Three Rich Cordials to Cheer Our Souls

Mark 13:9-13 – 9 “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.

My devotional reading took me through Mark 13 this morning and it is my custom when I find myself in one of the gospels to read through J.C. Ryle’s commentary entitled Expository Thoughts on the Gospels. I love his simple, straight-forward approach through the text. Today’s portion was particularly encouraging regarding Jesus’ teaching to his disciples regarding the end times. Listen to encouraging words that truly are a cordial to any follower of Jesus who encounters trouble, affliction, persecution and tribulation be it little or be it great.

  • For one thing Jesus tells us that “the Gospel must first be preached among all nations.” It must be, and it shall be. In spite of men and devils, the story of the cross of Christ shall be told in every part of the world. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Notwithstanding persecution, imprisonment, and death, there never shall be lacking a succession of faithful men, who shall proclaim the glad tidings of salvation by grace. Few may believe them. Many of their hearers may continue hardened in sin. But nothing shall prevent the Gospel being preached. The word shall never be bound, though those who preach it may be imprisoned and slain. (2 Tim. 2:9.)
  • For another thing, our Lord tells us, that those who are placed in special trial for the Gospel’s sake, shall have special help in their time of need. The Holy Spirit shall assist them in making their defense. They shall have a mouth and wisdom which their adversaries shall not be able to gainsay or resist. As it was with Peter and John and Paul, when brought before Jewish and Roman councils, so shall it be with all true-hearted disciples. How thoroughly this promise has been fulfilled, the histories of Huss, and Luther, and Latimer, and Ridley, and Baxter abundantly prove. Christ has been faithful to His word.
  • For another thing, our Lord tells us that patient perseverance shall result in final salvation. “He who endures unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Not one of those who endure tribulation shall miss his reward. All shall at length reap a rich harvest. Though they sow in tears, they shall reap in joy. Their light affliction, which is but for a moment, shall lead to an eternal weight of glory.
  • Let us gather comfort from these comfortable promises for all true-hearted servants of Christ. Persecuted, vexed, and mocked, as they are now, they shall find at length they are on the victorious side. Beset, perplexed, tried, as they sometimes are, they shall never find themselves entirely forsaken. Though cast down, they shall not be destroyed. Let them possess their souls in patience. The end of all that they see going on around them is certain, fixed, and sure. The kingdoms of this world shall yet become the kingdoms of their God and of his Christ. And when the scoffers and ungodly, who so often insulted them, are put to shame, believers shall receive a crown of glory that fades not away.

Pastoral Charge for Our Graduating High School Seniors

I want to charge you briefly as we celebrate this milestone in your life. The Apostle Paul pronounces a blessing on all those who follow Jesus in the ancient city of Thessalonica. In it, he offers to them and to you two safe spiritual harbors for a lifetime of meditation and reflection: God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

2 Thessalonians 3:5 says:  May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and the perseverance of Christ.

In some ways, all of you have come a long ways in your particular journey, but, in other ways, you are just beginning. John Bunyan’s in his classic, Pilgrim’s Progress, reminds us that life’s a dangerous journey with many pitfalls, perils and temptations. All of us need safe harbors along the way where we can renew our strength and perspective. Here are two that I want to commend to you: the love of God and the perseverance of Christ.

The text says that the Lord has to direct and guide our hearts into these two things. If this is so, we must assume that our hearts and minds do not naturally gravitate towards them. Left to us, our hearts gravitate towards other loves… the love of self, the love of money, the love of pleasure, the love of independence. All of these other loves turn us in on ourselves and lead us into bondage and have a way of dehumanizing us. The love of God turns us out of ourselves to love and serve others. It liberates us  from the all-consuming self-consciousness and self-absorption that naturally plagues us.

My prayer for each of you is that the Lord would direct and guide your hearts into His love. Part of that directing and guiding is that He would remove all the hindrances that would arrest in you a deep, transformational experience of His love. There are lots of hindrances: The idols of your heart and mine… like people pleasing and valuing the esteem of others more than Christ’s. Many other things can hinder your experience of His love… like friends, family, boyfriends, girlfriends, ideologies, philosophies, hypocrisy in the church, and certainly cultural Christianity.

The Apostle Paul uses that wonderful word for love here called “agape.” Its first use in the New Testament is found in Matthew 24:12. In it, Jesus sadly foretells that in the last days due to abounding iniquity most people’s love for the Lord will grow cold. One of the main ways that you continue growing in your love for the Lord is to remind yourself repeated how much it cost the Lord to love you! This leads to the second safe spiritual harbor along your life’s journey.

Secondly, may the Lord direct your hearts and minds to Christ’s perseverance. Left to us, we grow weary and lose heart and courage. Rather than trying to muster up an ability to endure, let me urge you to actively call to mind all that Christ endured for you… the hostility, animosity, vulgarity, brutality… the death and hell that Jesus endured because of the joy set before him… And lose heart if you can.

Friends will betray you, but He is a friend who sticks closer than any brother or sister. Some of your dreams may not be realized in this life, but God will fulfill His purpose and dream for your life. At least that’s what Psalm 138:8 says! Others may be ashamed to associate with you because you are unashamed in your stand for Christ, but He is not ashamed to call you his brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:11). As you consider all that Christ endured for you, you will become a person who endures… a person who is “not swerved from your deliberate purpose and your loyalty to Jesus Christ by even the greatest trials and sufferings” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon).

If you’re normal and you are, your journey will involve great trials and great joys. In the midst of both victories and defeats, joys and sorrows, actively call to mind the love of God and the perseverance of Christ on your behalf. You’ll find that you will slowly be transformed into a person who loves deeply and perseveres resolutely. AMEN.