Mark 13:3-13. And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5 And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet.8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.
9 “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
“The one who endures to the end will be saved.”
We can’t say that he didn’t warn us. Jesus told us straight up that this time of living between the two Apocalyptic Advents will be an era of much sorrow, suffering, wars, and persecutions. We live in the beginning of the end. We are in the cross fire. This is why our prayer is “deliver us from evil.”
Our suffering should not be a surprise to us. And yet for many Christians it is. We spend much of our life wondering what we have done wrong or why God is afflicting us, and we are failing to see that we live literally in a war zone. We make it all about us. But it’s about something much bigger than us. Many of us are simply not acting as soldiers in this war because we are so busy trying to figure out why it’s happening and how to avoid it. You can’t! It’s all around you. It’s in your home, your workplace, your school, your community, your church, your own heart.
The war is unavoidable. Warning: a bit of graphic violence and sadness.
You might be thinking, “Isn’t Jesus talking about the Great Tribulation and we will be gone so I don’t have to worry about Mark 13, right?”
Yes, there is a prophetic fulfillment yet to come here. But Jesus also spoke these words to the Disciples. They lived this out in the first century. And we still live it out in this age. We are the soldiers in the battle. We put on the full armor of God and stand (Eph. 6). We share in suffering as good soldiers of Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2).
So how do we endure to the end? What makes this possible?
Well of course, first and foremost we trust in the endurance of our Savior Jesus Christ. Our endurance must be found within his endurance. Our union with Christ is the basis of any endurance that we muster. Endurance rooted in our own ability will lead to a cruel death. But faith in our eternal reconciliation to God through Christ, and our hope of glory in Christ, will produce this endurance even when we fall by the wayside – “Footprints in the Sand” style.
Second, we recall that it is suffering that produces endurance (Rom. 5:3). Here again we return to this idea of no surprises. Half of the battle in endurance comes from managing our expectations about life. If you don’t think you signed up for a war, then the battle will destroy you quickly. But if you know that your earthly hopes and dreams were never promised, and in reality they were more likely to fail than succeed, then you will endure because you will not be encumbered by the glories of this life. For example, if you know that you will be hated, as Jesus says you will, then you can manage your expectations to have everyone like you all the time, and you can endure that hatred with faith and hope.
Third, we respond in faithfulness. Endurance is built by one small act of faithfulness at a time. If we choose to believe that our life is meant for something beyond this life, that we are strangers here, that we are soldiers dropped behind enemy lines, then we will engage in small acts of subversion. Subversion against our enemy – the Devil. What do these small acts look like? Love. Kindness. Gentleness. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. To what end? So that the gospel may be preached to all nations, one person at a time.
“To live is Christ” is endurance. Endurance by the grace of God and union with Christ, and therefore, endurance through faithfulness until the end.
How are you enduring? Is your endurance until the end rooted in your union with Christ?
Endurance and rest…unlikely best friends.