Click play to listen to the audio version of this sermon.
It is easy to believe when everything is going well.
• It is easy to believe that God loves you when the lines that trace out your life fall in pleasant places.
• It is easy to have the peace of God that surpasses all human understanding when everything is peaceful and calm and everyone is getting along with each other.
• It is easy to be content with your situation in life when your financial situation is sound and your portfolio is secure.
• It is easy to pray when your body is healthy and your mind is clear.
• It’s easy to say, ‘I am a Christian’ when you are in a Christian community and most of those present say the same.
• It’s easy to take a stand on the moral issues of the day when to do so poses no real risk to your job or your friendships.
It is easy to believe when things are going well.
“One of His disciples said to Him, ‘Look Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”
But what happens when things are not going well?
• What happens to your belief that God loves you and cares for you when things go wrong; and not just one thing, but one thing after another?
• What happens to that ‘peace of God’ when the office and the classroom and the home are like three pots of boiling tensions and emotions and you jump from one into the another?
• What happens to that ‘contentment with your situation in life’ when there’s not enough money to pay the bills and the credit card is maxed out and now the car won’t run and the water heater just busted?
• What happens to your praying when you’re sick and it’s all you can do to get through this hour or this day or the next test or next treatment?
• What happens to your bold confession of faith when you’re outnumbered by those who are hostile to Christians because they are so arrogant as to insist that there is only one true religion?
• What happens to your bravery to take a stand on certain moral issues when to do so will surely mean rejection?
What happens to your faith when things are not going well?
“Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
Faith is the trust of the heart in the promises of God. Faith is a gift that is given freely, by the Holy Spirit, in Holy Baptism and through the hearing of the Gospel. This gift of faith is what opens our heart like the gates of a dam to receive the blessings of God –
• the comfort of His presence,
• the joy of His peace,
• the security of His care,
• the relief in His forgiveness for our sins,
• the hope in His power to heal our illnesses,
• the confidence in His protection,
• the contentment of knowing that God works all things for good in the lives of those who love Him.
All of this is packaged in that gift from God that is called ‘faith,’– the trust of the heart in the promises of God.
But anyone who thinks that faith is not affected by the conditions and situations and circumstances that surround us is either over-medicated or dead. Because really, only the dead are truly unfazed by their surroundings.
And so take heart, one day we will all die.
• And the struggle will be over and all of the conditions and situations and circumstances that surround us in this life will evaporate
• and there will be heaven and glory and indescribable joy
• and everlasting peace
• and permanent security
• and perfect contentment
• and holy, holy, holy worship and praise and thanksgiving with angels, archangels and all the company of heaven.
When we die, our faith will finally reach its goal, the goal that it could never attain as long as we remain alive and in this world.
• Then, suddenly, in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, everything will be ‘new,’
• and we shall be like Him and we shall see Him as He is
• and all of the promises of God will be fully realized
• and Jesus will be all in all,
• every condition, every situation, every circumstance will be Jesus, and only Jesus.
But until then, we live by faith.
• Faith, that is constantly being challenged and attacked and threatened, by the conditions and situations and circumstances in which we live.
• And just to be sure we understand each other, we’re not talking about things like when the mini-van broke down on the way to the grocery store or your favorite team lost the meet or the election that didn’t go the way you wanted it to.
• We’re talking about the things that strike at the heart of your faith, your trust in the promises of God because they seem to be aimed directly at you.
We’re talking those things that cause us to worry about our life even though Jesus says, “do not worry about your life….” (Mat.6:25)
• That make us afraid, even though Jesus says, “fear not, little flock…” (Lk.12:32).
• That make us so angry and frustrated and depressed that we raise our fist to the sky and say, ‘if God really loves me why does He let this happen to me,’ even though Jesus says, “as the Father has loved me so I have loved you, abide in my love.” (John 15:9)
• That make us wonder if God’s promises are really true and raise certain doubts about His Word and tempt us to wonder, does God even exist, even though Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:1).
