We live in an extremely busy, fast-paced world. In fact, the world is completely filled with noise and distractions. Over 50 million US citizens and 250 million people worldwide suffer from tinnitus, the perception of sound in the ears or head when no external source is present. It is commonly described as a “ringing in the ear.” According to Wikipedia, the most common cause of Tinnitus is noise-induced hearing loss.
It is precisely this level of noise that most have grown accustomed to that makes it difficult to hear from God without maximum effort. It is very hard to discern the voice of the Lord in a world that is full of noise. Elijah got to experience this lesson first hand as an example for the rest of us.
Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
I Kings 19:11-12
The still small voice of God is still speaking today. Can you hear it? Many people who claim to know God cannot discern his voice. Elijah had to learn that he speaks to us in a still small voice. It is not loud and boisterous like the world and people around us. If we are not carefully attuned to listen to the small voice, we will become hard of hearing.
For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’ Matthew 13:15
In this modern world, there are a myriad of distractions clamoring for our attention. From people constantly gabbing on cell phones, texting, and checking the latest Facebook posts and Tweets to the incessant noise of the highways and byways of most of America’s cities and towns. Sadly much of this texting and tweeting is also being done while driving. Is it me or are people talking entirely too much? People are so accustomed to blabbering about their every thought that important words are hard to ascertain.
In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise. Proverbs 10:19
We are inundated with responsibilities, distractions and an endless barrage of targeted media and advertising campaigns all screaming simultaneously for our attention. From the crying baby, to the car in need of repair, to lawn maintenance, to driving the kids around to various functions, humans are constantly busy with some form of activity. There are far too many demands and responsibilities to keep up with. Is it surprising that most Americans struggle to find quiet time? Sadly, we’ve become so accustomed to noise that many people can’t even sleep peacefully if it’s too quiet. What is wrong with us? We are so used to cacophony and the endless pursuit of activity, that we as a nation and a species, have lost touch with the power of quiet introspection, meditation and prayer. Don’t misunderstand me, there are many beneficial technological advances that we all use on a daily basis, but all to often these things entrap us in a self-perpetuating web of continual motion. We are hard pressed to find peace and quiet!
The Bible accurately predicted a time like this would come. It is a time where people are running to and fro with ever increasing knowledge.
But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
It is the time of the end when people shall be running to and fro and increasing in knowledge. When has the world more accurately fit this description than right now?
The scientific and technological sectors are booming with new discoveries that make previous ones obsolete about every three-five years. Who would have thought twenty years ago that millions of people, with a few mouse clicks, could quickly put their words in view for the world to read without having them printed and physically distributed? The Internet is a wonder of the world that has become an indispensable part of our lives in a very short period of time. We have the ability to travel across the world in a matter of hours. Just a century ago, a transatlantic trip from Europe to the United States would take weeks! But, while much good has come with all this knowledge and technology, there is a sinister effect working in our lives that we must pay careful attention to.
Our world is becoming more busy and noisy. We are pushing silence out of our lives at a rate that suggests a fear of what it has to say to us about ourselves.
– John O’Donohue
Being busy and incessantly tending to the myriad of modern responsibilities is a major obstacle to spiritual growth. God knew the world would be in this condition in the days preceding Jesus’ second coming and the establishment of his kingdom on earth. On a smaller scale, this scenario was also true during the time of Christ’s first advent. Jesus warned a woman who had welcomed him into her home while he and the other disciples were on their way to Jerusalem. Martha, excited and honored that the Messiah would stop by for a visit, apparently rushed to accommodate him with the very best she had to offer. But, as she toiled away making preparations, her sister Mary neglected these duties and chose to sit down and listen to Jesus as he taught. She seemingly did not miss a word. Upset that her sister left her alone to do all the work, Martha complained to Jesus, asking that he would rebuke Mary and send her into the kitchen. Jesus did no such thing. Instead, the Good Shepherd told her,
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:41-42 (NKJV)
“My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:41-42 (NLT)
Mary proved to be very wise in this situation. While her sister frantically tried to serve Jesus, she quietly chose to listen to his words. She discerned the one thing that was necessary for her to be doing: listening to Jesus! While one sister concerned herself with trying to feed Jesus, the other was fed the words of eternal life.
