What do you do when the dark shadow of impending doom obscures your world, when darkness steals the light and threatens to undo all that you have built, acquired, cultivated?
I grew up in tornado country, where radio and TV stations broadcast frequent watches and warnings. We developed a good sense of atmospheric awareness when tornadic conditions were developing and with that awareness we also developed a “ho hum” attitude towards these twisting destroyers. We believed that we were impervious to the black funnel clouds that ripped through other communities, other cities in other states. We were sure of it: no tornado would ever threaten or visit our home.
Something horrible had happened in the night, and I had no way of knowing what scenes would greet me on my arrival home.
But once, after concluding a business meeting in Houston I was driving north on Interstate 35 when I picked up a radio station signal from my hometown. The news was bad: A tornado had thrashed through my city in the night hours. Specific information was unavailable. I only knew that destruction had come in spite of my certainty of our invulnerability. There was nothing I could do except drive and pray.
I prayed for my family and my neighbors. This calamity happened years before the advent of the cell phone and so I stopped at every gas station I saw looking for the then ubiquitous phone booth. I dialed the numbers only to learn that telephone lines were down, preventing me from knowing about casualties or damage. Something horrible had happened in the night, and I had no way of knowing what scenes would greet me on my arrival home.
As it turned out we were blessed as a city and as a family. Although there was much property damage the fierce winds caused few injuries.
Planet earth is reeling as 2014 draws towards its conclusion. Catastrophic and terrible events jostle for attention as the media attempts to quantify and qualify accelerating and intensifying tragic incidences. We are bombarded 24 hours a day with tragedy and calamity, with dread and with portents of doom.
Words that never existed in our vocabulary are now spoken by the least informed among us: “Ebola,” “ISIS,” “Al Qaeda,” “Al Shabab” have become household names. Fears of economic catastrophe, wild, unpredictable and devastating weather events jockey for our attention and threaten to upset our lives and our livelihoods. For believers in Jesus, persecution grows each day from a hazy, distant recognition of possibility to real, potential intimidation.
Satan’s goal . . . destabilize, disrupt, demoralize
Jesus’ prediction of a time when men’s hearts would fail them “from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth” seems to have arrived amidst our generation. Then, He said, “the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
Satan’s goal, if he cannot overwhelm the people of God is to destabilize, to disrupt and to demoralize Christ’s followers until they either fold in fear or scatter in confusion.
Two thousand years ago, when the cross had been shorn of its burden of death and when Jesus’ body had been removed and relocated to its apparent resting place, the disciples of Jesus seemed to be followers no more. History records that these disappeared from public view. Hiding away during those hours between the lordship of death and the Lord of resurrection, “men’s hearts” failed them from fear and the expectation of those things which were coming on the earth.”
During the three days between crucifixion and resurrection, “the powers of the heavens” were indeed “shaken.”
The strongest of the disciples hid “for fear of the Jews.” The disciples were “afar off,” putting distance between themselves and the One who hung on the cross. They had been with Him, had been seen with Him, what if they were next to die as He had died?
Scripture records “He appeared to them.” “He stood in their midst.” “Although the doors were locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them: Peace be with you.”
Have you locked your doors to the infiltrations of the world? Have you hidden away “for fear” of the enemies of God? Do portents of evil debilitate and drain away your strength? If so, be prepared for Jesus to “appear” to you, to stand in your midst in spite of locked doors and amplified fears and to speak to you the words of life, “Peace be with you.”
It was He, the Prince of Peace who said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
His word to us on this day in 2014 is the same as it was to His followers two thousand years ago: “… in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Heaven’s message to God’s children resonates in the midst of an atmosphere of growing dread: “Have patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations, and endure.” “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble” and He will give we who are troubled rest when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels.”
And if you can receive it, Jesus is revealed today, in this moment, as your eyes read these words and as your spirit awakens to His presence. And as He appears, peace flows out, surrounding and comforting and encouraging you to rest in the arms of the Prince of Peace.
This world will be shaken to its very foundation. Everything that can be shaken will be shaken, but those who have established their lives and their futures on the Rock of Jesus Himself shall never be shaken and shall never fall. The One who upholds all things by the word of His power, Himself guarantees it.