Do you think that Jesus does not know this? Do you think that He does not understand that conditions and situations and circumstances have the power to steal that precious gift of faith that He has given to us?
Listen to Him describe our life.
‘Many will come in my name saying, ‘I am he.’ And there will be ‘wars and rumors of war,’ ‘nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.’ There will be ‘earthquakes, famines.’ And ‘they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten, and you will stand before governors and kings.’ ‘And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.”
If all of this meant that the end was just around the corner and all you have to do is hang in there for just a little bit longer, it wouldn’t be quite so bad. If only these were the signs that the light at the end of the tunnel was just around the bend. But Jesus says, “this must take place but the end is not yet.” “These are but THE BEGINNINGS of birth pains.” This is just the beginning! Things are only going to get worse.
And they are going to get worse for several reasons. First, because the devil is real, and in the world, and he wants to devour the faith that binds you to the promises of God and to His Word and to His Sacraments. And he will do everything in his power to wreak as much havoc upon your life as possible. Because the devil also knows that the conditions and situations and circumstances that surround you have the power to steal your joy and contentment and peace and security and prayer and faith in the promises of God.
And second, because of sin, the sin that is in each one of us and the sin that has been absorbed into the very fabric of the world.
• The selfishness in each one of us that demands that I do whatever is good for me, regardless of the harm it may cause others.
• The idolatry in each one of us that believes that the real remedy for our problems and solution to all our troubles lies in governments and courts and laws and politicians and the economy.
• The vanity in each one of us that believes that man can control the conditions and situations and circumstances of his life with enough science and technology and the right economic theory.
Do you think that Jesus doesn’t know this? Do you think that He doesn’t see all of this?
Listen, to Him. “See that no one leads you astray.” While all of this is going on all around us and in us, He says, “Be on your guard.” Even as these things touch you and strike you and torture you, He says, “Do not be anxious.”
And here’s why. In the midst of a world that is going from bad to worse and in the midst of all of the conditions and situations and circumstances that surround you, “the gospel is being preached to all nations.”
• The gospel that proclaims that God has entered into His creation, and into the conditions and circumstances and situations of your life to make all things new.
The gospel is the good news that:
• ‘Christ has overcome the devil,’
• ‘Christ has forgiven all of your sins,’
• ‘Christ is with you to the end of the age.’
• ‘Christ is working all things for good in the lives of those who love Him.’
• ‘Christ is in you and you are in Christ and nothing will separate His love from you.
But the end of all suffering and pain and destruction and sorrow and sin and death is not going to come until the Gospel is preached to “all nations.” And so you should be sure to let “all nations” begin with you.
• For “the promise is FOR YOU and for YOUR CHILDREN and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:39)
• “And this is the promise that I will make with YOU … declares the Lord, ‘I will put my laws on YOUR heart, and write them on YOUR mind.’
• ‘I will remember YOUR sins and YOUR lawless deeds no more.’
• “This is my body given FOR YOU.”
• “This is my blood, shed FOR YOU.”
• “Behold the dwelling place of God is with YOU. He will dwell with YOU and YOU will be His people, and God Himself will be with YOU as your God. He will wipe every tear from YOUR EYES, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning more crying nor pain anymore, for the former things, the lies and the deceptions, the sickness and disease, the wars and the rumors of war, the nations against nations, the earthquakes and the famines, have passed away.” (Rev.21:2-4)
Jesus’ admonition to His disciples is His admonition to each one of us. “The one who endures to the end will be saved.”
Ah, but we like sheep go astray. We are weak and easily tempted and endurance is not our strong suit.
• By our own power, none of us can endure for a day let along to the end.
But the gospel is being preached to all nations. And the gospel proclaims that:
• “Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Heb.12:2).
• That “He who has begun a good work in us will bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil.1:6).
• That “He is the cornerstone upon which the whole foundation rests” and cannot be shaken.
“He who endures to the end shall be saved.”
So, “let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25).