The Book of Revelation
Another doomsday movie, 2012 , was released recently. It portrays cataclysmic events unfolding in the year 2012, a year predicted by the Mayan calendar as the time when the world as we know it will end. So, is the end of the world near? Is Jesus coming soon? These are questions that followers of Christ have asked all throughout church history. In fact, some have been caught up in what we could call ‘end times mania.’ Christians in the first century had very similar questions and concerns. The apostle John wrote to the churches he oversaw and shared some visions that he was given about what God was doing in their generation and about the future.
The Book of Revelation was written by John the apostle while in prison on the Island of Patmos. It was most likely written during the reign of Domitian in the mid-90s. It was a time of emperor worship and the persecution of Christians. However, the greater challenge for Christians at this time was compromise not persecution. They were in danger of becoming overly comfortable in a pagan world rather than living in full allegiance to Christ. Major themes include the sovereignty of God, the futility of Satan, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the cosmic war, theodicy, mission, the perseverance of the saints, and worship.Jesus and His Church
God’s people often live in uncertain times but they can know that God holds the future in his hand and that he is working everything out according to his eternal purpose. John, inspired by the Spirit, encouraged his readers to continue to worship God, to walk in love, to be faithful, and to engage in God’s mission in the world. He also was given specific messages of encouragement and challenge to the seven churches that he was responsible for (Rev.1-3). There are some commendations (things they were doing well) and some challenges (areas they needed to give attention to). A warning was given to those who did not respond and a blessing was promised to those who did. The challenge to each church was to have ears awake to listen and respond to the Spirit.A Word of Encouragement for CityLife Church
I wonder what Jesus would say to us at this time - right now? I believe he would continue to commend us for numbers of things. Of course, there are also many areas we can improve and grow in as a church. What would he challenge us with? As I have been praying over these last few weeks, the area I felt God speak to me about for our church family is a call to grow in FAITH. Faith is a belief in or confident attitude toward God, including a strong commitment to his will for one's life. Faith is one of the qualities that Jesus always looked for in his followers and in his church (see Rev.2:10, 13, 19; 14:12; 17:14). Earlier, when speaking about the time of the end, Jesus had highlighted the importance of faith during this time (Luke 18:1-8). When the Son of man returns, will he find faith on the earth? Faith is one of the qualities that apostolic church leaders looked for too (Rom.1:8. Eph.1:15-16. Col.1:3-6. 1 Thess.1:8; 3:1-8. 2 Thess.1:1-6. Heb.4:14; 11:6; 12:1-4).Growing FAITH
Faith is not static. It can be measured. The Bible speaks of people with “no faith”, “little faith”, “weak faith”, “dead faith”, “great faith”, “full of faith” and “strong faith”. Of course, even a small amount of faith in God has great power (Luke 17:6). Most importantly, our faith can grow (2 Thess. 1:3. 2 Cor.10:15). The disciples prayed, “Lord, increase our faith” (Luke 17:5). How would you describe your level of faith in God right now – is it high, low or somewhere in between? How can we move our faith in God up to a TEN?
What about YOU?
- Trust in God. Followers of Christ in the first century had to trust God in tough times. The journey of life has unexpected turns in the road and different seasons that we go through along the way (ask John, Job, Joseph, Esther and Daniel). Some things are within our control while many things aren’t. At all times, we need to choose to TRUST in God (Prov.3:5-6). Trust is not fatalism but rather it is an active faith in who God is and what he is doing. Our trust in God can grow. As we experience God’s faithfulness in our lives we compile memories that can strengthen us during difficult times. When facing Goliath, David recalled the victories that God had given him over the lion and the bear. Have confidence in God’s goodness, even in the face of your doubts. God is at work! He causes all things to work together for good to those who love him and who are called according to his purpose (Rom.8:28). No, all things don’t work out the way we want them to; no, not all things are good; and no, God doesn’t cause all things. However, he is the master designer who causes ALL things (the good and the bad, our successes and our failures) to work together for his ultimate purpose in our lives. This is something that we can KNOW. That level of confidence helps us to trust ... even when we do not understand.
- Expect God to Keep His Promises. Jesus is both faithful and true (Rev.3:7, 14). He will keep his promises. Faith involves a positive expectation about the future. God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above whatever we could ever ask, think or imagine (Eph.3:20). Sometimes when our hopes are dashed or unmet, we find it hard to expect God to show up. We start to doubt his promises and we can even end up in unbelief. We need to understand that often there are delays between God’s promises and their fulfilment. Delays become times of testing (Ps.105:16-19). However, delays are not denials and we must continue in faith even during these times of contradiction. It is also important for us to realise that God’s ways are different than ours and this may mean that the fulfilment of his promises occurs in ways least expected.
- Never Give Up! Faith endures tough times. It makes a choice to never give up, to persist, to be determined, and to not lose heart ... whatever life may throw at us. Life is not always easy. Jesus made it clear that his followers would experience times of pressure and trouble in this world (see John 16:33 and also Acts 14:21-22. 2 Cor.1:3-5. 1 Pet.4:12). However, God promises that his grace will be enough for us to endure anything that we go through (2 Cor.12:7-10). When we are feeling weak, his strength is available to us as long as we do not quit (2 Cor.4:8-9, 16-18). Determine to finish the race God has given you to run (Acts 20:22-24). Times of pressure help to develop our character, they have the potential to make us stronger (Jas.1:2-8), and they make us more empathetic to others’ pain (2 Cor.1:3-7). Have the courage, determination and commitment to finish. To win is to get up each time you fall. It’s always too soon to quit.
I wonder if Jesus wrote a letter to you personally right now. What would he say? Remember that he loves you and wants you to experience His life to the full. What would he encourage you for? What qualities would he commend? What things are you doing well? What would he challenge you about? What changes do you need to make? What character areas would he highlight right now? What things do you need to stop doing? What things do you need to start doing or do more of? May we each have ears awake to listen to the Spirit’s voice!Sample Discussion Questions
- Discuss the concept of Jesus speaking to his churches and to individuals by the Spirit. What has been your experience of the ‘prophetic word?’ How can we be more in tune with what God wants to say to us on a regular basis?
- Think about CityLife as a community of God’s people. What things do you think God would commend us for? What areas do you think he would challenge us in? Have some prayer together about this and also for the church’s leaders so that they will have wisdom and the guidance of the Spirit as we move forward together.
- Share about a time when God came through for you – an answered prayer, a breakthrough or a provision of some sort. What affect did this have on your faith?
- Share about an area in your life right now that you are worried about but that is totally beyond your control. How can you move into a greater degree of trust in God for this situation?
- Reflect on this well-known prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.” How does this relate to trust?
- Read Psalm 105:16-19 and then discuss Joseph’s life faith journey – dreams, delays and fulfilment. How do you think he kept strong in faith in the face of unmet expectations?
- Read 2 Samuel 23:8-23. What lessons can we glean from David’s mighty warriors about never giving up?
- Reflect on your LifeGroup experience this year. What is going well and what could make it better? Share openly and honestly.