Where Do You Run

Mark 13:1-13

The Destruction of the Temple and Signs of the End Times

1As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”

“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”

Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

“You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Dear Friends in Christ,

I came across a story that I would like to share with you today.  One troubled soul asked a friend, “What shall I do in all my troubles?”  They both stood by a cow that was looking over a fence.  The troubled soul was asked, “Why is this cow looking over the fence?”  His answer: “Because she cannot look through it.”  This is a fine example for us in all our troubles: Look over them and up to God, because we can never look through them.  I think that is a valuable lesson for all of us.  As much as we wish that we wouldn’t have troubles in our lives we know that we are going to face them throughout our lives.  The question is how do we handle them.  Do we run away from God or do we run toward God?

Trials and hardships are nothing new to the Bible.  We see that theme consistently throughout Scripture.  A lot of times it happens because of the person’s faith.  Look at Daniel.  The other government officials didn’t like him and knew they could get him to break the law if it had to deal with his faith.  They were right.  Daniel wouldn’t stop praying to the God of his fathers.  His disobedience lead to him being thrown into the lion’s den.  Or what about the Apostles?  You better believe they had their fair share of trials and hardships.  What was the source of why they had to face those things?  Their desire to proclaim Christ crucified to all they came in contact with.  This desire to preach led to them all except John to suffer a martyr’s death.  We all know what Christ had to go through during what we now refer to as Passion Week.  Those are just a few quick examples of the trials and hardships people went through in the Bible.  I could spend the rest of my time just listing and go through them, but I don’t think any of you want to be here all day.  Where did all those people run to in the midst of those trying situations?  They ran toward God.  Daniel trusted in God and his trust wasn’t misplaced.  The Apostles ran toward God as they were staring death in the face.  And we know that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Just as all of those heroes of the Bible faced trials and hardships we will face them as well.  Now, I don’t think that we will be literally thrown into a lion’s den but sometimes it might feel like it.  What do our trials and hardships look like these days?  They can take many forms.  It seems more and more that one of those trying moments is what happens when we stand up for our beliefs despite them being contrary to popular viewpoints in our society.  When you look at a lot of the contemporary issues in our country, it seems like most of the time what is popular disagrees with God’s Word.  Whether it is homosexuality, abortion, legalizing marijuana, or euthanasia.  If we speak our Christians views on these topics or other similar ones we become criticized.  We’re told we aren’t loving.  Maybe we will hear we aren’t being very Christian.  Some people might ridicule us saying that we are crazy to put so much stock into a book that was written way too long ago.  And sadly it’s becoming more common that it can lead to physical harm or even death.  Last month we saw this play out again at Umpqua Community College.  Christopher Harper-Mercer entered in to his classroom with evil intentions.  He asked students in the room if there were Christians.  If a student would answer yes, he told them they would go to heaven as he shot them.  When it was all over he killed eight students and an assistant professor.  The trials and hardships that we face can vary and in some cases can be extremely difficult.

There is another trial we all will face at Judgment Day.  The question is what will the evidence say about you.  Will it say that you ran away from your faith and were ashamed or will the evidence say that you ran to the cross.  In those times of hardships did you shy away from your faith because you didn’t want to endure the loss of everything including your life.  It is my prayer that for each of us the evidence will say that we ran to the cross.  Earlier I talked about Daniel being thrown into the lion’s den.  But he was wasn’t the only one in the book of Daniel to face trial because of his faith.  There was also Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  They refused to worship the statue of Nebuchadnezzar.  The punishment was to be thrown into a fiery furnace.  They three young men were not afraid, listen to what they said before they were thrown in, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”  They didn’t run away from their faith they run toward God.  They trusted in God and were willing to lose their life instead of worshipping a false idol.  What a great example for us and how we are to live our lives.  Run towards God, run towards the cross in those hardships.

Christ faced trials in His earthly life.  He went on trials before the Pharisees and Sadducees.  His trial was unfair.  They were set out to prove His guilt of blasphemy, they even brought in people to bear false witness against Jesus.  What did Jesus do?  Did He run away?  Did He say enough is enough I’m the Son of God I don’t have to stand for this?  Of course not!  He went to the cross.  He knew that if He didn’t the sins of the world would not be paid for.  That was the only way our salvation could have been won.  He endured all of that because of His love for you and me and the rest of the world.  It was that loved that caused Him to be nailed to the cross.  He shed His blood on Calvary so we wouldn’t have to face eternity separated from God!

As you are faced with the trials and hardships in life I ask you, where are going to run to?  Once again it is my prayer that you will run to the cross.  You might be asking, well why?  We go to the cross because we know what happened there.  Christ was victorious over our three greatest enemies, sin, death, and the devil.  They lost the war.  Listen to what was written in Hebrews 10, “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”   In saying that Christ’s enemies would be made a footstool the author is saying that Jesus put His foot on His enemies to indicate His triumph.  It is that triumph that reminds us that things of this world are temporary.  We know that we have eternal life in heaven waiting for us.  If we are hated in this world so be it.  It’s more important that we are loved by God.  And I can guarantee you that God does love His children.  We see that love displayed on the cross.  It’s there on the cross that we run to we see God’s love which gives us eternal life.  I’d much rather have that then the everlasting shame that comes to those who don’t believe.  Run to the cross in your trials and you will be comforted.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego trusted in God the fiery furnace didn’t matter.  Either God would keep them safe while in there, or they found comfort in knowing if they died they would be in heaven with God.

I wish I could tell you that as a believer you won’t face trials and hardships.  Even if I did you would call me a liar because we all have face them already.  And we will continue to face them.  Sometimes those trials might lead men to hate us.  Let me ask you if they loved us does that give us eternal life?  You know the answer as well as I do that the answer is no.  The love of our fellow men doesn’t give to us the life everlasting in heaven.  It’s only because of the love of God, which we see on the cross that gives us eternal life.  When you feel hated in this world run to the cross and reminds yourself of the love that the creator of the world has for you.  And remind yourself that God would have sent His Son even if it only saved you!  Run to the Lord’s Supper because it’s there at the Table of our Lord we taste that forgiveness of those times that we have run away from our faith.  God is loving and we are extremely blessed that He is a forgiving God.  As we run toward the cross we can say with Paul these words, “I have fought the good fight,  I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”

Amen