I am so convicted. I’m reading The NIV Application Commentary on Revelation by Craig S. Keener (Zondervan 2000) as part of my personal Bible studies/devotions and everything quoted in this post is from that book/author. Besides learning a whole new better way of looking at interpreting Revelation and apocalyptic/prophetic books generally, I am receiving such truth and call from God, through this book and all of my various studies. This morning’s reading was on Revelation 6:1-8 which is about the “notorious four horsemen of the Apocalypse as fierce images of terrifying judgment”. The horsemen are 1. White-A conqueror bent on conquest; 2. Red-War; 3. Black-famine; 4. Pale-Death. I personally believe these are to be interpreted symbolically for all the suffering and judgments that “Jesus said would characterize the present age” (life on this present planet earth), though Bible scholars vary in their ways of interpreting Revelation and I am certainly not an expert, so I am not dogmatic about this topic. But the important take-away that has rocked my heart this morning is the author’s rich insights on the contemporary significance of this passage. Here are some thoughts from the author and me:
- “God is sovereign over history. We can cling to nothing other than trust in the sovereign God who rules history, for nothing else remains certain.” p. 208.
- The author explains a few examples of the atrocities of war, famine, and suffering that occurred in the 20th century and notes that in America we believers have come nowhere close to this level of suffering, although examples of injustices and atrocities in America are also given. He goes on to say, “Those of us who do not face such tests would be facing them if we were born in such countries, we should make good use of the blessings God has given us for his kingdom, and honor and pray for our brothers and sisters. Part of Revelation’s message is the warning that all Christians must be ready to suffer. Suffering is unpleasant, but it is nearly universal, and we must be prepared for it. It is also our opportunity to prove what we are made of.” p. 210. Opportunity = suffering! I cannot explain how this has stabbed and called my heart this morning.
- “Rather than evolving morally, humanity has simply developed more effective means of killing its fellow humans than were available in the past.” Surely history is showing us that secular humanism is not making the world a better place! This world needs Jesus and His transforming grace.
- In his discussion on famine, the author again gives examples of poverty and injustice in the world and in America. “Christians can, however, work for justice ***.” A few examples were given of Christians who have worked to make a difference. How I regret not having made better use of my time and resources to help the cause of Christ and to help relieve suffering, poverty, and injustice. And I am praying for God’s enablement to do better with whatever time I have left on this planet.
- The author discusses plagues (which cause death). “***plagues are wake-up calls to humanity, but we must remember that they are judgments against societies, not necessarily against individuals. Because innocent sufferers often hear our blanket statements about judgment as personal condemnations, we should always make clear what we already know, that not everyone who suffers is experiencing personal judgment.” “We must hear in the world’s suffering not condemnation of suffering individuals but, on a larger scale, God’s calling for the world’s attention.” p. 214. God is getting my attention. He’s also called me before in this regard. I have responded in some ways to obey God in this area of helping those in need, but oh how I wish I could obey better and more consistently!
- In the author’s section on a Christian response to the world’s suffering, he says, “To be sure, some American congregations will not want to hear such a message any more than John’s or Jesus’ hearers did, but to deny our personal responsibility for the poor is to deny Scripture.” “***our own lifestyles one day will be spread before us in judgment.” Keener quoting Billy Graham p. 215. “How would Jesus, who focused on the unevangelized and outcasts of his day and fed the hungry crowds, evaluate our priorities? Even when we do our best, however, Revelation reminds us that in this age suffering is often God’s calling for the world’s attention, even when we do not choose to listen (Rev. 9:20-21).” This author certainly has gotten my attention this morning via the Holy Spirit’s help.
Friends and readers, if you’re a fellow believer in Christ, will you please take a moment to pray for me and for the Americans of the universal church? For me to remember this call and do better at obeying it? I sometimes feel overwhelmed with the various tasks and ministries I believe God is calling me to. I need wisdom how and when to serve and only in the strength that God provides. I’ve experienced some minor persecution because of my stand for Christ and my passion for sharing His good news and pointing people to Him alone, however, most of my suffering is merely bearing up under some health and relationship issues that God allows in my life to cause me to be dependent on Him and stay humble. I am so blessed and have such comfort and resources. I am ashamed of my lack of consistency and devotion to God and want to do better.
Also, I am not “prideful” about my Bible studies. I have checked and rechecked myself on this. I am being given a precious gift by God to have large blocks of time available to me for Bible study and devotions, often done when I am physically too weak to do physical tasks due to my illnesses. I am being provided for by God through my husband to be enabled to do Bible studies and Christian service, all by grace. I praise and thank God for this. I recognize not everyone has the gift of “scholarship” and I admire those who have other giftings like service for example that I wish I had. I wish I had a strong back and was physically stronger to serve people in need with more practical tasks. But God has given me this gift of writing and the gift of physical illnesses (yes, gift) instead, so I share what I can.
And why do I feel I need to share about my personal devotions? Isn’t that between just me and God? Yes and no. I feel compelled by God to write. And I feel God is asking me to share some of my writings. I only share a small part of what I journal, study, and pray about. God designed me to be a reader, writer, scholar type person for a reason. It is who I am. I know I have very little following and perhaps my investment of time in my writing and self-publishing has little effect. But I will post and share when I feel God is asking me to and I will leave the outcome to Him. If you are blessed or helped by my writing and blog and Facebook posts, it would be helpful to receive feedback and encouragement. But even if I don’t, God’s got it and it’s good for me before God.
I praise and thank God for the new heart He has given me by His grace and for the very, very slow but sure maturity He is giving me to want to serve Him more by grace. If you knew me well, how sinful and foolish I am, you’d realize how much it is God alone who has caused anything good in my life. Without Him, I would have committed suicide long ago because this present world is so sad, imperfect, and difficult and without God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit there would be no hope. Instead, I live feeling hope and joy most of the time, and in my down times, I hang on to Jesus through faith by grace. Glory to God in the highest for His grace to me.