A number of things have surprised me in the aftermath of our recent presidential election.
The first thing was the identity of the winner. Early in the election season I had decided that, in my opinion, neither of the people who would emerge as the candidates of the major party would receive my vote. Consequently as the election season moved on and the pool of candidates decreased I paid less and less attention to both Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton, which, for all practical purposes, meant I didn’t pay much attention to the actual election. I figured that Clinton would win, and was surprised when she did not. Poor candidates, each in their own way. One of them won. Time to move on.
And so the next thing that surprised me was the lack of "moving on" happening in some portions of the electorate. Outrage over the result. Protests. Typing in ALL CAPS online. Many people do not like how the election turned out but I imagine that the generally held opinion that the United States is the greatest country in the world has not changed. Celebrities who promised to move to Canada should Trump win have abandoned their promises. One of the things that makes this country great is that since Washington-to-Adams, we have a 219-year history of peacefully transferring power from one government to the next.
The third thing that surprised me was the level of lament heard within the church, specifically by people who pastor congregations and preach the Word of God each Sunday. Again, my belief is that these were two very poor candidates, and so I don't think it really made much difference if Poor Candidate B emerged the victor over Poor Candidate A. And yet for some pastors the outcome compelled them to make significant changes to their sermon last Sunday. When compared to eternity I think the outcome of a presidential election in the United States is not particularly significant. When compared to the struggles of daily life in places like the Middle East, the outcome of a presidential elections is not particularly significant.
And the last thing I want to mention today as a surprise was the level of lament noted above that was found among pastors of my own tribe, i.e. pastors located within the Reformed tradition. These people, whose roots are in the theology that emerged in the writing and preaching of John Calvin, and whose confession of faith is grounded in either the Westminster Standards or the Three Forms of Unity, should understand the idea that come what may, God is sovereign. His rule, His providence, His promises, are unfailing and they may be found in even the worst of events. And world history, over just the past 100 years, has some pretty horrible events. These are pastors who perhaps are not trusting in the ending.
I have been preaching through the Gospel of Mark and so last week and this week I am preaching Mark 13. This is the chapter of the Bible where Jesus takes some time alone with His disciples to teach them about the coming judgment of God. In a more concise manner than the Revelation of John, and perhaps with a bit clearer imagery, Jesus prepares His disciples for the moment in time when He will return in power and glory and this age that we live in will come to an end.
The chapter contains words of warning that hard times will come. Hardship that will be clearly more intense than anything the world has ever seen.
We are also told that believers in Jesus won't be exempted from that hardship. Jesus goes so far as to say that His followers will be hated for one very specific reason: Their allegiance to His name.
There are also words of encouragement. Jesus will gather all of His followers to Himself. No exceptions. And also the promise that while heaven and earth pass away, none of His words will pass away. Therefore Christians who are living at the time of Christ's return can face the hardship of those days, not in fear, but in confidence, that the one who holds them will never let them go. They are His, not for a time, but for all time.
So as Christians let us read the news and follow the events of the day, but not as people who have no hope beyond this life. As Christians let us be mindful of the days we live in, but remembering that they are but a moment compared with eternity in the presence of our Savior and Lord.
In His kindness God has given us a glimpse of the end of this age and a preview of the age to come. Let us live and serve God, trusting in the ending of the story.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.