“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.”
– Matthew 24:21
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 4:6-7
We are living in a time of great distress, and we should not be surprised. In Matthew 24, Jesus was asked this question by his disciples: “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus responded by giving them signs for which to watch. He said, “There will be wars, rumors of wars, and famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” He went on to describe a time of coming deception and wickedness. And then, in verse 21, He said, “For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.”
Certainly, we are living in a time of great distress. All around the world we are witnessing events that are causing incredible suffering. Tsunamis, fires, earthquakes, and wars. Here in America we have witnessed school shootings, political strife, gang violence, and murder. As a minister, I have seen more and more men come to me who are dealing with marriage difficulties and financial difficulties which have in turn led to drug and alcohol problems, depression, and even suicide. What effect is this stress having on families? They are being stretched to the limit!
One of the reasons we are experiencing such distress is because of sin. Just look at our own country. We have, in essence, asked God to leave. Attempts have been made, and are being made, to push God out of the public arena. We have turned away from God and have turned to the worship of other gods. Romans 1:21-23 states, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” Our idols have become money, success, sports, comfort, and celebrities, just to name a few. Our hearts are idol factories, producing idols to worship other than God.
When a society turns away from God and turns to the worship of other gods, God does not sit back, and simply watch. He acts. When the Israelites turned away from God all throughout the Old Testament, God always acted. He acted by sending disasters. Do you have a problem with this? Are you thinking, “Well, a god of love would never send a disaster!” Isaiah 45:6-7 state, “I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.” A god who does not love, does not act, because he does not care. But that is not the God of the Bible. The God of Scripture cares, and He acts. He acts because He loves. And, He disciplines and judges because of that love.
Are you in distress? There is a way of peace even in the midst of incredible suffering. It is known to believers as the peace of God. Paul writes about this peace in Philippians. Philippians 4:6-7 states, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” You must be in Christ Jesus to experience the peace of God. The peace of God comes only to those who have made peace with God. God’s judgment is often sent to drive men and women to the cross. When people reject the grace of God, they usually must face His judgment. Again, God’s judgment is a tool He uses to drive us to the cross. And, it is only at the cross that peace with God can be made. Have you come to the cross? Are you experiencing incredible distress? Then maybe you need to bow your knee before the One who died on the cross. Make peace with God so you can experience the peace of God. Amen!