Something NEW (e.g. “current”)…
2022 has been a monumental year – “the worst” according to many news journalists and pundits. In many ways it has been the fulfillment of the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 24 where He gives us a prophetic explanation for the current condition of the world:
“You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars…For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes…” (vs. 7, NASB, 1995)
There were wars raging in 32 countries in 2022 – the most prominent being the Russo-Ukrainian conflict. Famine should not exist in 2022, but the WFP (World Food Program) reveals 41 million people in 43 countries “are teetering on the very edge of famine,” up from 27 million two years ago; and the 10 biggest earthquakes in the world happened in the month of December 2022.
“Then they will deliver you over to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. And at that time many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another…[and] because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold…” (vss. 9-12, NASB, 1995)
The persecution of Christians keeps surging around the world. Data from the Open Doors organization says “persecution of Christians has reached the highest levels” since it began accumulating data for its annual “World Watch List” three decades ago. Hostile incidents have increased by 20% since 2014, and some 360 million Christians, or 14% of the worldwide total, are said to have faced persecution, harassment, or discrimination. Open Doors reports that it has documented the murders in one year’s time of 5,898 Christians for their faith (up 24% from the prior year). Since that report was issued, the Nigerian-based civil rights group Intersociety reports that in just that one nation 4,020 additional killings and 2,325 abductions occurred from January through October, 2022. On a broader timeframe, 1 million Christian martyrs were killed from 2000-2010 (source: Center for the Study of Global Christianity).
Just observe the latest news and see for yourself how openly hostile the world is becoming toward Judeo-Christian family and social values. And you can draw your own conclusions about the “Church” in our day – especially in America – and see for yourself how many “Christians” are becoming “progressive” in the name of compassion (aka wishy-washy faith without conviction) and abandoning scriptural moral standards. Many believers love has grown cold toward other brothers and sister in Christ and betrayed them – right here in the American church. That’s hate. That’s “falling away.”
This past year has also unfolded by fulfilling these uncannily prescient words of the Apostle Paul, written some 1,955 years ago. I’ll let them speak without commentary. You can make your own applications:
“…in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control; they will be cruel and have no interest in what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act as if they are religious, but will reject the power that could make them godly. You must stay away from people like that…But they will not get away with this for long. Someday everyone will recognize what fools they are…” 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 9 (NLT)
I have never read a more accurate description of American society in general and the church in this country in particular.
Something OLD (e.g. “timeless”)…
With all this negativity surrounding us, it would be easy to become discouraged and “fretful.” Being fretful means being “troubled” or “vexed” (I love that word) or “worn” or “agitated” or “corroded” or “eaten away.” And yet in spite of the ungodly reality surrounding us we cannot let “fretfulness” be our standard response.
King David faced persecution, harassment, discrimination, and potential martyrdom. He, like us, was a man with reason to fret, and doubt that God was in control. But instead, he heeded God’s command, and reminds us how and why not to be fretful.
Psalm 37 (NASB 1995) [Emphasis mine]
Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
2 For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.
3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday.
7 Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.
8 Cease from anger and forsake wrath;
Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.
9 For evildoers will be cut off,
But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land.
10 Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more;
And you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there.
11 But the humble will inherit the land
And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.
12 The wicked plots against the righteous
And gnashes at him with his teeth.
13 The Lord laughs at him,
For He sees his day is coming.
14 The wicked have drawn the sword and bent their bow
To cast down the afflicted and the needy,
To slay those who are upright in conduct.
15 Their sword will enter their own heart,
And their bows will be broken.
16 Better is the little of the righteous
Than the abundance of many wicked.
17 For the arms of the wicked will be broken,
But the Lord sustains the righteous.
18 The Lord knows the days of the blameless,
And their inheritance will be forever.
19 They will not be ashamed in the time of evil,
And in the days of famine they will have abundance.
20 But the wicked will perish;
And the enemies of the Lord will be like the glory of the pastures,
They vanish—like smoke they vanish away.
21 The wicked borrows and does not pay back,
But the righteous is gracious and gives.
22 For those blessed by Him will inherit the land,
But those cursed by Him will be cut off.
23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.
24 When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,
Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.
25 I have been young and now I am old,
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
Or his begging bread.
26 All day long he is gracious and lends,
And his descendants are a blessing.
27 Depart from evil and do good,
So you will abide forever.
28 For the Lord loves justice
And does not forsake His godly ones;
They are preserved forever,
But the descendants of the wicked will be cut off.
29 The righteous will inherit the land
And dwell in it forever.
30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
And his tongue speaks justice.
31 The law of his God is in his heart;
His steps do not slip.
32 The wicked spies upon the righteous
And seeks to kill him.
33 The Lord will not leave him in his hand
Or let him be condemned when he is judged.
34 Wait for the Lord and keep His way,
And He will exalt you to inherit the land;
When the wicked are cut off, you will see it.
35 I have seen a wicked, violent man
Spreading himself like a luxuriant tree in its native soil.
36 Then he passed away, and lo, he was no more;
I sought for him, but he could not be found.
37 Mark the blameless man, and behold the upright;
For the man of peace will have a posterity.
38 But transgressors will be altogether destroyed;
The prosperity of the wicked will be cut off.
39 But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
He is their strength in time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;
He delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
Because they take refuge in Him.
King David’s counsel to us is simple, but powerful – and deeply comforting:
DO NOT fret (worry, be troubled or have your faith corroded away) [NT cf. Phil. 4:5-6]
DO trust and delight in the Lord [NT cf. Ps. 3:3-6; Prov. 3:5-6]
DO good by cultivating faith and faithfulness [NT cf. 2 Tim. 2:2ff]
DO rest in and wait for the Lord patiently [NT cf. Heb. 4:1-3]
The result? God will give us the “land” as our inheritance – both literally and figuratively.
Let Psalm 37 encourage, embolden, and equip you for 2023…and let it be something you meditate on often throughout the New Year. Begin the New Year fret-free and full of faith that God is in control!