Are You Surprised?
We have heard it a thousand times: Our world is falling apart. If there is one thing that all people, whether Christians or non-Christians, agree upon it is that statement. Everyone looks on our world today with a grimace, longing for the good ol’ days. Last week in Turkey, a pair of earthquakes literally rocked the nation, with the death toll being in the tens of thousands (and climbing). The recent Grammy awards featured a hit song about adultery which was portrayed in a satanic fashion and applauded by all in attendance. The war between Russia and Ukraine continues with no end in sight, and diplomatic relations between many countries are extremely tense. Optimism for the next generation is at an all-time low, while depression, suicide, and drug-related deaths are at an all-time high.
It seems as if every news cycle gets darker and darker, and the issues seem to pile up. One can hardly swallow the chilling news about a national tragedy before being ushered into a natural disaster or other global problem. For many, it is even harder to grasp when it affects their own small community. I often hear the same statement: “I never thought I would see that here.”
The reality is, sin is everywhere, and it is only going to get worse. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, had this to say (all the way back in the first century AD, I might add!):
…know this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, without gentleness, without love for good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God… (2 Timothy 3:1-4)
This was originally written to Timothy, a young pastor at the church in Ephesus. Timothy was well-versed in doctrine but had little ministry experience, particularly when it came to dealing with the dangers and ever-increasing sinfulness of the world. Paul, however, was a seasoned veteran in those areas and reminded Timothy of the persecution he faced (2 Timothy 3:11), and even warned Timothy bluntly that the evils described in verses 1-4 will “proceed from bad to worse.”
I’m sure Timothy thought, “Worse?! How could it get any worse?!?” Yet Paul encourages him to continue in his devotion to God’s Word, which is instructive in all aspects of life (2 Timothy 3:14-17). From this, we can draw two major principles.
Do not be surprised, Christian
You would think that the church, being only a couple decades old at this point in Paul’s life, would be happy and problem-free. Seriously. We saw how positively things were going for the church in the book of Acts. Thousands were getting saved! But sin runs rampant, and Paul knew this well. In the early portion of his letter to the Roman church, Paul laid out the destructive sinfulness of society (Romans 1:18-32), to the point where those who lived according to the world had become “haters of God” (v. 30). Sin is pervasive, and it doesn’t take long for it to wreak havoc.
This principle can be traced all the way back to the first few pages of Scripture. From the first sin of mankind to the horrific murder of God’s image is only one generation (From Adam and Eve to their two sons, Cain and Abel). After that, a mere two chapters separate the first murder and the fact that “every intent of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 4 records the murder; Genesis 6:5 records this deeply rooted sinful nature of man.) Sin seems to grow at an exponential rate!
Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise us when the sins of the world increase. This fact, of course, does not negate the sadness that follows in the wake of sin. It is not a joyous occasion when we hear of yet another life-ending incident, but we cannot act as if it would never happen. It is impossible to hide from sin. It is everywhere around us, and the destruction it causes is nothing new.
So if we cannot hide from it or run from it, how do we deal with it?
Do not fear, Christian
I had a chilling realization the other day that I could possibly end up imprisoned for my faith at some point in my life. Given the current path our world is on, that possibility grows more likely each day. This thought doesn’t scare me, however. In fact, it invigorates me for the truth. But why?
Paul tells Timothy that in spite of the dire circumstances, Timothy should “continue in the things you learned…which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). He then concludes the section by reassuring Timothy that “all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be equipped, having been thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). While the world falls apart, Timothy ought to follow what he has learned, because it points to salvation. Not only that, but the Scriptures Timothy studied have value in all aspects of life.
Essentially, the utter depravity of man has no foothold on the true and inexhaustible Word of God. Since Scripture provides the means of overcoming sin, namely through the imputed righteousness of Christ, there is nothing in this sinful world that can compare to God’s Holy Word. To take this a step further, God’s Word not only stands superior to the sins of this world, but it also provides the truth in every discipline and season of life.
This is where the road divides for Christians and non-Christians alike who see the depravity of mankind. Non-Christians look at this depravity with hopelessness, while Christians look at this depravity with expectant joy. Non-Christians search and search for an answer to the problems in this life, while Christians stand boldly and declare what the answer is!
So when faced with persecution and trials resulting from the sinfulness of man, I can boldly declare the gospel found in God’s Word, for the gospel has defeated sin and death, and it has not, nor will it fail. Sure, I may encounter suffering and persecution, but I do not live in the sorrow and fear of the world, I live in the joy and delight of the Lord. The Psalmist says, “Yahweh is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me? Yahweh is for me among those who help me; therefore I will look in triumph on those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in Yahweh than to trust in man” (Psalm 118:6-8).
Through all the calamities and failures of the world, I do not stand in shock and fear that sin is raging; I live in joy that God has overcome, and that He will care for me and guide me into glory with Him.