9 “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. 12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 “When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out. 16 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 17 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 18 Pray that this will not take place in winter, 19 because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again. 20 “If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. 21 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 23 So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time. 24 “But in those days, following that distress, “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; 25 the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ 26 “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
This passage bursts my preconceptions.
I hear Jesus talking about his followers being handed over and beaten, and my immediate reaction is “I hope not”. But Jesus doesn’t say “if”, he says “when”. I go on to think “that sounds bad”, but Jesus says it’s good because it is my opportunity to tell them about him. So I start worrying about what I would say, but Jesus says “just say what God tells you at the time”.
I’m excellent at knowing just what to say when an opportunity to talk about God comes up – about a day after I should have said it. Clearly I need to practice hearing now, when it’s easy, so I’ll be ready when it gets hard.
If I want to be able to tell false Messiahs from the real one when it really counts, I need to get to know him really well now.
If I want to know when to stand and when to flee when things are tough, I need to be letting him direct my life now when it’s easy.
Conflict with the world is inevitable if I follow Jesus. I’m blessed that the conflict for me is mild compared to what it has been for others (such as the disciples Jesus was speaking to), or compared what it might be in the future. But I’ve decided now that I will continue to follow him when it’s harder. That’s not a decision to make when my world is falling in.
Jesus, teach me to hear you more clearly; to see the opportunity; to expect you to win through when things look desperate.
Written by David Cornell