SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #9
September 1, 2012
Final Events – Enduring to the End
Many know Condoleezza Rice as an American political scientist and diplomat. She served as the 66th United States Secretary of State, and was the second person to hold that office in the administration of President George W. Bush. Rice was President Bush's National Security Advisor during his first term. Before joining the Bush administration, she was a professor of political science at Stanford University where she served as Provost from 1993 to 1999. Rice also served on the National Security Council as the Soviet and East European Affairs Advisor to President George H.W. Bush during the dissolution of the Soviet Union and German reunification.
Few know that she is an accomplished pianist. Rice began to learn French, music, figure skating, and ballet at the age of three. At the age of fifteen, she began piano classes with the goal of becoming a concert pianist. While Rice ultimately did not become a professional pianist, she still practices often and plays with a chamber music group. She even accompanied cellist Yo-Yo Ma playing Brahms' Violin Sonata in D Minor at Constitution Hall in April 2002 for the National Medal of Arts Awards. Why then, did she not become a professional pianist? When Rice recognized that it took her at least twice as long to learn musical pieces as her collegiate classmates, she realized she did not have the talent to play professionally and would need to change her career aspirations. She understood that if she could not compete at the college level, she certainly could not at a professional level. Jeremiah 12: 5 comes to mind: “If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?”
During the time the apostles spent with Jesus, He often referred to them as having little faith. Despite His example, and all His teachings, the disciples failed to grasp the true nature of His mission, thus they failed to equip themselves with the faith required to endure His death. “Many things I want to show you,” Christ would tell them, “but you will not endure it.” When Christ died, the disciples lost all hope. They were crushed with despair and sorrow. It is no wonder that Christ uttered the words, “When the Son of Man returns will he find faith in the earth?” (Luke 18:8). If those closest to Him did not “get it” in times of relative ease, how could they withstand the days to come?
Christ was very clear and emphatic in Matthew 24 that the days to come would be troublesome: “All these are the beginning of sorrows” (v. 8). Christ added that there will be a great tribulation as never has been, and unless the days are shortened no flesh will survive (Matthew 24: 21–22). In Luke 21, Christ is quoted as saying that the nations of earth will be distressed with perplexity, the sea and waves will roar, and men’s hearts will fail them for fear (Luke 21:25–26).
There is an old Puerto Rican maxim which says – loosely translated – that when people have been warned of war, no one should die. Yet many manage to do just that. We have been warned of the coming day of trouble, yet many will find themselves unready. We know this is true because Christ has warned us in Luke 21:34-36,
“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Paul seems to echo those words in 1 Thessalonians 5:
"For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, “peace and safety,” then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief." (vv. 2-4)
Paul tells the Thessalonians to “be sober,…putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). Earlier in the letter, Paul commended them for their faith, and encouraged them to continue to grow in faith. Although the Thessalonians had suffered persecution, they must not give up, but instead learn to increasingly depend on the Lord for all things. A lesson we too have to learn. This is the kind of faith Christ described in the sermon on the mount when he said not to worry about where our clothes and food will come from, as God knows we have need of these things (Matthew 6:31-32). This dependence on the Father for everything is the very faith Christ lived by, which was revealed to us in His wilderness temptation. His constant theme – the underlying principle by which He was victor – is revealed in His reply to Satan when tempted, “man shall live by every Word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Do you depend on God for even little things, such as what to wear, what to eat, or what route to take? Many find this level of dependence strange, yet when you are in the military those decisions are made for you. Are we not in the midst of a spiritual war? Is Christ not the Captain of the host? Consider Daniel’s friends. Refusal to eat the king’s provisions led them into the very jaws of certain death (Daniel 3).
We are living in troublesome times. Some countries have it worse than others, yet much of the world lives in relative ease. The days to come, however, will be far worse than anything we can, or ever have, imagined. If we find it hard to endure by faith now, we will not have sufficient stamina to endure in the future. There is no human resource, organizational or otherwise, that we have learned to look to or count on in the past that will be adequate for this conflict. This is not to cause fear, but is a timely call for self-examination under the wonderful light of the Holy Spirit, who is our Comforter and Sustainer. A warning to the wise is sufficient. Unlike our world’s military, where supplies can run short and communications be interrupted, God never runs short of supplies, and nothing but our unbelief will obstruct the path of communication between us and Him. This He has promised, and in His goodness He keeps His promises. The question is, are we learning to confide in, trust, and depend on Him now?