimonies were similar. “My life was a mess. I accepted Jesus as my Savior. My life is now wonderful. But I still struggle sometimes.”

In that I was always a bit intrigued by the “my life was a mess” part but I was fascinated and attracted by the “now my life is wonderful” part. I came out of that period with the idea that giving my life to Jesus (as if that was something I owned and therefore could give) meant that my miserable life would magically get better.

When you throw in “if not now, certainly later in heaven” and you have just about wrapped up the power of tent revivals and emotional conversions. Very persuasive but not terribly biblical.

Matthew tells us in this chapter that following Jesus is far more likely to lead to pain and persecution. Because that is what it means to live in a world broken by sin. Bad things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. Many voices will promise relief – false prophets run amok, all seeking people’s hearts, minds, and wallets. We recognize this world because we live in it.

It is the same world that people have always lived in.

There has never been an age without war. Never been a time without natural disasters. Floods, fires, hurricanes will happen because that is the price we pay to live in this world where we aren’t nearly in control of anything to do the degree we seek control.

Everything that Matthew tells us about in this chapter was already happening in the lives of Matthew’s readers. Just as it all happens in our lives today. And yes, in the midst of it, there is always the temptation to bail out, to give up, to let the currents take us floating away rather than swimming against them. “The love of many will go cold.”

But Jesus tells us to hang in there. To resist. To embrace the struggle. To keep the faith. To keep our heads up. “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, we are trusting you in all things. We are grateful that you have opened our eyes, that we might see you in the midst of a broken world of chance, of change, of tragedy, of turmoil. We will keep our eyes on you, lest we be tempted to stray, for you are the way, the truth, and the life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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