It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the bigness of a life of faith. No big deal, I’m just leaving behind every single thing that society and culture tell me is important and focusing completely on a pursuit of God instead. No big deal, but someone’s eternal resting place may be dependent on me being obedient and walking the path God has for me. No big deal, spiritual warfare is at hand all around us and Satan, the original and truest villain of them all, is scheming and actively working to trip me up and devour me. When you really dwell on them, these can feel like very heavy and massive things that are going on in our lives of faith. But there’s something I found in the book of Luke that really blew me away. Let’s get into it.
Jesus and his disciples were talking one day when the disciples began praising the stonework and decorations of the temple. This prompts a rather heavy conversation with Jesus as he tells them about how the temple will one day be destroyed. Jesus gives them a pretty in-depth glimpse of the end times and how things will play out leading up to his return at the end of the age. Let’s jump into a section of it.
Luke 21:12-19 “But before all this occurs, there will be a time of great persecution. You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will stand trial before kings and governors because you are my followers. 13 But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me. 14 So don’t worry in advance about how to answer the charges against you, 15 for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you! 16 Even those closest to you—your parents, brothers, relatives, and friends—will betray you. They will even kill some of you.17 And everyone will hate you because you are my followers. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish! 19 By standing firm, you will win your souls.
Jesus acknowledges that circumstances are gonna get pretty grim for believers. Dragged into synagogues and prisons, stand trial before kings and governors for being followers of Jesus. Betrayed by relatives and friends, possibly killed by them! Hated by “everyone” for being a follower of Jesus.
When you break down the situations that following Jesus can and will land us in, they seem like too much. I’m reminded in this moment of Moses, standing at the burning bush and telling God “pick someone else”. He felt unworthy and incapable of carrying out the mission that God was putting before him.
But as I read this section of Luke chapter 21 again, I did it this time with a question in mind. What does Jesus actually ask us to do in these situations? Getting persecuted and dragged to prisons and on trial for being a Jesus follower sounds bad, but leave it up to God who delights in turning bad situations to good to turn this situation into a chance for ministry. Getting unfairly arrested and put in trial is an opportunity to tell them about Jesus. (Just as a side note here, to see this in action read Acts chapter 7 for one of the great moments in all the Bible as Stephen uses his time on trial to give one of the all-time great breakdowns of the faith.)
But again, we’re to use these times of persecution and trial to tell people about Jesus, but my question remains. What does Jesus actually ask us to do in this situation?
Luke 21:14-15 So don’t worry in advance about how to answer the charges against you, 15 for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you!
So… not much really. He will provide us with wisdom and speech so dazzling that those against us will have no reply or no refute! All of a sudden, this thing that felt very BIG (getting persecuted and interrogated for being a follower of Jesus) sounds pretty manageable. Unpleasant still, maybe, but if Jesus is going to give me the speech to end all speeches, I’m sure it’ll all play out in spectacular fashion.
Alright, let’s fast forward to the other really heavy and big part of this section of scripture. Possibly betrayed by family and friends, maybe even killed by them, hated by everyone for our association with Jesus. Another situation that sounds pretty awful. So I read it and again asked the question. What does Jesus actually ask us to do in this situation?
Luke 21:19 By standing firm, you will win your souls.
Simple, direct, and profound. In a word, Jesus says you just have to endure. Just hold fast and everything will work out.
Ephesians 6:13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
God equips us for survival, and when under assault and being betrayed and hated, He simply asks us to stand firm. I may not be able to win every war, but this war I’m just being asked to survive. I can do that. God’s prepared me to stand firm by showing me that He’s there to get me through the toughest of times. He’s done it before, He’ll without a doubt do it again. And since that is true, the heaviness of being betrayed, hated, and possibly killed fades away. Death’s not my end, it’s my beginning, and I’ve been equipped to endure persecution. Stand firm, and win your soul.
A life of faith really can seem overwhelming until you focus on what role we’re actually asked to play in it. Jesus needs our obedience, not our power. He lends us the power. He needs our presence, not our words. He provides the words. As followers of Jesus, we’re invited to play an active role in the unfolding of eternity in our own lives and the lives of those around us. And we’re so perfectly equipped and assisted to perform our parts to perfection, making it not a job or a chore or a heavy burden, but an honor instead.
Well, another week is upon us. Dare I say, I think I see the ending of the book of Luke on the horizon in the next few weeks. I never expected this series to take on a life of its own and stretch well into a novel-length study, but it’s been an absolute joy. By slowing down and really meditating on the life and words of Jesus, I feel like I’ve gotten to know him better, which is always the goal of reading scripture for me. I love you guys, I hope everyone is well today!
If you have any prayer requests or need someone to talk to, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.