I’ve not seen a vision nor had a dream, and I haven’t heard a voice from heaven giving me special insight into COVID-19 or any other 2020 surprise looming in our future. But I do have a story. My story revolves around a couple of sermons I thought were intended for a few men in Alaska. Later, I realized they were for me and our church. Early this morning, I felt to share them with whomever would stumble across this blog. They are just sermons. No flashy imagery or thundering voices to describe, and the content may or may not seem significant to you. I’ll just share my story.
In September 2019, a good friend, Pastor Lorin Bradbury, invited me to speak at a men’s conference in Alaska. I enjoy these kind of events, so I immediately began thinking and praying and studying about what I’d say in the sessions I’d lead. The conference was schedule for the last week in March 2020, so I had lots of time to prepare.
Toward the end of December, things began to come together. I was drawn to the events surrounding Jesus and His closest disciples just before He was betrayed, tried, and crucified as described in John’s gospel. The verse that first caught my attention was the fourth one in chapter sixteen. Jesus had spent hours explaining things to the Twelve, and in this verse, we get a strong hint that the world as they knew it was about to change. Jesus said, “But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.”
“I’m warning you in advance,” Jesus told them. “Things are about to get rough, and I won’t be there in person to handle it. You are going to have to step up and take charge.”
“Men,” Jesus was saying, “it’s about to get real!”
That was the message I felt God was giving me to pass on to the men in Alaska. Not a warning about a worldwide pandemic or civil unrest, but a strong call to step up and be the man of God NOW that they kept saying they were someday going to become.
As I read through these chapters in John, I found three times that Jesus stopped His instructions and made sure His disciples knew that He was warning them ahead of time about things they would soon confront. Things that He knew could shake their faith or cause them to doubt their position or question their authority. Things He didn’t want to blindside them. I figured if things were about to get real, it would be smart for us to examine what Jesus though was so important.
As I was putting that message together, I realized it would be beneficial for our own congregation to hear it. So, one Sunday in February 2020, I preached the message “It’s About To Get Real!” to our church family, and I pointed out the three things that Jesus warned His disciples about in advance.
The first warning came right after Jesus washed the disciple’s feet (John 13). He talked about how they were clean, but not all, that one who had eaten bread with Him would turn against Him.
Imagine the shock in that room. For more than three years, they had been an inseparable team. They’d seen the dead raised, watched fish and bread multiply in their own hands, sat in the boat while Jesus calmed a storm, heard every sermon, watched the woman with the issue of blood walk away whole, lepers made clean — they were indeed a band of brothers, and now Jesus says that one of them is going to turn away and reject everything they’ve experienced together?
It no wonder Jesus wanted to warn them about this before it happened. He didn’t want their faith in Him to be shaken (John 13:19). He wanted them to know that He was still God regardless of who left their group.
The fact is not everybody is going to make the trip with you. Some who have experienced His presence and witnessed His power will get entangled with the cares and pursuits of life, and will determine that walking with Him isn’t worth the cost. Or, some popular crowd will whistle at them and they’ll find more pleasure hanging with them than suffering with Him.
So, remember what Jesus wanted you to know in advance: not everyone is going to go with you to the end. When it happens, don’t let it pull your faith from Jesus and His word.
Next, Jesus wanted them to understand the importance of receiving the Holy Ghost. He made sure they understood that He was going away, but He spent a whole lot of time telling them that, if they loved Him, they would do as He said and receive the Holy Ghost. He wanted them to know before He left so that they would continue to believe on Him (John 14:29).
The third thing He wanted them to know in advance is found back where we started in chapter sixteen. “They’re going to put you out of their churches,” Jesus told them. “It will get so bad that some will think they are doing God a service by killing you.”
The very people that the disciples would seek to affirm their message and calling would be the first ones to try to destroy them. They wouldn’t be welcome in the churches where they worshiped as boys. Their first teachers would now become their bitter enemies.
And Jesus wanted them to know it before it happened (John 16:4).
So, this was the message I felt God wanted the men of Alaska to hear. I knew He wanted them to seriously consider these three things, and stand strong as things got real in their own families and communities.
Then the pandemic hit and the men’s conference was cancelled. It slowly dawned on me that the message was probably more for me and our church than for the men I thought I’d be preaching to.
At first, the pandemic seemed like a momentary irritation. Give it a few weeks and things will be back to normal. So, we had church online and few Zoom meetings for our youth and children.
But normal never came back.
After a couple of months, we started having service in the building again on Sunday morning. We’ve been doing that for five months now. Most of our congregation has returned, but there are some who’ve decided to move on and others who choose not to communicate at all.
I’m a slow learner. It’s taken a while for the details of this experience to pierce my skull and inform my brain that God was telling me in advance what we would experience in our local church. So, we’re picking things up and preparing for a future that’s a bit different from the normal of our past. But before the Lord told us in advance of how things would go in these troublesome times, He told us about a sudden turn that would occur, a harvest of souls that would happen, and place where revival fires would burn. And since He went to the trouble of telling us all of this before it happens, I’m convinced He’ll bring it to pass if we’ll just stay faithful.
So, that’s the story. I’ve now fully embraced it as my own. I’m doing my best to convince our church family that, since God showed us all this in advance, He has big plans for our little church that sits in the middle of nowhere.
While I didn’t get to deliver this message in person to my friends in Alaska, I am praying that each of them is prepared to stand immovable in Christ as things continue to get real.
Thanks for reading my story. If this message resonates with you, add your name and city in the comments and I’ll add you to my prayer list. Together, we will stand strong as things get real!