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Praying More Than Ever, "Thy Kingdom Come"

In this Nov. 22 letter E-mailed to United Church of God elders, Roy Holladay, president of the United Church of God, discussed many issues that we feel would benefit our subscribers.

by Roy Holladay

It has been more than a year since the world, and especially the United States, received the rude awakening that we now simply call "9/11." While there were political, military and economic tensions before the events of that day, the collapse of the World Trade Center towers and the attack on the Pentagon provoked a new level of unrest, changing passive confrontation between Western nations and supporters of terrorism into active conflict.
As we watch world affairs (Matthew 16:1-3) and maintain a sober vigilance of our spiritual condition (Mark 13:32-37; Luke 12:35-40), it is important that we realize the impact of such events and what they could mean for the future, in light of biblical prophecy.

The price for the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, has been high& and it continues to rise. Here are some of the costs of this one event:

  • The estimated losses for New York City in 2002 will be $1.6 billion.
  • The estimated losses for the state of New York in 2002 will also be $1.6 billion.
  • Combined estimated losses for the city and state in 2003 will be approximately $5.8 billion.
  • Airlines have absorbed billions of dollars in losses during the past 14 months.
  • A newly released report estimates that the cost to the U.S. national economy of these terrorist attacks will reach $639.3 billion, with a loss of two million jobs. Financial damage will be at least twice that of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the previous most costly U.S. disaster.

All of this from the precisely targeted terrorist attacks of 9/11! What would be the results if several more coordinated attacks occurred at key military and financial locations?

The Bible warns us that times will certainly become worse before we see a turnaround with the return of Christ. Jesus stated in Matthew 24:6-8, "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows." Paul wrote Timothy that "perilous" or stressful times would come (2 Timothy 3:1).

The sniper attacks in the Washington, D.C., area also had their negative effects in creating an environment of fear and panic in that area. Again, what would happen if there were coordinated sniper attacks in many big cities, airports, schools and public buildings? Air traffic would shut down. Schools would close. People would be afraid to go about their daily business. The possible economic effects would be staggering.

Daniel foretold a time of trouble "such as never was since there was a nation" (Daniel 12:1). In Jeremiah 30:4-7 we read of Jacob's trouble, that there will never be a time like it. Modern-day Israel& primarily the United States and Britain but also all the descendants of the scattered tribes& are heading to a time of increasing calamity. Perhaps in the events of recent months we are beginning to get a clearer picture of how that might take place. We may be seeing the beginning of Jacob's trouble.

Leviticus 26 remains an important chapter of the Bible to consider as we observe world events. In this chapter, God lists the blessings that Israel would receive for obeying Him& and the curses if it did not. The blessings are generous, and we in the United States and other Western countries have been the recipients of the promises to Abraham.

Verses 3-4, 6 and 8 read as follows: "If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them, then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit... I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid...Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight; your enemies shall fall by the sword before you."

Prosperity comes when a nation follows God. We will reap what we have sown.

In the United States, we recently celebrated the national holiday of Thanksgiving. The early settlers realized that the bounty and blessings they were able to enjoy were because of God's hand. This observance is an annual reminder that every good thing comes from God. Of course, we as Christians know we need to thank God on a regular basis, remembering His mercy and gifts to us. As our ways please Him, those blessings will continue& individually and nationally. An important part of us remembering God is to thank Him for what He has given us personally and collectively as a nation.

We also have much to be grateful for spiritually. Certainly the promise of the Kingdom gives us reassurance and a confident outlook, despite the troubling times in which we live. The Kingdom of God will eventually replace all kings and national governments (Daniel 2:31-45; 7:13-18, 22, 26-27) and we will be directly involved in that Kingdom! In the meantime, we have the privilege (Mark 16:15-16) of bringing hope to others that& despite the current traumas& a better time is coming, and will last for eternity.

Continuing in Leviticus 26, we read that curses follow disobedience. We read the following later in the chapter: "But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments...I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. I will set My face against you, and you shall be defeated by your enemies. Those who hate you shall reign over you, and you shall flee when no one pursues you...

"I will break the pride of your power; I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. And your strength shall be spent in vain; for your land shall not yield its produce, nor shall the trees of the land yield their fruit" (Leviticus 26:14, 16-17, 19-20).

In areas of health, economics, weather and military strength, people will suffer if not obedient to God. As we have seen with the events of Sept. 11, 2001, a catastrophe in one area can produce domino effects in other areas.

