Faith at the Breaking Point: Preparing for Hard Times – Program 3
| September 26, 2013 |
|By: Dr. Erwin Lutzer; ©2013|
|Does there come a point when you can no longer trust that God will come through for you? What would it take for you to deny the faith in order to save your life or the life of your children? Can God be trusted even in those circumstances?|
Standing Firm in Christ
Today on The John Ankerberg Show:
- Dr. Erwin Lutzer: We’re talking today about faith at the breaking point. And the question is, what would you have to go through in order to deny the Lord and to say “I can no longer believe in His love?”
- When you look all around and see little reason to believe that God is on your side, what does God want you to know so that you can believe and trust Him no matter what?
- Lutzer: When we are faced with a trial we can either bless God or we can curse Him. And God loves to be believed, even when evidence seems to be against that.
- Is your faith at the breaking point? How can we remain faithful to God in the midst of our troubles and heartaches?
- Lutzer: Jesus said what we must say, namely, if God wants me to go through this hardship, if that is His will for me, I can endure that without calling into question His love for me. What you do is you believe God’s bare word. In other word, you believe His promises against all evidence that you can see around you.
- My guest today is Dr. Erwin Lutzer, pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, Illinois. Listen as he talks about faith at the breaking point: preparing for hard times, on this special edition of The John Ankerberg Show.
- Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. We’re talking about an interesting topic today, faith at the breaking point. If I were to ask you the question: What would it take for you to deny your faith in Jesus Christ? At what point would your faith break, and you’d say, “I can’t trust God; I can’t trust Jesus Christ anymore; I’d be willing to deny Him because of_____,” and you fill in the blank? That’s what we’re going to talk about today. Some of you have faced circumstances where you have given up your faith. There may be even tougher circumstances than that up ahead that Christians are going to be facing. But the reason we’re doing this is that when we come into these circumstances that might imply we ought to leave the faith and leave God, God’s forgotten us, what does God want to remind us? What does God want us to know? And, Erwin, start us off.
- Lutzer: Well, you know, John, I’ve been thinking about this because when I read magazines such as The Voice of the Martyrs, and I see that today many people are dying for the faith, especially in Muslim countries, because of the fact that they are Christians. I’ve often asked myself, you know, at what point would I be willing to deny the faith in order to live? You know, I’m reminded that even Peter denied the faith. I mean, you know, when he was accused of being with Jesus and he said, “I never knew Him,” and cursed. Here’s Peter the apostle, under pressure, fear of death, and what does he do? He denies that he even knows Jesus.
- So let’s be realistic about this and let’s not be prideful and say to ourselves, “Well, if I were confronted with evil or a temptation like that, I would never deny Christ.” We don’t know but that we might buckle under temptation too. So what I decided to do as we get into this topic is to look at the period of history that is the worst. You know, I’m reminded, John, of Matthew 24 where Jesus, when He was speaking about the great tribulation, He said that there is going to be a period of time the likes of which has never been in the world before. And I say to myself, “Can there be a time worse than the holocaust in Europe?” And the answer is, on one level, no, it can’t get any worse than that. But the difference between that period of time and the period of time we’re going to talk about is, this period of time during the tribulation is worldwide. So it is going to be worse.
- Ankerberg: Yeah. Let’s describe it from Scripture in terms of why these circumstances are so tough.
- Lutzer: Alright. What happens is this. We are probably in the middle of the tribulation period, if we have the right scenario. As we open the Bible to Revelation 13 we discover that a beast arises, and this beast is the Antichrist. He stands in opposition to Jesus. But also we’re introduced to the dragon who gives authority to the beast. The dragon is Satan. And then later on in the chapter, in fact, you have another beast that rises from the earth, and he corresponds to the Holy Spirit. The bottom line is this, that Satan sets up an unholy trinity. Just like God is a trinity, he wants to mimic God, so there’s the dragon, corresponding to God the Father, the beast, God the Son, and the second beast to the Holy Spirit. And can you imagine what we read next? It says, “And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words. And it was allowed to exercise authority for forty two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming His name and His dwelling,” that is those who dwell in heaven. “Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them.”
