Somewhat related to the major area of persecution is the area of physical upheavals in this world which is associated with pain and suffering. This will become more and more frequent as we approach the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus. “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs” (Matthew 24:6-8). The phenomena of wars, earthquakes and famine are not something uncommon today; in fact, we need only to look at the newspapers each day and almost without fail, we will read about such events in various parts of the world. Civil wars and disorders in Sri Lanka, Ireland and many African states are ongoing. Famine, droughts, floods – these are happening in increasing frequency in many parts of the world and in a manner that is bizarre and unprecedented. Earthquakes are constantly in the headlines – whether it be in Taiwan, Turkey, Japan, China or Indonesia. In 1995, in one month alone, twenty earthquakes were recorded, measuring about 7 on the Richter scale, in various places. And earthquakes are still taking place in increasing frequency and intensity.
The physical upheavals are not abating and some scientists are predicting more disasters and catastrophes coming our way, with global warming, deforestation and thinning of the ozone layer among the many problems that have to be addressed. Knowing that the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat and the earth and its works will be burned up, it is therefore not surprising that physical upheavals are getting more intense and frequent.
As God’s children, we need to be wholesome in our attitude towards such areas. There is definitely a place to care and to pray for those undergoing suffering and pain; yet at the same time, we must not lose sight of our priorities and the consciousness of the spiritual and eternal needs and consequences. As we recognise the fact that the things of this world are passing away, let us not be caught up with pursuing them and giving our lives to achieve all these that will go up in flames. On the other hand, we can be responsible, for instance, to do our part in conserving the environment. Yet, we should be careful not to end up giving our lives crusading for such issues to a point that we are no longer effective as God’s ambassadors in more critical issues of life.
Even in the area of lobbying for conservation of the environment, there can be spiritual dangers involved. I read of groups whose zeal for the preservation of nature borders on worshipping nature. Such groups gather together to sing songs in praise of nature and their form of activities resembles suspiciously the Christian worship service, except that the object of adoration is not God but nature. So in what appears to be generally positive and responsible, the cry to preserve the environment and nature, we see the real dangers that can lead God’s people onto the wrong path in worship. The evil one specialises in using what seems innocent and harmless to create diversion, deception and destruction. Let us be mindful of his ways.
The world is not getting any better. The Scriptures reveal that evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. Difficult times will come in the last days and immorality, sin, corruption and all forms of evil will be on the rise. Physically, the world is going to see more upheavals and chaos, culminating in the day when the “sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Matthew 24:29) before the Lord comes again. Let us therefore keep our hearts and spirits on the right track and not lay up treasures on earth which finally will be burned and destroyed.
During times of such physical upheavals, it is helpful to ponder over what is recorded in the Scriptures. “And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). If we persevere in faithfulness, we can truly look forward to such a day with the Lord.