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Light & Darkness in Stressful Times

In times of tribulation, do people come together or turn against each other? Do they tend to unite or divide?

The answer is both. Troubles bring out the best and the worst in people. It may seem that men and women change when hardships come. That happens with some like the prodigal son and king Manasseh (Luke 15:11-19; II Chron. 33:11-13). But with others afflictions bring to the surface what was underneath in the heart all along. The stress and pain of life bring the hidden things of the soul out into the open—the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good become better and the bad grow worse.

Jesus said the world would have trials before A.D. 70 that were worse than anything that ever had happened or ever will happen (Matt. 24:4-21). He warned about false prophets, wars, natural disasters and diseases, persecution, and hatred and betrayal. You would think that people would humble themselves and love and help each other in such adversity, but that was not the case with many. “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matt. 24:12). The pains of life seemed to amplify their rebellious spirit.

The book of I Peter was written to prepare Christians for the trials Jesus mentioned. The heartache and suffering would be like going through a furnace of fire (I Pet. 1:7; 4:12). What was the result of Christians who endured all this? They grew stronger. They were more loving, wise, and patient. The good that was in them was polished in the fire and shined even brighter. “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you” (I Pet. 5:10). Christians who endured became more faithful than ever.

We see this truth unfolding before our eyes every day. Evil people see an opportunity to rebel and good people see even more reason to be humble. Wicked people use their troubles as an excuse to hate and harm others while the righteous make the best of a bad situation by loving and helping their neighbors. Those who hate God hate Him more and those who love God love Him more in times like these.

We have been surprised at how Christians have acted in the last two years. But we should not be. We do not know what others are made of until they are tested. We do not even know what is really in us unless we are put on the spot. Now that the world has turned upside down, the thoughts and intents of our hearts have been shaken to the surface. We are seeing division in the church unlike anything we have experienced, but we are also seeing likeminded Christians coming together more than ever. We are not witnessing a sudden change in the church as much as we are realizing the pronounced reality of it.

These circumstances may be new to us, but the pattern is old. Read the Old Testament and you will find the same tendencies in God’s people in times of fear. Study the New Testament and you will discover the same behavior in first century churches. You will see that a remnant of Israel made it through extreme hardships and that many are called but few are chosen in the gospel age (Matt. 22:14). Best of all, the circumstances though they may seem unbearable do not decide where we will spend eternity. We do.

Kerry

West End Church of Christ Bulletin article for September 5, 2021

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