Talking about the End Times and trying to figure out what times we are currently in can cause anxiety. Each generation has experienced events that make people think the end must be near. Some even give their life to Christ out of fear because of these events. But, this is the wrong prospective of Jesus and Christianity. Jesus isn’t just a fire, life and health insurance policy. If we are believers in Jesus Christ, we don’t have to live in fear. Rather, the end times can be a message of comfort, hope and purpose. Today we want to look at what this purpose is and how we can live for eternity.
“(The men of Issachar…) understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” 1 Chronicles 12:32
Understanding What God is Doing Now
1. God desires everyone to be saved
There is a verse you are probably familiar with. It seems as we become more familiar with a verse, we tend to just glance over it. Let’s break down this verse and really take a look at what it says.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16 NIV
Despite how ugly the world can look at times, especially now, God loves the world! He loves it so much he gave it a very precious gift – His son. He loves people that don’t agree with him. He also loves people that live differently than He wants them to live. There are some people in this world that have done some really awful things, but God still loves them. That is good news! God not only loves you He wants to save you, He doesn’t want us to perish.
2. God has a plan to reach the world
“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have not heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the scriptures say, ‘How beautiful are the feet of the messengers who bring good news!’” Romans 10:14-15 NIV
God turns whoevers into somebodies
When “whoevers” believe they become a “someone”! God’s plan to reach the world is to use us. If you are a Christian, you are part of the plan.
“Then they gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’” Acts 1: 6-8 NIV
The disciples ask Jesus the question, when are you going to reign as King? This is the same question we are asking today, Lord when are you going to come back? But notice Jesus’ response – He doesn’t want us to get too wrapped up in His return and trying to figure out the end times. Instead, He wants us to focus on being a witness to what we have heard about Jesus and to testify what He has done in our lives and the lives of other believers.
That is what a witness does, they give a testimony – this is what I saw, heard and experienced. God does not ask you to save anyone. You can’t. We couldn’t even save ourselves, why would He then expect us to save others? This takes a lot of pressure off. God has already done the saving, our part is to be a witness. We get to tell unbelievers about the free gift of salvation and how to receive it.
The disciples got the privilege of kicking the plan off in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. We, the Church, get the honor of finishing the plan to reach the whole world!
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” Matthew 28:18-20
3. God is waiting until the completion of His plan to return
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14
This is an incredible passage that actually has more to do with believers than it does unbelievers. God is waiting for us take the message to all nations. Then the end will come. When the verse refers to nations it is specifically talking about people groups. There are 195 countries in the world but there are over 16,000 people groups that make up these countries. There are multiple factors that determine people groups such as language, culture and geography.
Out of the 16,000 plus people groups it is estimated that 250 plus are an unengaged, unreached people group. This means they have no missionary, no bible and no church. If we want Jesus to return then we have to take the Gospel to all people groups.
Living For Eternity
“When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes. Two men will be working on the construction site; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be working in the office; one will be taken, the other left. So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.” Matthew 24:37-44 NLT
As believers we need to realize what is going on. We need to keep watch and be ready. But, what happens to a lot of us is we get complacent and distracted. We get our priorities out of whack. We start to focus on our wants and our own agenda. It is very easy to get to a place of thinking if this one thing would go away then I will do what God wants me to do. If this one thing would happen it would free me up and then I will do what God wants me to do.
But this life is not about us, it’s about Jesus. He wants everyone saved, He wants us to reach the world, and He is waiting on us, the Church, to complete the plan. The people in Noah’s time didn’t realize what was going to happen because they were caught up in their own lives.
What Should We Do Now?
Let’s take a look at some verses out of 1 Peter chapter four. The book of 1 Peter is a letter written to believers who are experiencing hardship. These believers thought they were living in the last days. They were experiencing extreme hardship and persecution. In fact, some of them were living in their last days because they were being executed for being Christians.
1. I should think clearly so I can pray
“The end of all things is near. Therefore, be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” 1 Peter 4:7
Worship, God’s word and prayer are the things that realign our minds. The Bible says when we renew our minds then our actions will follow. Many of us don’t feel like God is present and don’t see answered prayer in our lives because we do not pray with a clear mind.
Many of us are living our lives with the mindset that my problem is big and my God is small. When we worship and we are in the Word we can pray from a different perspective.
My problem is small, and my God is big.
We need to be able to think clearly so our prayers align with God’s plan and purpose. For instance, do we pray that our kids’ ball team will win the game? What about the parents that are Christians on the other team? They are praying their kids’ team will win. If we are praying God’s agenda, we might pray something like this:
“God, win or lose may my family be a witness of Your love to the other parents, coaches and umpires at this ball game.”
“Win or lose open up an opportunity for me to share the Good News.”
2. I should focus on relationships
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”1 Peter 4:8-9
While these believers are facing extreme hardship, they are encouraged to love each other deeply. We need each other. We need people that can come alongside us with a clear mind and pray for us, correct us, and support us as we work on becoming the people God has called us to be.
The verse says love covers a multitude of sins. When we make mistakes we need to show loyalty to one another. We don’t air our sins and grievances for the whole world to see. The Bible says if you have something against a brother or sister leave your gift at the altar and go make amends. It also says we are not to take a brother or sister to court. We are not to be letting unbelievers settle our differences.
Should we sweep things under the rug like its no big deal? Absolutely not! God didn’t sweep our sins under the rug like they were no big deal. Jesus paid a high price for our sins. Grievances need to be taken care of with people who love you deeply and are a part of the problem and solution. That small group of people around you can help you get realigned with God’s plan and purpose for your life.
3. I should make a difference
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11
Serving is an act of worship. When we serve others, God gets the glory!
God is the gift giver. He not only gives you the gift of salvation, but when you become a believer, the Bible says He gives spiritual gifts. These spiritual gifts are to be used to fulfill His plan and purpose. We live for eternity by serving others with the gifts God has given us.
Check back on your discussion from last week. Any more thoughts or conclusions on “Making Sense of Revelation”?
Hear the Word
Spend some time in the word. If you have the time, consider reading the entire book of 1 Peter. It would take about 20 minutes. If you don’t have time for that in the group, read the verses below.
The book of 1 Peter is a letter to encourage Christians that are suffering and experiencing hard times. These Christians probably thought they were in the last days, in fact many were living their last days because of persecution.
“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength Go d provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:7-11
- Growing up, how did your family react to suffering, hard times and difficult seasons of life?
- How do you react when faced with a difficult situation, stress, hard times or suffering?
- What’s one idea from the message that really stood out to you?
- What new things did you learn about how you should live for eternity?
- How do you feel about what God is doing now and your role to fulfill his plan?
- Read Matthew 24:14. Share your thoughts.
- Worship, prayer and being in the word helps us to be clear minded so we can align our life to what God is doing. How are you doing in these essential habits? What can you do to improve?
- What are ways you can deepen your relationship with those in your small group? Have you ever thought about starting your own small group?
- How are you making a difference? Share what Dream Team you serve on. If you are not on a Dream Team share what is holding you back from serving?
Tell Someone Else
How can you share the life-giving message of Jesus Christ with others this week?