by Walter Olsen
As the world moves on to ever increasing ungodliness and Christians face the real prospect of persecution and suffering, can we still be thankful? Of course, we don’t know what a month or day will hold for us, but we see the obvious direction the world is going. Believers in many parts of the world are being tortured and put to death. In our country, the Christian message is being sidelined and ridiculed. Believers are being marginalized because they believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the One who lived a sinless life, was crucified for our sins, and was raised again from the dead. The world despises this message because it does not fit their scheme for the world.
The goal of the world system is a one world government, a one world economy, and a one world religion. It is a world under the total control of the elite with no room for God. Thus, gospel preaching churches and believers must be silenced, sometimes by persecution or even put to death. Jesus said to the church of Smyrna “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried...be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).
In light of Biblical prophecy and what we see going on in the world about us, the believer has so much to be thankful for! The purpose of this article is to discuss some of the things believers have to be thankful for in spite of the darkness and danger about them.
They can still be thankful that their names are written down in the book of life. Our names are recorded in many places including birth certificates, schools with perhaps many accomplishments, graduation diplomas, employment records and any number of other places. All of them may be significant for various reasons, but none is more important than our names being written in the book of life. Jesus said to His disciples who were victorious in their ministry, “Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
The recording of a name is usually associated with some reason of significance. Nothing can be more significant than the recording of one’s name in the book of life. Such recording is associated with one’s faith in the Person of Jesus Christ.
When one’s world is crumbling all about him or her, there is one thing that will never crumble or be destroyed and that is our relationship to Jesus Christ. God can never be diminished or destroyed because He is the one and only true, eternal, holy, unchangeable God! To be identified with Him by faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross is to be forever identified in all that He is. We stand in righteousness before the Father because we stand before Him in the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ. “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21).
Sometimes names are crossed off a list for various reasons such as moving to a new location, being fired from a job, being released from a hospital stay, or death. The really good news is that the believer’s name will never be erased from the Lamb’s Book of life. Jesus said of His disciples who believed in Him, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand” (Jn. 10:27-28).
Can we still praise and thank Him when all else seems to be lost? Yes, because what we have in God can never be lost and what we have is the most precious of possessions!
They can still be thankful because they have an eternal home in heaven. This is similar to the above point, but yet needs a bit of clarification. For the believer, this world we presently live in is not our eternal home. Paul clarified this when he said, “For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). The believer has an eternal, permanent home in heaven. Today, many properties are being looted and burned. There will be no looting and burning of homes in heaven!
We don’t know what our new homes in heaven will be like , but we know they are wonderful because they have been created by God Himself. Since God loves His children, we can only imagine what they will be like. On the other hand, we really can’t imagine what they will be like because no one can clearly know the mind of God except what is revealed in His Word. We can rest in the fact that, whatever is of God, will be wonderful beyond our ability to comprehend while we are still on earth. Our rest is in the purpose and greatness of God Himself.
In this life, we sometimes grieve because of the necessity of having to leave our homes for various reasons. We often love what we have become used to and any thought of change is painful. In heaven, we will never have to leave the homes God has prepared for us. In heaven, things never become old or worn out. This is a condition of a sinful world.
They can still be thankful because God is working out His plan for the world and the ages. It may seem to many that the world is falling apart and crumbling before our very eyes! From a human point of view, it would seem that all order and goodness is vanishing! What do we have to look forward to regarding the future? Is all sense of goodness and righteousness lost forever?
In spite of what appears to be the situation on earth, all is not lost and gone forever! If our hope is in the present world system, there is no hope, but the believer’s hope is not in the world system being played out before our very eyes. The believer’s hope is in God and His plan for the ages.
Actually, what is going on in the world all about us is not a mystery to the believer who knows anything about what God has said in His Word about the times of the future! We are presently living in the age of the church, the time from the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ until the time of His promised return for the church. When He does return, He will remove the church, the body of Christ [all who have personally trusted Him as their personal Savior] to their new home in heaven. This is not wishful thinking on part of those who just want to get out of this world, but is the promise of Jesus Christ Himself. “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (I Thess. 4:16-17).
Now, it is after this time particularly that the whole world is going to experience trouble and turmoil like never before. We have seen nothing compared to what the world will see after the rapture or taking away of the church. The book of Daniel speaks of this time, “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of Thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time...” (Daniel 12:1).
Many Christians believe that what is going on in the world today is a foreshadowing of the time of the tribulation. Even now we see world wide anarchy, a great disrespect for the truth of God’s word, and widespread deception. The world is looking for answers but in all the wrong places. The time will eventually come when the world will look for a strong leader who promises to solve all its problems. Such a one will be forthcoming, but he will not be a man of God but of Satan himself. While he promises peace and security, he will eventually unleash the greatest of persecution against Christians and the truth they hold to. While this may seem strange to some because they have never heard of it before, it is nonetheless the teaching of the Bible. The book of Revelation discloses much of this truth regarding the future.
How can the believer still be thankful in light of all that is going on and will go on? The answer is very encouraging; believers will be with the Lord in heaven during the time of the tribulation on the earth. Thus the Apostle Paul exhorted, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thess. 4:18).
