Rough Road Ahead
“And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives.”Acts 27:10
Originally Posted March 20, 2016
The bad part about being a Bible-believer is that you know how the journey ends. Unrepentant sinners go to hell. Saved sinners are taken to Heaven. The wages of sin is death. The devil loses when the Lord returns. Earth is smelted, and recreated. The sad part is that that knowledge hasn’t solved a problem since the Garden of Eden.
Let’s scope it out: believing the Bible means you are pre-millennial. (No, that does not have anything to do with when you were born) That means you believe the Scriptures that the Lord Jesus will return before He rules and reigns for a thousand years. And that means He, and He alone, brings in the kingdom and peace to earth. And THAT, my dear friends, means that things will get much worse before they get better.
The prognosis is: “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:13) No matter who is elected as president of the United States, no matter what wars are won or forfeited in the next few days, notwithstanding the local revival your church experiences, or mine, we have only this reassurance: it must get darker before the Light dawns on this world.
What motivation do we have then, knowing that the end result will not ‘bring in the kingdom’ or worldwide evangelization, or peace on earth?
First, we have to accept that the greatest incentive we have is not winning the war. The earth’s population now stands at over 7 billion souls. This lost world is reproducing sons of Adam far quicker than they can be reached, let alone be reborn. The gospel is accepted by only a small percent of those who hear it (25%, to be exact: see Mark 4). The prophecy of the Great Tribulation restates the ominous certainty that there will be many left behind. The world that crucified Jesus Christ will, ‘all hail’ the Prince of darkness. They do not want the Lord Jesus for their King, as they said, “we have no King but Caesar.” No, a universal turning to God and worldwide conversion is not how this age ends.
It goes so contrary to nature, this Christian outlook. No sports team is motivated to lose. No war is declared that is not intended to be won. No job is taken in the hopes that it will be a flop. We are bound to think positively, and lift our spirits with the prospect that we will win, we will survive, we can make it! Yet the Lord knows our limitations, and our pride, and instead of leaving it totally to the catalyst of our success, He leads us instead into the Christians’ last stand in the valley of the shadow of death.
Paul, by the will of God, was headed for shipwreck and snakebite and a life sentence. He foresaw the rough roads ahead, but it was beyond his power to change the course, and he was “bound in the spirit”. Despite this, he remained cheerful and joyful. I believe he found his inner strength from these three hopeful motivators.
He was motivated in the face of danger because he was pioneering the way for others.
Paul was not the first martyr, but he lived through more suffering than any Christian had had to that point. He took all the licks, knowing it wouldn’t get better, only worse. And Paul walked through that fire, and blazed that trail for the Timothy’s and Titus’ and Epaphroditus’ that would follow him.
When a man becomes a father, he hasn’t the same natural instincts that a mother has right away. It is not until he begins to see his son as his personal student that the instincts kick in.
No man is braver than when he shows his son how to have courage- no man is wiser than when he imparts knowledge to his son- no man is so chivalrous as when he ‘plays the man’ for someone who is soon to model his behaviour. We are challenged to do our best, when we are followed. I believe this is a greater motivator than success could ever offer.
Paul was motivated in the face of degrading conditions by underdog-ism.
The Lord knows that carnal weapons can’t win in this warfare- they must be mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. The Lord knows, and proved through Paul, that when we are weak, then are we strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10) Christian victories aren’t won by over-powering the enemy, but over-praying them.
Paul says a pastor should be ‘no striker’. He advises to ‘follow peace with all men’. He encourages praying for demon-possessed authorities and wickedness in high places primarily to ‘live a quiet…life’. Paul describes Christians as sheep sent to the slaughter, and the Lord Jesus himself was the Lamb of God- though he was the Lion of Judah. The doctrine of the New Testament is that believers are harmless as doves, as sheep sent among wolves. (2 Timothy 3:3, Hebrews 12:14, 1 Timothy 2:1-2, Romans 8:36, John 1:29, Matthew 10:16)
We are the underdogs.
But it is exactly the overwhelming odds of being the underdog that pushes a man to his best work. Captain A. R. “Roy” Brown was a volunteer fighter pilot from Toronto, Canada during World War 1 in the British Royal Air Force. He was a novice ‘ace’ with only 11 confirmed victories compared to Germany’s ace of aces, Manfred von Richthofen– The Red Baron– who totaled 80 kills in his career. Capt. Brown should have been grounded due to stomach ulcers that would later end his flying career, but he stubbornly refused to surrender to the illness.
On April 21, 1918, Capt. Brown’s squadron of 15 biplanes was engaged by the Red Baron and his ‘Flying Circus;’ 35 of Germany’s most lethal aerial hunters. Lieutenant Wilfred R. May was in Brown’s group on this day, a combat pilot-in-training who was ordered to stay out of any dogfight and to merely observe. However, in the confusion, Lt. May was lured into the fray and found himself in the sights of the Baron himself. Capt. Brown saw the plight of the young pilot, and, turning from two other enemies he had taken on, he dove to the rescue of Lieutenant May, and strafed the cockpit of the Baron’s red triplane, killing the most feared and the most skilled adversary of World War 1.
Three days later, Capt. Brown was hospitalized due to his ulcers, and would never fly in aerial combat again. His illness became, not his reason for giving up, but his motive for self-sacrifice. Ultimately, it made him the hero of the day.
Problems come to drive us to dependency on Divine power. The Lord knows how rough the battles are, and how intense they will become. If we were always empowered with WINNING, and felt no pain of defeat, would we not lose our desperation for God’s help and reinforcement? Would we not lose our hope and anticipation of His swift return?
When a man loses his life in a cause, he finds in his end more satisfaction than a continued life could bring.
Tertullian wrote, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Jesus said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 16:25) David, the shepherd, willing to risk it all to battle Goliath, cried, “Is there not a cause?” And I ask you, knowing the battle will not be won here and now, what goal are you pressing towards? Where will you take your last stand?
Former American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon on July 20, 1969. Armstrong died in 2012, and Aldrin, presently in his 90’s, (2021) will never again visit another planet, let alone colonize outer space– but they left the Star-Spangled Banner, OUR FLAG, on the MOON. Isn’t that incredible? If the USA should fall tomorrow on earth, our enemies would be reminded every night that America made it farther, faster, and we left our mark. What a fantastic legacy!
Paul said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:” (2 Timothy 4:7) He didn’t say he had WON, he said he FOUGHT. He didn’t say he finished the course, but he did finish ‘my course.’ He didn’t claim to have converted the world for Christ, but he ‘kept the faith.’
We run in a race against a ‘time trial:’ what will you accomplish before He returns? We are living in the best years to be saved: the battles are there for the choosing, “a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.” (1 Corinthians 16:9) A crown awaits the Christian soldier who goes a little farther before he is called home.
Christian, do not hide simply because it’s getting darker. Don’t quit because the roads are getting rougher. Stand up. Press on.
His banner over us is love, Our sword the Word of God; We tread the road the saints above with shouts of triumph trod. By faith, they like a whirlwind's breath Swept on over every field; The faith by which they conquered Death is still our shining shield! -John Yates