Episode 1. To the End
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There are times in life when we want to give up. There are times in life when following Jesus just seems so impossible … perhaps it’s just not worth it. Ever felt that way? Will if you have, this next message, is for you. I have a confession to make. I hate running. I love […]
There are times in life when we want to give up. There are times in life when following Jesus just seems so impossible … perhaps it’s just not worth it. Ever felt that way? Will if you have, this next message, is for you.
I have a confession to make. I hate running. I love walking, I just hate running. There’s something about the impact and breathing so heavy and sweating and the muscles aching and… It doesn’t matter how often I’ve tried it, I just don’t like it. Now if you’re a runner, I don’t mean to offend you, go for it. It’s just not for me. So when I hear people talk about a fun run I think to myself, ‘what’s the matter with you? I mean, are you nuts or something? How can you put ‘fun’ and ‘run’ in the same breathe?’
When I was in the army. Particularly in those early years when I was training to be an officer. We were young and incredibly fit. Even then I hated running. And there’s one thing I know about running. When your heart feels like it’s going to explode in your chest and when you’re hot and tired and thirsty and aching and you’ve got blisters. When you’ve lost sight of why it is that you’re even running and you can’t even imagine stumbling over the finish line.
There’s just one thing you want to do. You want to stop. You want to pull over and sit down under a shady tree and have a drink and give it all away. And I know because I’ve been there so many times. Running races, when I was in the army and running that one race that matters more than any of them. The race we call life. I’ve been there so many times, as well, in that race called life. Where I just wanted to pull over and give up.
And my hunch is so have you. It doesn’t matter what kind of a race we’re in. Whether it’s studying to finish a course at school or college. Whether it’s bringing up children or perhaps working. It’s so hard. And then there’s life itself. So many people set off with great hopes and dreams and ideals. So many people set off on a relationship with God. They hear about Jesus. They go, “Wow, yeah, I believe that. That kind of works for me.”
So off we head. But what we soon discover is that it’s like running a race. It’s hard sometimes. And the further you go, the harder it seems to get. And the hearts pounding and every muscle’s aching and we’re out of breathe and before you know it, you want to pull over and stop. Sit down under a tree. It’s the logical thing to do, right? But what might surprise you to know or maybe you knew it already. But in the hurly burly of the race, it’s easily forgotten. Is this: that’s exactly what Jesus promised. Have a listen to this. He said,
Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)
It’s kind of counter intuitive, isn’t it? I mean you would think that God is God and if Jesus is who He said He was, that when we decide to follow Him, it should be much easier than it is. But it’s not. It wasn’t meant to be. A lot of times it’s really tough. And this week on the program we’re going to share some things with you to nourish your heart. To put those tough times into perspective.
I know there are people who want to give up that race. The very race that’s more important than any other. The one at the end of which lies the prize of eternal life. So if you’re after some sugar candy, fairy flossy kind of Christian spirituality, this is definitely not for you. But if your soul is dry and aching and you’re yearning for some nourishment. You just want some refreshment. If you’re aching and you want a fresh breathe from God and a new hope and life deep in your spirit. Then this is definitely one that you want to listen to. You definitely want to take this in.
I want to start today with something that Jesus said to His disciples. Have a listen, it’s so powerful.
As Jesus came out of the temple and He was going away, His disciples came to point out to Him the buildings of the temple. Then He asked them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another. All will be thrown down.”
When He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately saying, “Tell us, when will this be and what will be the sign of your coming at the end of the age?” 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 rumours 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, kingdom against kingdom. There’ll be famines and earthquakes in various places. All this is but the beginning of the birth pangs. Then they will hand you over to be tortured and you’ll be put to death and you’ll be hated by all the nations because of my name. Then many will fall away and they will betray one another and hate one another. 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. (Matthew 24:1-13)
The temple that He’s talking about took decades to build. It was the heart. It was the centre of Israel’s belief in God. Up on the hill there, it was where Gods presence dwelt. They couldn’t imagine that it would ever be gone. And yet, just a few decades after Jesus said that, in AD 70, it was destroyed never to be rebuilt again.
See what Jesus is describing to them is an uncertain world. A world where their faith in God would not have the, the rock solid foundations of the temple. A world of turmoil. A world where things were not what they seemed. A world where people would come proclaiming seductive truths. People doing it in Gods name yet they’d be false prophets. Wars and rumours of wars and people betraying one another. Lawlessness. A world of birth pangs.
See, this is our world He’s describing. Yours and mine. A world where you and I have every reason to let our love for Jesus grow cold but listen again to what He says to them. In Matthew chapter 24, verse 13 “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
See sometimes, sometimes we use the circumstances of life as an excuse to give up the race. We reason, “Well, if God is God, it should be easier than this, shouldn’t it? If God is God, my husband should love me, my finances shouldn’t be in a mess. My son or my daughter shouldn’t be on drugs or my family shouldn’t be fleeing another war into the hopelessness of a refuge camp or …”
Do you see? We have these rose coloured expectations of what it means to be one of Gods people. And when those expectations aren’t met, we want to use that as an excuse to give up. But Jesus never, ever promised His disciples that sort of a life. Some cushy, easy life. In fact, the exact opposite is true. He said to them, “They will hand you over to be tortured. You’ll be put to death and you’ll be hated by all the nations because of my name. Many will fall away. Many will be betray each other and hate each other. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
Wow! You know, the more you step out and you live your life for Jesus, the more the shell fire and the flack comes your way. But listen again to Jesus own words. He said, “Remember I am with you until the end of the age.”
What you’re going through in your life right now, it’s no surprise to God. And it’s definitely no excuse for pulling over and giving up the race. So what’s the answer here? Hang in there. Here it is. This is what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians chapter 1, verse 8:
He will also strengthen you to the end so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
See, that’s the answer. Hang in there. Let Jesus have His way. Let Him make you strong.