Discerning the news

Written by Charles Ekong

25/07/2022

Humour me with an impossible hypothetical scenario: Imagine someone who had listened to Jesus and His first disciples preach had fallen into a coma and has just woken up. What would such a person make of a typical news cycle on most cable networks? On any given news segment, there’s a report on war, economic crises, natural disasters, destruction of ecological habitats, human cruelty, political unrest, etc. Many of these catastrophes aren’t in faraway places anymore. For some, it’s on their doorstep, directly impacting lives and livelihood. I’ve little doubt that my coma patient would link these events to the signs that the end of this world, as described in the gospels and epistles, is imminent.

I wonder how many of us adopt the perspective of my hypothetical coma patient as we watch world events unfold. Before anyone assumes hyperbole, let’s review the signs Jesus told us to watch out for as signals that His return is imminent. First, He said false teachers would come in His name and lead many astray. He also added that we would hear of wars and rumours of wars. Additionally, we would witness uprisings between nations and kingdoms and experience famines and earthquakes across the earth. He also added that around the world, Christians would be hated and persecuted for living godly lives [2 Timothy 3:12]. He said some Christians would deny their faith, betray and hate their brothers and sisters, and there would also be an increase in lawlessness as many abandon love and reverence for God [Matthew 24:3-12]. Which of these signs have you not heard about or witnessed first-hand?

Even if you don’t believe in God, it’s undeniable we live in perilous times. Nowadays, broadcasters regularly use unprecedented to describe economic and health crises, political turmoil, crime rates, temperatures, floods, droughts, wildfires, glacial shifts and other natural phenomena, even in developed nations. Unfortunately, it’s easy to become desensitised to reality when reports of mass shootings, cold-blooded murders, war crimes, babies dying of hunger and strange viral infections occur daily. Or when news of new diseases, human displacement due to wars and natural disasters, political and civil unrest, inflation, and so on, bombard us daily. Few would deny that if our world continues on the current trajectory, it’s heading for unmitigated disaster.

So, what should our response to the signs of the times be? Do we develop coping mechanisms to insulate us from realities that don’t directly impact us? We could binge on movies and TV shows in a bid to escape reality. We could even avoid the news and bury ourselves in pursuing our goals and ambitions, narrowing our world to only the events which affect us directly. Our coping mechanisms may work for a while, but many of us are now encountering these realities on our doorstep, so we can’t ignore them any longer. As you read through the rest of Matthew 24, you’ll find that world events will get worse, not better. However, the purpose of this prophecy wasn’t to frighten us. Instead, it was to prepare and forewarn us for what is to come so that we approach life circumspectly in these times [Ephesians 5:17].

As Christians, we should discern as we witness world events and observe the reports in our newsfeeds that the second coming of Jesus is imminent. Knowing this should compel us to examine our lives and what we’re doing with our time. In years past and even now, we’ve witnessed people abandon their responsibilities and disengage from their communities to become hermits in anticipation of Jesus’s second coming. While we’ve seen others, who see grace as a license to sin, have indulged hedonistic appetites. There have been other responses too. But, as we read through Scripture, we discover that God wants greater intimacy with us in these last days, and He’s demonstrated His desire by lavishly pouring out His Spirit on us [Acts 2:17-21]. He also promises to use mightily those who respond and yield their bodies, minds and hearts to Him [Daniel 11:32].

God has extended His hand of intimacy and partnership to us in these last days because though the time is short, there’s still much to accomplish. He loves the world, and His Son died to save every human being in it. It’s still His desire that every person comes to the saving knowledge of God through His risen Son, Jesus. Additionally, those who accept His invitation for salvation need to be discipled to conform to the image of Jesus as they live out their lives to the glory of God. The question before every believer is simple: How desperately do we want to be part of what God is doing in these end times? What price are we ready to pay to be involved in God’s programme? Are we willing to lay aside our egos and trivial pursuits to serve the purposes of God in our spheres of influence?

Legacy is often not at the forefront of our minds as we navigate our daily hustles, but it should be. A godly perspective on life recognises that we will one day, very soon, stand before the Judge of all to give account for how we lived [Revelation 20:11-15]. So, a wise person will assess their choices in light of that day and live with eternity in mind [Psalm 90:12]. Much of what we see and hear from our news bulletins and broadsheets should remind us that the end is nigh for the world as we know it. Therefore, we must be ready so that the day of the Lord doesn’t surprise us like a thief in the night as those ignorant of the signs [Matthew 24:42-44, 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4].

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