REST IN TIMES OF TROUBLE
2 Thessalonians 1:7 “And to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels.”
Even for well disciplined persons, we can all agree, that we are living in the midst of distress and highly contentious days.
There are so many misguided people out there, many of which have a huge
platform that allows them to stir up trouble and to sow the seeds of hatred and division, just for the sport of it, who do not care in the least if their rhetoric harm others.
However, if we understand the spirit behind it, it will make it easy for us Christians to understand what all this chaos is all about and help us not to get caught up in the emotional turbulence of these last days.
Proverbs 10:12 “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.”
The root of all the contentions that flare up constantly all over the world is the spirit of hatred, but as long as the spirit of love and forgiveness has the upper hand, the strife is contained.
But if it seems that strife and contentions are ruling the day, maybe it is because we are living in the last days, because Jesus told us that during the last days the love of many would grow cold.
Matthew 24:12 “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”
So the key for us believers is not to get caught up in the emotional hatred of the day, but rather continue in love, forgiving one another, even as the Lord forgave us all and gave to us His unconditional pardon.
I know that for many of you out there, you may feel that the hatred and contentions of these last days will not have a direct impact on your personal life, but you have to remember that most people think that way, and if by chance you happen to get caught up in it, because of your failure to prepare yourself for such an occasion, you may end up failing to respond properly in your heart with the spirit of love and compassion, and instead you may lose your composure and respond with evil intent.
When the Bay of Pigs invasion took place in Cuba in 1961, I was just 14 years old. Castro’s soldiers came to our house and arrested my dad and brother who was eight years older than me; I guess I was too young so they did not take me.
They arrested everyone that they thought might be a threat to them, even though we lived far from the place where the invasion took place. Their strategy was to lock up everybody that might join with the invading forces in an uprising against the communist government.
They took all the people that they arrested and put them in the yard of a government owned building. They put machine guns facing them in the two corners of the yard facing the building, and were ordered to shoot them if an invasion started near our town. I was there on the street watching in unbelief, looking as it all took place.
Then communist agitators started fanning the flames of hatred toward those innocent people of the town, whose only crime was that they had not previously joined the communist militia in support of Castro.
A large crowd of people had gathered on the street to see, like I had, all that was taking place. To my amazement the people of the town who knew the innocence of those who were locked there for no good reason, all of the sudden under the impulse of those communist agitators who were calling out for vengeance, joined them, calling out loud for the execution of those who were locked in the yard.
I was there, in their midst, looking at them and saying to myself, that is my dad and my brother in there, how could you say that, but they were blinded by such a strong hatred that all they wanted was blood. I will never forget that day as long as I live, and thankfully the invasion did not come any where near us, so that eventually, after two weeks most of them were released, including my dad and brother.
Who were the people in the crowd? Some of them were our very own neighbors. I remember thinking, as they were loudly chanting for the execution of innocent blood, the many times that my dad had so selflessly helped many of those in the crowd in their hour of need, for it was a small town of about three thousand people.
But you see there is no reasoning with the spirit of hate, and the only protection against it is for us not to get emotionally involved with the propagation of such hatred, for those agitators can get pretty good at it.
1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
When the believers were first filled with the Holy Spirit, many thought that they were drunk with wine, but under the influence of the Spirit of Love those believers transformed the world for the good of all mankind.
Those in the crowd back in 1961, that were calling for the murder of innocent people appeared to me to be drunk as well, however their intoxication came as the result of them partaking of the venom of hate.
By telling us to be sober, Peter means for us not to get intoxicated with the venom of hatred and strife that the world is constantly peddling.
Remember that Peter was an eyewitness of that hatred, as he was there, present, when those who were so blinded by their hatred took our Lord away and beat Him into a bloody mess.
What about all the injustices that are continuously taking place?
2 Thessalonians 1:6 “Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you.”
God always has the final say. That is why He has appointed a day for every single individual to appear before Him in final judgment. Nobody gets away with anything, for if they repent and our Lord forgives them, then the sufferings that our Lord endured on behalf of all mankind pay in full for their misdeeds as well as ours; now that is something that we should all be glad about.
Hebrews 9:27 “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”
Now those of us who are in Christ have already been judged and have already passed into life eternal, though it does not yet appear like we have, because we are still here in this world.
John 11:26 “And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
So that the only reason that we are still here is for our presence to be a restraining force against the spirit of strife and lawlessness that wants to intoxicate the whole world and drive them into killing each other.
2 Thessalonians 2:7 “For the mystery of lawlessness (hatred stirs up strife) is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.”
What restrains the mystery of lawlessness, which is nothing more than hatred stirring up strife, is the Holy Spirit that is within us, His church. Once the Holy Spirit takes the church away to meet the Lord in the clouds, His restraining presence is removed as well.
What that means is that we are privileged to exercise God’s restraining power over all these demonically manufactured crises, through our prayers of binding and loosing that which God has already foreordained to be bound and to be loosed.
But how can we be effective in this ministry of restraining and reconciliation if we ourselves get caught up in the vileness and hatred that is so pervasive out there?
2 Thessalonians 3:1-3 “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.
The evil one is a master at manipulating human emotions and does not care who is right or who is wrong. All that he is interested in is causing hatred to flourish, for that is what stirs up strife and contentions.
I once heard screaming outside of my kitchen window that looked into the street to see a fight had broken out between three or four teenage boys. And in the middle of the chaos from inside my kitchen window I prayed:
Lord, this is my neighborhood, I bind every spirit of contention that is at work right now between those boys and in my street.
Immediately the fracas stopped, amazingly they started to converse as to what offenses they had committed against one another, and it was then that they saw the whole thing as a simple misunderstanding and shook hands in friendship. Needless to say my jaw dropped, as I turn to my wife who was standing next to me and asked her, did that really happened?
I was just praying instinctively, but even in my best faith posture I did not expect such immediate results, yet there it was, once the spirit of contention was removed, animosity slipped away and reason prevailed.
Imagine the power that the church has if we can just come together in the spirit of unity and enforce our restraining power over all the power of lawlessness that has engulfed our land!