[Note: While I was waiting for the internet to come back on this evening, I decided to write this entry and then upload it as a blog entry as soon as the internet came on. I had to wait for hours for that to happen though. In fact, I had to wait all night. And this is yet another reason why Thailand is not a first world country.]
The trial of a wacky Church of God leader for tax evasion is beginning in northern Kentucky. This particular leader is becoming infamous among the general republic as he has long been infamous around the Church of God community for living a lavish lifestyle while encouraging his believers to charge up debt and give it to him because the world is going to end soon . Despite not really having a persuasive message or rhetoric, he has a following that is large enough to support his lifestyle based upon a group of people that are waiting for the end to come.
It is an unfortunate fact of life in the Church of God that a large number of people (especially older people) are huge prophecy buffs, often with an unfortunate tendency to ignore plain scriptures like Matthew 24:36 while seeking to predict exactly when the end will come. For decades now, these prophecy hobbyists have been thinking that the Great Tribulation and the return of Christ are “just around the corner.” Now, any observer of world affairs can see that the world is in a very scary place, living in an unsustainable way, deliberately provoking divine judgment through social and moral sins, and generally living in disregard for God’s ways. This is true among those who call themselves Christians and even more true among those who do not.
I think it is reasonably clear that if God wanted to, He could bring the end to pass at any time that He wanted to. This has probably been the case for decades even, given that the same sad aspects of the world and the same alarming trends have been visible for generations now. While generation after generation of pietist believer seeks to escape responsibility and find a rapture or a place of safety for themselves far from the pressures of this present evil world, perhaps we ought to consider that God may be waiting for us to prepare ourselves for the responsibilities of being kings and priests in the world to come. And if we see matters this way, we might put some of the responsibility for the length of our wait on the fact that we are not busy preparing for our responsibilities, but have often wasted decades sitting in pews not gaining any deeper knowledge about how to apply God’s laws or how to lead ourselves, families, communities, and nations in obedience to God’s laws as described in the Bible.
Let us remember the example of ancient Israel (see 1 Corinthians 10:5-6) and its applicability for Christians today. After all, God made the same promise to ancient Israel as he did to Christians about their covenantal responsibility to become kings and priests (Exodus 19:5-6, 1 Peter 2:9-10). But Israel remained slaves in their hearts. They never developed as a nation the godly heart and spirit to follow God’s ways without the carrot and the stick (and even with the carrot and stick they remained rather stubborn and stiff-necked, so that God in His wrath had to cast their unworthy carcasses in the wilderness for their rebellion and stubborn refusal to take responsibility for their walks with God). Are we the same way? Do we grumble that it is taking too long for God to bring us to the promised land? Do we refuse to take responsibility for our lives and seek a guru among the ordained ministry to tell us what is right and wrong and to make our decisions for us?
It is of vital importance to understand what God is calling us for. God does not call believers for them to escape responsibilities or to find a leader who will guide them into the promised land where they can live in ease and plenty. Instead, God is looking to train people to rule in His Kingdom, and if we are unable to handle the easy responsibilities of ruling ourselves or our families as godly servants, God will not give us kingdoms and nations, or even cities and towns, to rule over. He who is faithful in little will be faithful in much. He who is not faithful at all is like the one who buried the mina or the talent in the ground and expected God to do all the work, a wicked and unfaithful servant. What kind of servant are we? Are we diligently working to develop our God given talents, or are we beating up on our fellow servants or being lazy llamas waiting for the end to come without being ready for it if it does come?
None of us can answer these questions for anyone else, but we ought to seriously ask ourselves how prepared we are to handle the responsibilities that God has told us in His Bible that He wishes to give to the faithful. If we truly believe that God will be faithful to His promises to provide offices of responsibility for believers (John 14:2), then we will be diligent in this life to prepare ourselves for the spiritual work that we were created for (Ephesians 4:11-16). Godly leaders will prepare the people of God to fulfill His works. Ungodly leaders only want sheeple to pray, pay (them), stay and obey (them). It is not a challenge at all to find someone who fancies himself an apostle chosen by God with the exclusive truth of God who expects his leaders to revere him with idolatrous regard and keep him in a high standard of living, but it is a far greater challenge to find a congregation of people seeking to develop their own spiritual gifts in love and harmony, obedient to God’s ways and yet striving to be responsible stewards of what God has given them, developing their own capacity for leadership and responsibility without either becoming or seeking after the mantle of leadership in the manner of the heathen.
This is not to point any fingers at other people, though that would be easy to do. Instead, we ought to point the fingers at ourselves. If we take God’s promises as expressed in the Bible seriously, those promises come with implications and responsibilities we may not be aware of. If we have sought to follow a particular leader because we seek freedom from responsibilities, it is jarring and uncomfortable to face the unpleasant reality that God is calling us to face responsibilities, even unpleasant ones. If we do not know God’s laws, we cannot teach them to others. If we do not obey God’s laws or follow in His ways, we cannot be a model of those ways for others. If we do not love God with all our heart, all our mind, and all our soul and love our neighbor (everyone) as ourselves, we will not have the credibility with God and with others to be authorities about God’s ways.
We have a lot of work to do before we are even close to that level of maturity (Matthew 5:48). How many of us have spent three, four, or five decades believing ourselves to be God’s chosen people but wasting our time and not diligently studying and applying God’s word for ourselves? We can do nothing about the time we have wasted content to think that we knew everything while really knowing almost nothing. But we can do something about today and what we will do in the future. If we truly believe that we are born to reign in the world to come as God’s beloved children, then we have to use the time we have in the present world to develop our knowledge, our compassion, and our thoughts and behaviors in line with God’s ways.
We all have a long way to go before we are fit models of God’s way for the world around us, before we are spiritually mature enough to be models of God’s behavior for nations, tribes, and peoples, fit to be rulers over cities and towns and villages. Before we will be given such noble responsibilities we are told to bring every thought into subjection to Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). With the help of the Holy Spirit of God dwelling within us we can be made ready to reign as God’s rulers on this earth, ready to teach and model God’s ways for a world that has been enslaved to sin with minds clouded by deceit by the evil one, our adversary. But we will never reach God’s rest in His Kingdom if we are simply waiting for the end to come. Rather, we will only enter into His Kingdom to reign and rule under God if we have been busy preparing for that end to come as good and faithful and diligent servants of God on this earth. Let us therefore resolve not to waste any more time believing that we have already arrived, but instead seek to redeem the time wisely knowing that the days are evil, and that we never know when our Lord will come and hold us accountable for how we have spent our days.