We should pay close attention to this event for it has important implications for our current age. In verse 40, Luke describes Martha as being “cumbered about much serving” (KJV). Other translations render this phrase as follows:
“distracted with much serving” (NKJV)
“[overly occupied and too busy] was distracted with much serving” (Amplified)
“distracted with all her preparations” (NASB)
“distracted by all the preparations that had to be made” (NIV)
“distracted by the big dinner she was preparing” (NLT)
The Greek word used for our English term “distracted” is perispaō. It has the following definitions:
to draw away, distract; to be driven about mentally, to be distracted; to be over-occupied, too busy, about a thing
I want you to think about this word and it’s meaning in relation to the following scripture.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” Matthew 7:21-23
Do you see the correlation? Ministry itself has become a distraction to many believers. Far too many are concerning themselves with some form of service for the Lord without spending time with the Lord. Mary became intimate with Jesus and soaked in his teaching so that she could become a doer of the word. Martha missed out on the lessons taught, being overly concerned about serving Jesus. Service without intimacy is like the noise of clanging cymbal. It is energy misplaced and lacking in power. It is why there is so much spiritual burnout among today’s clergy. Jesus warns that this type of service could exclude one from entering the kingdom of heaven. This is a sobering statement. With all the thousands upon thousands of ministries, churches and organizations across the globe, where are all the miracles, healings, deliverances, signs and wonders? With all this activity going on, you would think that the world would be saved a few times over by now. Sadly, much of this service to God is misdirected, offering the world little of God’s true love and power. Christians spend way too much time doing what they think is God’s will without taking the time to actually know what his will really is. Many are in for a rude awakening.
There is another grave danger in being overly occupied with service to God and consequently missing his instruction. It is the risk of falling into temptation because of the lack of watching and praying.
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
In the preceding chapters of Matthew, we learn that Jesus: told the disciples that the temple of Jerusalem would be destroyed; explained the signs of the end of the age and the events surrounding his second coming; warned that a traitor was in their midst; cautioned that his crucifixion was near; and predicted that Peter would deny him three times. This was a lot of weighty information the disciples heard in a short period of time. They had much trouble understanding their beloved leader was going to be murdered let alone comprehend the signs of the times and the parables concerning the end of the age. It is because of this lack of understanding that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to bring his teachings to remembrance and provide further clarification.
After he informed the disciples of the events that would soon take place and occur in the distant future, he sorrowfully ventured to the garden of Gethsemane to pray. With the weight of the world literally on his shoulders, Jesus needed time alone with the Father to pray for himself, his followers and all who would believe in Him. His grief was so intense that Luke describes his sweat “like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Upon arriving at Gethsemane, Jesus instructed the disciples to, “pray that you may not enter into temptation.” This event is also recounted in the gospels of Mark and Matthew, they each offer a glimpse as to everything that took place. However, there is an interesting verse in Luke that describes the disciples’ state of mind more accurately than the others. In verse 45 of Luke chapter 22, it states,
When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow.
So it appears the disciples were not just a bunch of lazy, good-for-nothings who could not stay awake to watch and pray for a mere hour. They were also filled with great agony (and perhaps fear) over what Jesus told them would happen. Sorrow tends to have this effect. It immobilizes even the fiercest of men. It’s why Jesus continually exhorted the disciples to watch and pray or they would fall prey to temptation.
It appears that Jesus went away and came back to find the disciples sleeping three times before he finally said, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand” (Matthew 26:45-46). Three is the biblical number for perfection or completeness. The seriousness of the hour required three separate warnings. Man is slow to hear and God is patient and compassionate enough to continue to sound the alarm. Jesus knew that during times of great danger and upheaval that our sinful nature beckons us to the path of least resistance. This is the temptation we all face. Will we deny him in the face of adversity or stand firm in the faith undeterred by the grave situations that may engulf us?
I believe this scriptural lesson has many applications to our current situation and that they will happen in a similar fashion, but on a much larger scale. In the few preceding chapters before Jesus is betrayed by Judas several key things took place.
The first significant event is Jesus’ excoriating rebuke of the religious practices of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23). He concludes this scathing reproof by predicting the desolation of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, saying “not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:1). We know this scripture was fulfilled in 70 AD. The entire priesthood system was dealt a significant blow with Christ’s resurrection and distribution of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost. It’s death knell lie at the hands of the Romans when Jerusalem was sieged and the temple was completely destroyed. This paved the way for the priesthood of all believers.
The second important occurrence is Jesus’ prophecy of the end of the age, the resultant tribulation and the events surrounding his second advent (Matthew 24 and 25). We are now living in those times (see the articles The Last Days Part 1: Great Deception, The Last Days Part 2: The Signs of the Times, and The Last Days Part 3: The Time of Gross Darkness).
The third series of crucial events revolve around the conspiracy to kill Jesus, the betrayal of Judas and the disciples’ denial of him (Matthew 26).
History repeats itself because of mankind’s stubborn sinfulness. Solomon understood this fact when he penned the following wise words in Ecclesiastes 1:9,
That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun. (NKJV)
History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. (NLT)
With this wise insight, we can now examine what the Lord is saying to us who are now living at the end of the age. Like the events that took place from Matthew chapters 23-26, these same circumstances are going to occur again or have already begun.
