Most of us don’t think about the end times. Not the end of our lives, but the time when John’s visions from Revelation will come to pass. When Satan reveals the last of his tricks to gain as many souls as possible for his dominion. When evil persecutes followers of Jesus beyond what we currently comprehend. When Jesus returns in power and takes His bride as He casts Satan to his doom for all eternity.
If we do think of those days, we may think of them as a science-fiction movie or a time so far off in the future we don’t need to bother ourselves with thoughts about it. And so we go about our lives, not understanding how these mysterious days could affect our routine.
While we don’t need to be creating safe-houses full of survival needs, we should be preparing in other ways for these end times. Because what if our preparation for the future strengthens our knowledge of God in the present?
Testing and proving
John talks about a few different beasts in Revelation. Clearly aided by Satan, these creatures deceive all people except those who belong to God (Revelation 13). The power and words they bring forth captivate the earth. Those who remain true to God are told to be wise during these times.
Right now there may not be talking beasts with miraculously healed head wounds, walking around earth and commanding people to worship them, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t prepare our hearts and minds with wisdom in order to know how to test and prove what is true.
The simplest way is to always go back to the Bible. God’s word is living and active, and while we can’t find written-out answers concerning every specific detail for all moral and ethical dilemmas we face, we certainly can gain wisdom about truth every time we open its pages.
So what do you test and prove to be true? One avenue for this is checking the words of your pastor, the speakers at that Christian conference you attended, the award-winning author you read with your devotions. These men and women certainly (hopefully) are only meaning to present and challenge you with the truth. But they are human, after all, and everyone at different times can provide you with a statement or thought that is not actually God-ordained.
No, this is not meant to compare your pastor with a pawn of Satan. Absolutely not. What is meant is that we should not drink in everything people tell us simply because they stand on a stage and hold a Bible. If we are willing to check the scriptures and seek wisdom as we are listening to and reading the words of men and women delivering Biblical messages, we will gain a discipline that will strengthen our faith and knowledge of scripture.
On the subject of trust
We must tread carefully, though. Testing and proving the words of our pastors and spiritual leaders should not turn into a mistrust of everything or even most of what they say. We should enter times of listening with a soft heart ready to learn, not a gavel ready to sentence.
God gave these men and women gifts to lead and guide us. Most of them have degrees and vast knowledge on Biblical teaching. God set up long ago the roles of pastor and elders and teachers to aid in the growth of the Church. And so we must not turn our mindset to one of distrust when seeking wisdom to know the truth.
Testing means we should take responsibility for our own growth in Christ. Listening to and reading the thoughts of others, while they certainly can be Spirit-inspired, are still words spoken by another. God desires to speak directly to you and grow you in your own personal depth of wisdom. If we only take the lessons spoken to us by others, we will miss out on growing deeper in our relationship with God.
Armed with truth
Francis Chan recently explained why he left his role as mega-church pastor in 2010, one of those reasons being the realization that the members of his church weren’t using their gifts for God. They were simply coming to hear him speak each week. From the outside looking in, this church was thriving. But what Francis pointed out was how these men and women were basing their growth off of his words. They came each week, sat in their seats and took every word he said as gospel truth. And Francis knew he was actually harming the Church instead of helping it grow.
May we be willing to admit that our pastors and leaders are only human. Yes, God has given them amazing gifts. But if we are to arm ourselves with wisdom and truth, prepared to give a reason for our hope in Christ to anyone who asks, then we must be willing to test and approve the words of others instead of always taking them as gospel truth.
The end times might take place after we have passed to eternity. But let us not allow God’s words given to John to sit idle. Let us use them to grow in wisdom and truth as we present ourselves to God as one approved. Then we will know beast from prophet, speaker of evil from speaker of truth.
Let’s Talk About It: What do you think are your responsibilities when testing what people say is truth?