They can still be thankful because there is yet time to witness to their loved ones. The greatest concern a believer has for the ones they love is the salvation of their souls. They may have many other desires for their loved ones, but none is greater than that they have personally trusted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Their well-being, both in their physical life on earth and in eternity depends upon their knowing Jesus Christ as their Savior. This is more than being comfortable that their loved ones are attending some kind of a church. No church in and of itself can grant eternal life; only Jesus can save! While there is time, Christians can still pray for and witness to their loved ones.
Remember Paul’s word regarding his fellow countrymen who were very religious but not born again, “For I could wish myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:3). Paul knew his religion did not save so he earnestly prayed for the salvation of his countrymen. In like manner, should not believers pray for the salvation of their loved ones who may be religious but are not truly born again?!
Indeed, though the world grows darker by the day, believers can still pray for loved ones to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
They can still rejoice in the fact that one day they will be delivered from their physical bodies of corruption. Yes, the bodies we live in are wonderful in so many ways, but they are still bodies of corruption. They are designed to be earthly bodies, not heavenly bodies. Thus, they become ill, and are subject to injury and death. The blessed truth, though, is that believers are promised to have heavenly, eternal bodies free from any kind of corruption and death. In speaking of the believer’s resurrection body, Paul said, “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption; It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body and there is a spiritual body” (I Cor. 15:42-44).
Paul further spoke of this truth when he said, “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself” (Phil. 3:20-21).
Yes, these natural bodies of ours, as wonderful as they may be, can give us a lot of grief and pain, but one day all such suffering will be over and we will have total freedom from all of its limitations! That is a truth worthy of rejoicing in, no matter what life brings our way.
They can still rejoice in the calmness of spirit believers may have in the midst of suffering. This seems a contradiction to anyone who is not a believer, but it is a blessed truth to those who know Jesus as Savior and who are truly walking in the Spirit. No one enjoys suffering, but still, the believer can have a calmness of spirit knowing that God is in control of all things. We know that God never loses control of any situation and that He will work His will in everything pertaining to our lives.
It is communion with God and knowledge of His Word that brings calmness to the believer’s soul. Remember the words of Jesus as we face the end of our natural lives, “‘Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you so. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (Jn. 14:1-3).
One of my favorite scriptures is the following, “Be careful [anxious] for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).
They can rejoice in the fact that this world we live in is really not the believer’s home! Sometimes our problem is that we get so attached to the world we live in that we tend to forget that we have been saved out of this world. Paul reminds us of the Father, “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son” (Col. 1:13). Again, believers no longer belong to this world system. Thus Paul reminds us, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Phil. 3:2). Eye exams often help us to see more accurately with our physical eyes. Perhaps a heart exam would help us to see more accurately what really has spiritual value.
Life can be very difficult sometimes. This can be especially true when we are faced with the possibility of losing all that has been so precious to us in our life. The good news is that the believer never loses that which is most precious to him, the things which are his possession in the Person of Jesus Christ. Perhaps this is a good time to consider our relationship to Him. Perhaps we have been more attached to the world about us than to God Himself; if that is true, than our losses in this life will seem overwhelming. If, on the other hand, we are secure in our relationship and walk with Him, then our earthly losses will dim in comparison to our gains in Jesus Christ!
October has been a month of contrasts and blessings. The contrast has been the change of seasons from summer to fall. The weather has changed from warm to chilly, sometimes almost cold. Also, there has been much wind to contend with. We saw our first light snowfall on October 16th.
We took the occasion to take some drives in the country to observe the beauty of the colored leaves on the trees. On Friday, October 9th, we had a very enjoyable family outing. We drove with my sisters Sharon and Dorothy and her husband, Harley, and their son, Greg, and sister-in- law Carol Olsen, south along the Mississippi River to the interesting little towns along the way. We stopped at a rest stop to partake of the goodies that had been brought along – crackers, cheese, cookies, soft drinks, coffee and the like. It was a beautiful, warm day and was so nice to enjoy the outdoors. As usual, we had ice cream cones at the Nelson Creamery. We drove as far as Wabash in MN and then drove up Hwy 25 to Menomonie where we concluded the day with pizza at Tedd’s Pizza. It was a very enjoyable day.
I have been reading and studying again the book of Romans. This book is not only very meaningful for the believer, but is essential for our understanding of the Christian life. The following verse is always needful, but especially in the days in which we live. There is confusion, anarchy, and rebellion all around us, but still the believer has a source of joy and peace. Paul said, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6). The unbeliever never knows the reality of true life, the spiritual life that only God can give and, as a result, he can never know the true peace of God. This is true even when the world is more at peace. On the other hand, the believer who is walking in the Spirit can know true life and peace even in the midst of turbulent times! While we are living in turbulent and uncertain days, believers are identified with the One who never changes and who promises to care for and bless His children always.
A personal, diligent study of the book of Romans will be a blessing to anyone seeking to know the truth of God’s Word. I say personal because we need to see for ourselves what God is saying in His Word.
On October 20th, we had our first real snowstorm of the season. We had at least four or five inches. Thankfully, we have a neighbor who clears our driveway with his tractor. Also, we are thankful to have a garage so we can get into the car on a dry surface.
BJ and I are still doing about the same. It is sometimes difficult for BJ to walk, but she uses her walker when we go to church. She will also be doing some more physical therapy in the coming days. God has been so gracious for which we are very thankful. We don’t know what another day will bring, but we are thankful He holds our future.
We want to thank the many people who have prayed for us in the past few months.
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