- Let’s not misunderstand this, by the way. By conquering them it doesn’t mean that they ended up in his column. What it means is he had the power to kill them. And it says, “And authority was given it over every tribe and people, language and nation. And all who dwell on the earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. If anyone has an ear to hear let him hear.” John, this takes my breath away.
- Ankerberg: Yes it does.
- Lutzer: There is a time coming when this whole world is going to be under the control of Antichrist in such a way that everyone is going to be worshiping him, except a minority, those whose names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life from before the foundation of the world. And we can talk about that in a few moments, because the good news is, and I say to all of our listeners, you can find out whether or not your name is written there. And we’ll explain in the next segment how that can happen. But the point is this, that everyone is worshipping the beast, everyone is bowing before him.
- How is he controlling the world? Through economics. You know, the Bible says when this second beast arises that you cannot buy or sell unless his name is on your forehead or on your hand. Of course it’s very easy to speculate today, isn’t it, that a computer chip would do it, you know.
- Ankerberg: Yes.
- Lutzer: There are computer chips. And think of how efficient that would be in terms of identifying you, controlling you. You wouldn’t be able to go into a Jewel store or Dominick’s and buy something, buy a loaf of bread, unless you have his mark, unless you have his computer chip, if that’s the way it’s going to be done. So through economics he controls the world. I want to say just in passing that we can understand how this would happen if we had a worldwide currency. And this worldwide currency would come about after an economic decline where the entire world then would be unified with the same kind of money.
- Ankerberg: Which we’re talking about even right now.
- Lutzer: Which we’re talking about even now. You’re absolutely right. And I know that there are some economists that I’ve read who say that that’s exactly what we need. So here’s the set up now. If you don’t worship the beast you can’t buy or sell; your children are starving. Well,…
- Ankerberg: It’s a forced worship.
- Lutzer: Forced worship. Would you worship the beast in order to get some food if your children were starving? We’re talking today about faith at the breaking point. And the question is, what would you have to go through in order to deny the Lord and to say, “I can no longer believe in His love”? At what point would your faith break? You know, Luther was talking about this when he was speaking about the Turks who were running over Europe in those days because of the Ottoman Empire. And he made this statement, he said, “What do you do when you look all around and you see no reason to believe that God is on your side,” because the Turks are overcoming the Christians, etc.? He said, in effect, at that time what you do is you believe God’s bare word. In other words, you believe His promises against all evidence that you can see around you. The question is whether or not we would be able to do that in the midst of these circumstances.
- Ankerberg: Yeah, even if it caused us our death. In other words, one of the things that is absolutely astonishing about church history is that people in this life did not win. They were killed. They were tortured. Their children were raped or killed in front of them, and they still kept the faith. Some of them were buried alive keeping the faith, okay. Now, we here in America, and maybe in Western Europe and other parts of the world, we can’t even imagine holding on to belief in God under those kinds of extreme circumstances. And I might ask right here, why would anybody believe in God under those extreme circumstances?
- Lutzer: Well, if our love of God and our belief in God is strong enough, we will go on believing no matter what. And, you know, actually we’re not in that passage today, but in the 11th chapter of Hebrews, it wasn’t written in order that we might know how to do miracles. The 11th chapter, all those heroes, it talks about two classes of saints, those who were delivered and those who weren’t. “But others, they were persecuted, they were sawn in two, they wandered about in sheep skins and in goat skins being afflicted, tormented, of whom the world was not worthy.” What’s so unique about them? They didn’t see miracles of deliverance; they kept on believing God. And God loves to be believed. And in the next segment we’re going to talk very specifically about the basis upon which they were able to maintain their faith.
- Ankerberg: Yeah.
