United Church of God

Personal From the President: December 2, 2021

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Personal From the President

December 2, 2021

Life and “a very little thing”

What do you think when you watch or read the news these days? It seems more and more difficult to find reports that are encouraging.

You have likely heard of the renewed concern over the new “Omicron” COVID-19 variant. You have also likely read or heard that the Russian Premier Vladimir Putin hit back against NATO warnings about a potential invasion of Ukraine. The Reuters news service recently reported that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned Putin directly: “There will be a high price to pay for Russia if they once again use force against the independence of the nation Ukraine.” Reuters also reported U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken backing up the NATO comments, saying: “Any renewed aggression would trigger serious consequences.” Putin forcefully responded by threatening to deploy Russia’s new hypersonic missile capacity, which Putin claims can fly nine times faster than the speed of sound.

And meanwhile, when relations between Russia and the West sink to new lows, the People’s Republic of China—which also possesses hypersonic missiles—aggressively crowds secure airspace around Taiwan, sending both fighters and nuclear-capable bombers out to harass the island nation. The most recent sortie came after American legislators visited with President Tsai Ing-wen of the Republic of China, which the PRC condemns. American military leaders have warned multiple times this year that China may invade the island nation within four or so years.

If we don’t understand the biblical context for all of this, this type of news can sap one of hope. It’s no wonder that people are anxious and depressed.

But not for us, as called-out ones in the Church of God!

We hold the marvelous understanding that while Satan the adversary presently holds court as the “god” of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
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), we know that the adversary only holds limited power. God Himself directs the outcome of global affairs and fashions them according to His plan. As the Bible reveals, we can read and understand with confidence that “He [God] controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars” (Daniel 2:21 Daniel 2:21And he changes the times and the seasons: he removes kings, and sets up kings: he gives wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:
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New Living Translation, emphasis added throughout).

Thanks be to God, who has given us a humbling and special privilege so that we are not like other people in the world, “whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
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When we see leaders, who appear to be powerful titans of the political realm, threaten or outright engage in combat, we need not fear or be resentful. This is true even when we may feel frustrated or upset about human events. Indeed, as the apostle Paul powerfully tells us, our true eternal citizenship serves the King of Kings, who will return to this earth with globe-changing power! (Philippians 3:20 Philippians 3:20For our conversation is in heaven; from where also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ:
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But today, we are but fragile humans, subject to the forces of inflation, political injustice, economic pressure and more. When our bank accounts may run low or we become concerned about food and other needs of life, it becomes easy to take one’s eyes off of our spiritual purpose and off of becoming more like Jesus Christ.

What do we do?

During the ministry of Jesus Christ, our Savior delivered critical advice that comes directly to us from across the ages. One time, “many thousands” of people had gathered (Luke 12:1 Luke 12:1In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, so that they stepped one on another, he began to say to his disciples first of all, Beware you of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
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) to hear Him, but Jesus spoke first and directly to His disciples. He explained the importance of being “rich toward God.” After a short discourse to the crowd about what is important in life (Luke 12:13-21 Luke 12:13-21 [13] And one of the company said to him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. [14] And he said to him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? [15] And he said to them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses. [16] And he spoke a parable to them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: [17] And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? [18] And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. [19] And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry. [20] But God said to him, You fool, this night your soul shall be required of you: then whose shall those things be, which you have provided? [21] So is he that lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
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), Jesus returned to private instruction to His disciples. What He taught is critically important to us today as 21st century disciples.

Beginning in verse 22 of Luke 12, Jesus explained in detail why His disciples should not worry about the affairs of this world, in fact, how they should not even worry about earthly physical needs. As He taught: “Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes” (Luke 12:23 Luke 12:23The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.
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, New International Version). After talking about how God even feeds the crows and ravens, birds that are not physically attractive but are often a nuisance, Jesus gently pointed out: “And how much more valuable you are than birds!” (verse 24, NIV).

Then Jesus asked two profound questions to underscore His point. “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (verse 25, NIV).

One can imagine the disciples looking at each other in puzzlement as if to acknowledge, “why, none of us can do that!”

Jesus then puts the true powerlessness of human life into profound context: “Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (verse 26, NIV).

A “very little thing”? That is a statement worth careful thought and meditation for us!

What are we to be worried or anxious about? Jesus directs us to think on the power and purpose of God as it appears in nature.

“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!” (verses 27-29, English Standard Version).

Jesus again puts our human lives into context, noting that God Himself knows what we must have to live: “And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them” (verses 30, ESV).

Instead of being concerned about day-to-day affairs, including worrying about how world events might impact us, we are to have a different focus: “Instead,” our Savior tells us, “seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you” (verse 31, ESV).

When we read or hear of hypersonic missiles, of global political machinations that portend destruction, even potential collapse, perhaps heralding fearsome events that we know will eventually lead to a time of “great tribulation,” what does Jesus tell us to do? “When these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28 Luke 21:28And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draws near.
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, ESV).

In the days ahead, lest us hold fast with confidence to the precious knowledge that our God is a deliberate God, One who “controls the course of world events.” And remember, what we regard as impossible, God regards as “a very little thing.”

I’m thankful for your faith and pray for you constantly. Please pray for us and for one another. Again, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. Let us be thankful that God has shown us how everything will turn out.