The current system of organized religion has been weighed in the balance and found wanting just like the system of the scribes and Pharisees Jesus severely criticized in Matthew 23. Like that system, it is set for destruction. If you would like to understand why there is a massive exodus from the churches especially in America, then this understanding is crucial. God is scattering his sheep just like he did in 70AD, largely because of the corruption of its leaders. There is a fleecing of the flock instead of a feeding of the flock. The current religious system is broken and must be destroyed. New wineskins must be formed. The traditions of men have made God’s word ineffective. The current leadership structure is much like the old testament priesthood and will need to repent or be removed. While man looks at the outward appearances and sees much apparent success in today’s super ministries and mega churches, God looks inwardly, at the condition of the heart. It will happen similarly to how the outwardly impressive King Saul was passed over for David, the humble shepherd boy with the heart of God. While God has worked with this system for centuries, it is simply not sufficient to bring the principles and power of his kingdom he intends to establish. The Davids will arise in the near future.
There are elements of Christ’s end of the age prophecies that have already taken place and others that are yet to be fulfilled. That fulfillment is rapidly upon us. False prophets have been successful at deceiving the masses and we are witnessing a world that is largely asleep. Even Jesus’ own people are slumbering when they should be watching and praying as the signs of the times are being fulfilled. The pre-tribulation rapture is one of the most dangerous deceptions that has caused the church to err. While many are preparing to fly away into heaven and watch the end time scriptures fulfilled from the clouds, they will be totally surprised when this does not happen and they are faced with situations they have not prepared for.
Please take the time to pray about this issue and study to show yourself approved in this matter. It is of grave importance. Here are a few references that should help.
Remember, Jesus said these times would be similar to the days of Noah. Ask yourself were Noah, his family and the rest of the animal kingdom whisked away into heaven or were they preserved from God’s judgment and wrath here on earth?
Just as there was a conspiracy to kill Jesus during his first appearance, there is also a conspiracy in our day to snuff out the life of Christ in those who profess to know him. This has both spiritual and physical implications. All one needs to do to realize this is to examine the laws that have recently been passed in the United States permitting the murdering of civilians without due process of law, the use of weaponized drones, forbidding the legal right to protest, the militarization of local police forces, and the ability of the President to seize all domestic resources including food and water. There are rumors of secret FEMA camps to detain a large number of people, rumors of biological warfare and the reduction of the population, nuclear war, and many other possible situations on the horizon. Apparently, those in positions of power and authority are preparing for these things while most people are too busy with the ordinary affairs of life to care. There are many articles about these things on this blog.
I cannot stress the importance of watching and praying in this hour. We can avoid catastrophe if we will put these two simple things into constant practice. Jesus’ warning to the disciples was given just prior to a time of major upheaval and great change. In fact, the word watch as used in these warnings is directly related to sudden calamity.
Grēgoreō –to watch
to take heed lest through remission and indolence (slothfulness) some destructive calamity suddenly overtake one
All of the events prophesied to soon take place will completely overturn our current way of life. This is why we must watch and pray and not be weighed down with sorrow or surfeiting. In Gethsemane (the oil press), the disciples all fell asleep. They were awakened abruptly only to see Jesus betrayed, arrested and to deny even knowing him to escape a similar fate. Peter did this three times indicating a complete distancing of himself from the one he claimed to love. Not only did he deny Jesus, he attempted to dissuade his arrest and ultimate death on the cross by cutting off the ear of the high priest’s servant. If we are not prepared to endure hardship like good soldiers, we will seek an easy, perhaps even violent way out. At one point, Jesus called Peter Satan because his actions were adversarial to Jesus’ purpose. Without watching and praying we can find ourselves being obstacles to God’s plan!
The particular temptation that Jesus warns us about is the temptation to deny him when times of intense trouble arise. This will separate the sheep from the goats. It will separate the doers of the word from the mere hearers. Troubled times are certain. There is much evidence in the natural and spiritual that a greater economic crises than what we faced in 2008 is imminent. Rumors of wars are becoming an even greater possibility. Enemies of the USA are aligning themselves and making threats. Our own government is taking extreme measures to protect itself should something spark the citizens to revolt en masse.
WAKE UP! It is time to put aside busyness and distractions. Get rid of things that are not essential to life. Get back to basics and stop wasting time with trivial matters and entertainment. Cut loose relationships that are not profitable. Don’t just rationalize, but pray about important decisions in your life. Be like Mary and choose that which is good; the Word of the Lord!
Great changes are on the horizon. Are you falling asleep or becoming distracted by much serving? Have the cares of the world weighed you down. Do you have trouble spending quiet time with God in prayer and studying His word. If so, you are in grave danger! Now is the time for intense preparation for the tribulation that lies ahead. We have been promised to overcome if we humble ourselves, obey and sit at our Master’s feet to listen to instruction. Powerful storms of change are on the way. Is your foundation strong? Has it been built by the wise words of our Lord and Savior, “watch and pray”?