- Lutzer: But let us put ourselves in that situation. The whole world wants to back a winner. The whole world wants to live. All that you need is the mark of the beast, which is a sign of worship and his authority over you, and you can get all of those blessings.
- Ankerberg: Alright, so we’re setting the scene for the ultimate problem, the ultimate tragic circumstances that Christians throughout history could face, okay. And then we’re going to talk about how, now in this next segment, how they conquered it and stayed true to the Lord. And the reason we’re doing that is not because we’re hoping we’re all going through the tribulation. But the fact is that we’re trying to talk about learning from them of how, with the circumstances and the hardships we’re facing right now, whatever they might be, to not allow those to take us away from the love of God, for us to deny the faith, for us to remain faithful. Now, folks, some of you, this is coming right down your alley, and so you don’t want to miss this next part. Stick with us. We’ll be right back.
- Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back. We’re talking with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, senior pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, Illinois, and we’re talking about, what would it take for you to deny Jesus Christ? Are you facing tough circumstances, so tough—maybe the death of a loved one, maybe your economic situation, the broken relationships, your children, something else—and you’re saying, “Where’s God?” And you’ve left because of those circumstances. Are you even thinking about leaving? We want to talk about that. And we’re using the illustration of the worst possible scenario, which the Bible says is up ahead in the tribulation time, where you have worldwide martyrdom of Christians. You’ve got an economic system that forces them to worship the beast or they’re starved. And what we’re talking about is, how are they, according to Revelation, going to make it? How do they stay faithful even though they get killed? And we’re going to try to use those illustrations of how they did it and bring them back to our time, because we’re not there yet. Our times might be tough, but what can we learn from them, Erwin?
- Lutzer: I’m so glad, John, that we have the opportunity to continue this, because I think that this is very rich. And don’t let me end this segment without explaining to people how they can know that their names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, because those are the ones who are able to stand against Satan. But, you know, the reason that people were able to, the Bible says in Revelation 12 that he was cast out of heaven, the devil was. This probably happens during the middle period of the tribulation. And he is on the earth and he is very angry. He’s angry because he wasn’t able to kill Christ. He tried to do that through Herod. The text tells us that.
- Ankerberg: When Jesus was born.
- Lutzer: When Jesus was born. He’s angry because he is thrown out of heaven. That’s a humiliation. And the other reason is because his time is short and he is enraged. And what he’s going to do is to make war with the saints. And there are two ways that he does this. One is through circumstances. But before we get to the circumstances, let’s talk about another way that Satan gets to us. It says, “I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power of the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ has come; for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.’” Satan gets through to a lot of people through guilt and failure.
- You know, it’s been my observation as I talk to college students that most college students who lose their faith in university don’t do it because of intellectual reasons. But often times, because they’ve been involved with someone immorally, the whole sense of guilt weighs so heavily upon them. And then they begin to try to find reasons to justify their lifestyle. And they’re so overwhelmed with guilt they don’t know how to cope with it, and they say, “I’m denying the faith.”
- And so let’s begin there and remind people that the way in which we overcome guilt is because of the blood of the Lamb, and we’ll talk about that also in relationship to circumstances. The good news is that when Jesus died on the cross His death was so sufficient for the vilest of sinners. You know, there’s a song that we sometimes sing, “The vilest of sinners who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.” And I speak to the person today who is bogged down in personal guilt. They’ve been involved possibly in sexual sins; and maybe I’m talking to someone who’s been involved in murder or rape. Jesus Christ’s death is sufficient for you. Don’t allow Satan to so overwhelm your sin that you forget that the Bible says that “where sin abounds grace abounds even more.” So overcome him through His promises and through the assurance that we have.
- Ankerberg: You have a great illustration of a man going through files. Can you give us that?
