Shalom, beloved brothers and sisters in Christ!
I would like to encourage you, through this message, to become more devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ in these hard times. Indeed, it is no longer necessary to demonstrate that the times we are currently going through are difficult. Since it is said that ‘there will be terrible times in the last days’ (2 Timothy 3:1), it is therefore evident that we are in the last days.
The world is currently going through an unprecedented health crisis. And this crisis has repercussions for all areas of life. We see movement strictly limited and even prohibited in most countries, and people being compelled to stay confined at home. Schools and universities are closed. Social life is restricted. The global economy is collapsing. Worse still, the doors of church buildings are closed, thereby jeopardising the faith of ‘unsettled Christians’ (and God knows there are many in our churches!).
In short, the enemy is unleashed to upset the whole world. Who would have thought on the evening of 31 December 2019, that the world would experience such chaos in the following three months? In any case, personally, I would not have imagined it.
However, all of this should not surprise us, as Christians, since these things have been foretold many times in the Bible, by the mouths of many, including that of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, as well as that of the apostles.
In times like these, a Christian can neither afford to remain insensitive or indifferent. Nor can s/he afford to continue living as if nothing was happening, to run behind his/her own projects, or to pursue his/her personal interests. No! To do so would be not only criminal, but also suicidal.
It is the moment more than ever for us to get up, to finally wake up from our individual and collective sleep. In Ephesians 5:14, Paul recalls the words of the prophet Isaiah: ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise up from the dead and Christ will shine on you.’
It is time, indeed, for each of us and for the whole church to rise up to assume our own responsibility in these times of the end. We have taken enough care of ourselves by setting aside the Lord’s command. We have gathered enough treasures on this earth when we were called to gather them in heaven, where no ruin can reach them. We have run enough after things that have no eternal value. We have built enough magnificent buildings for ourselves, great earthly temples of which we are so proud, when we were called to build spiritual temples through evangelism and discipleship.
Yes, church, it is time for us to awake from our coma! The Lord, our husband is near and he would not be at all proud to find us in this state when he comes back.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:29-31: ‘What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.’
Paul was not inviting Christians to abandon their wives or husbands, or to quit their jobs, but he was drawing their attention to the fact that the time is no longer for distraction. At this time when Christ is at the door, we must devote ourselves more than ever to what is essential, what is useful for the Kingdom.
This is the moment to humble ourselves before the Lord, taking sackcloth and ashes; to repent of having gotten away from his call, from his mission, of having led such selfish ‘Christian’ lives.
Beloved, three things are now essential and deserve that we devote ourselves entirely to them, in these times and those to come:
Here, it is not a matter of praying only for our own desires or protection. Rather, it is about prayers of intercession.
‘And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.’ (Ephesians 6:18).
Satan has been unleashed more than ever before to ruin the world in every way and to send as many people as possible to hell in a very short time. We need to stand up and put on every spiritual weapon to thwart his evil plans. ‘For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.’ (Ephesians 6:12).
- Let us pray for those who are on the way to death, those who suffer from disease and other miscellaneous ills around us and throughout the world.
- Let us pray for national and international authorities that they may be submitted to God’s will and make decisions that glorify him, decisions that lead to peace, to the welfare of all and especially to the salvation of the utmost. ‘I urge, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and for all those in authority, that we may live a peaceful and quiet lives, in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.’ (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
- Let us pray for persecuted Christians throughout the world for the cause of the gospel.
- Let us pray, pray again, and always pray!
2. Build up in the Word
This is the very time for us to re-examine our personal relationship with the Lord, to put in order all that would deserve to be so, and to treat all that is pathological in our fellowship with God.
In 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul appealed to the Christians in Corinth to examine themselves in order to see if they are in faith. This call is also valid for us today.
Are we truly born again? Is our life really ingrained in Jesus? Do we depend entirely on him for our needs? Does he have complete control over our lives? Are his goals ours? Do we submit ourselves to his Word and obey it? These are questions we must ask ourselves in these days.
We must commit ourselves to look every day at our own face through the mirror of God’s Word, under the control of his Spirit. We must seek more to listen to him and to know him. This begins with frequent study and meditation of the Bible. Let not a day go by without having personally listened to God through his Word.
Yes, the Word of God, studied and meditated under the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, is effective in transforming our lives, changing our aspirations and aligning our hearts with the perfect will of God! ‘For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and the attitudes of the heart.’ (Hebrews 4:12).
The Psalmist asks: ‘How can a young person stay on the path of purity?’; and he spontaneously answers: ‘By living according to your word.’ (Psalm 119:9).
The secret of a Christian life that honors the Lord is to abide in his Word. Did not the Lord himself say to his believers: ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples’ (John 8:31)?
3. Preach the Word
We must not limit ourselves to personal edification and prayer, but we must also share the Good News of Salvation in Jesus Christ to those who do not know him yet.
‘Preach the word, be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.’ (2 Timothy 4:2).
There is no favorable time for evangelism, but the Christian knows how to use all circumstances wisely for the cause of the Kingdom.
How can we preach the gospel in such times?
- It begins with our compassion for the souls around us, urging us to care for them physically, materially, emotionally and spiritually.
- We can make massive use of information and communication technologies, especially internet and social networks to share the gospel in all its forms (written, audiovisual, audio).
- We can also distribute gospel tracts to all those to whom we have access.
- Above all, we can speak directly about Christ to people around us, if the conditions allow us to do so.
It is also important to support financially and materially the missionaries who work all over the world, even in hard-to-reach areas, for the salvation of lost souls.
Brothers and sisters, I would like to conclude this message by inviting you to take seriously the events of these times. Let us consider them as a warning from the Lord concerning his imminent return. And who knows if it is the last one?
‘Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!’ (Amos 4:12b).
Luc Mahougbé Kouwanou
ICMDA Area Representative in Francophone West Africa