Let us consider for a moment the phrase, "You shall flee when no one pursues you." We may have asked ourselves in the past how this could happen& especially in the United States with the strongest military in the world. The terrorist and sniper attacks in the past months have given us a possible answer. Even though no army was threatening America's borders, people in America's capital were afraid to do their normal travel for a period of time. Again& what would happen with multiple attacks in sensitive areas?

There are a couple of other aspects that we as Christians need to be aware of from such events. One is the fragility of our society. For all of the economic might of the Western world, it is also fragile. Just a few events could send our economy into a tailspin. It would not take much for the world to experience a full-blown economic and military crisis.

Another is how quickly major changes can come. "For when they say, ëPeace and safety!' then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape" (1 Thessalonians 5:3). Literally within minutes on Sept. 11, the world became a different place. It behooves us to always be watchful and ready (verses 4-8).

Other headlines underline the fact that we are living in times of stress, and that any number of events could trigger a major crisis on the world scene. Some recent ones are:

  • "FBI Warns of Risk of al-Qaida Attack."
  • "U.S. Braces for Execution Reprisals."
  • "Europeans Warn of Terror Attacks."
  • "Russia Says Nuclear Material Missing."

Another trend to be aware of in these events is religious tension. Fanatical fervor in the name of Islam has been behind most of the terrorist activity. These include the events of Sept. 11, the later attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner, the shootings at the Los Angeles airport, the hostage crisis in a Moscow theater, the bombing of a French tanker and the bombing of a nightclub in Bali.

Obviously these were extremists, performing radical acts. However, conflicts between Jews, Christians and Muslims have a long history that has been more or less active in the 20th century. With the Middle East, especially Jerusalem, home to some of the most sacred sites of all three beliefs, we can expect to continue to see strife and violence in the name of religion.

In our lifetime, most religious armed conflict in the Middle East has not directly involved Christianity. Is that trend in the process of changing? On Oct. 18, 2002, the Charisma News Service reported that a leading Muslim cleric from Iran had called for the death of Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham and Pat Robertson.

The Catholic World News reported on Nov. 11, 2002: "Vatican officials point out, however, that there were credible threats of an assassination against the [pope] in 1995, when he visited the Philippines for World Youth Day.

Officials acknowledge that U.S. intelligence agents warned of an al-Qaida plan directed by Osama bin Laden, prompting tight security precautions." How would Europe, South America and other heavily Catholic countries react if such an attempt were ever successful?

Speaking of Europe, the terrorist events of the last several months have widened the philosophical gap between America and its (for now) European allies. Europe, especially Germany, is nervous about America's desire to remove Saddam Hussein with force. In fact, in recent German national elections, Chancellor Schröder made it his election platform that Germany would not support an invasion of Iraq.

In the November 2002 World News and Prophecy, Melvin Rhodes wrote an insightful article titled "The Coming Clash Between Europe and America." Mr. Rhodes highlighted key facts in current U.S.-European relations, including Europe's distrust of America's foreign policy, trade disputes and Europe's criticism of America's environmental practices. Many Europeans chafe over the military and economic might of the United States, realizing that there is not much they can do about it.

All of these are just initial indicators of stress between these two powers. We read in Revelation 17:12-14 about a coming beast-power, and nations giving their power to the beast. We don't know when that will occur in its final form, but clearly, the foundation is taking shape.

What does all of this mean for you and me? The Scriptures give us direction as we head into these unsettling times (emphasis added throughout).

  • Revelation 3:10-11: "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown."
  • Luke 21:34-36: "But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."
  • Matthew 24:32-33, 44, 46: "Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near, at the doors!...Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect...Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing."

Above all, we need to be close to our Heavenly Father in prayer. We need to pray that His Kingdom will come soon (Matthew 6:10). We need to pray that we will be able to do the work of the Church in peace, for as long as He wills (1 Timothy 2:1-4). We need to pray for the strength and perseverance to endure the times that are coming upon this world. God has promised us protection, and we will receive that deliverance by remaining dedicated to Him and seeking first His Kingdom.

The great news, of course, that we always emphasize is that after these terrible events, Jesus Christ will return to rule the earth! That is the only real hope for mankind, and that is our confidence and joy as we observe world events. May God speed the day of Christ's coming and the establishment of His government on earth. wnp

©2002 United Church of God, an International Association
Used with permission.

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