- Lutzer: Well, basically the story is the man in a dream saw all the files of his sin. He saw these file cabinets and each drawer had different sins. On and on they went. I mean, he was overwhelmed by all the sins he had committed. And then in the dream Jesus came and started to go through the files. And the man said, “Oh no, not Jesus! Anybody but Jesus, please not Jesus! I don’t want Him to see these files.” But Jesus went through file by file, hundreds of index cards with this man’s sin. And on each He wrote “Canceled.” And He wrote it with His own blood. And when Jesus was finished He went to the man and said, “It is finished!”
- Ankerberg: That’s terrific.
- Lutzer: Isn’t that wonderful!
- Ankerberg: Terrific.
- Lutzer: And I say to those today struggling with guilt, if you receive Jesus, it is finished. So here we have people now who are bowing down before the beast, the whole world worshipping. A remnant doesn’t; “they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of their testimony.” In other words they discovered that in giving their testimony there was strength also. And there’s no doubt that the believers actually stood together during this period of time. You know, it’s been shown that those who are going through persecution, those who are imprisoned, and so forth, they can endure the faith more easily if they know that other people are praying for them. And they go through an experience like that with the church of God. You know, maybe I’m speaking to somebody and you are so downhearted, going through so many trials that you even can’t manage the future. You need other believers. Sometimes life is so dark we can’t even believe for ourselves. Other people have to believe for us.
- And then it says, “Neither did they count their life even unto death.” In other words, what they said is, there are some things that are more important in life than living, and one is to be faithful to Jesus Christ, in the midst of such persecution, such discouragement, such marginalization, even to the point of seeing your children die. You know, when you read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and other stories, many of which are contemporary, by the way, there are people all throughout the world today, Christians, dying. I read an estimate of 400 Christians every single day being martyred for the fact that they are Christians. How are they doing it? They are doing it through the strength of Christ.
- But now what I’d like to do is to answer that question that I referred to earlier. And that is, how can you know that your name has been written in the Book of Life from before the foundation of the world? The answer is this: that when you come to Jesus Christ and you believe on Him as your Savior, when you do that you will be in the Book of Life. And, you know, God has this book. We know that He keeps that Book of Life, the book of the Lamb, and you can know that your name has been written there through faith.
- Now, you know, as we end today I would like to pray a prayer. It would be a prayer to remove all fear from our hearts, because I must tell you that many Christians today live with various fears. I’m talking about fear, for example, of death, fear of martyrdom, fear of financial insecurity, fear of poverty. Whatever it is, can we trust God to deliver us today so that we can walk in the days ahead in real victory, and take authority over fear? You know, when you stop to think of it, every prayer that I’m going to pray, all of that is backed by Scripture. There are promises that we can take. And while my prayer is going to be very brief, I’m sure that you’ll be able to get a longer prayer that I have written. It’ll be on the website. I’ve known people who have printed that prayer. They have kept it in their Bibles and they have prayed it many times.
- Would you at this time bow your head with me as we pray together to God so that we might be able to serve Him without fear? Let’s pray.
- Father, today we take victory over fear because Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body and after that there’s nothing they can do, but fear him rather who’s able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” We pray for those, Father, who fear the death of a loved one. Help them to remember the promise that You “shall never leave them nor forsake them.” You shall be there for them. We pray, Father, for those who have fear of poverty. We ask that they might remember that You are with them always and that you see the sparrow fall to the ground; and if You see that sparrow You see them in their need as well. And we pray for them. We pray especially, Lord, as we conclude, for those who have never trusted Christ as Savior. May they reach out today and believe the gospel, the good news that Jesus died for us, that they might be with You forever and that their name might be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. We pray in His blessed name, amen.
- Ankerberg: Folks, I hope you prayed that prayer. And, again, you can find the longer prayer that Erwin’s talking about at jashow.org. I’ve also asked him for permission to put up his sermons that he preached at Moody Church which are full of information, the Bible verses, that I think would be very valuable for you to read. And, Erwin, I just want to say thank you for coming. Thank you for being willing to share this with our audience. I’m sure that it’s helped a lot of people, and we appreciate your being here.