Running the race in the last days
The Acceleration (the pace is picking up)
by I Gordon
Jer 12:5 If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?
I have called this series 'Running the race in the last days' but apart from the very first message on the approaching finish line I haven't spoken much about 'the last days' aspect. Oooops. We'll focus on that more in this study. So far we have looked at 'The Finish Line', 'The Entanglement' and my last message on 'The Coach'1. There we explored how we have a heavenly Coach and He doesn't see things the same way we do. He has perfect vision of where we should be going and the path to get us there. It involves a plan that includes training, discipline and exercise... because He loves us.
I've called this message 'The acceleration' which may not exactly give the whole game away so let me explain. In any long distance race there comes a point where things 'take off' so to speak. The pace, which may have been constant and manageable for some time, starts to quicken. For example, if you were in a 5000m race, there would be quite a few laps initially that are run at a constant modest pace. People don't enter long distance races and start sprinting from the get-go. Well, not those in their right mind! They are generally happy to run together at a manageable pace for some time. But everyone knows it can't stay like this forever. As thoughts of the finish line start to enter the mind, the pace begins to accelerate. Things start to happen. It's still not chaotic... but you can notice the change. Then, be it one of two laps from the end, 300m maybe... at some point someone will make their move. Once that happens, it is all on. Everything starts to happen at once. You are putting the foot down and its full acceleration mode. Like birth pangs coming upon a woman, the pace and intensity increases until the final finish line. That is 'the acceleration'.
We live in an age when the end is approaching and the pace has quickened considerably. People are noticing it. It hasn't gone full chaotic yet things have picked up and the signs are there of a crazy last push to the finish line. The acceleration is on. We will focus on that today as we look at the following:
We'll start with a general look at 'the acceleration' - what is it? What is accelerating?
We'll look at an example from the book of Jeremiah - were his days a type of ours?
We'll finish with what scripture tells us to do as we see the end approaching.
The acceleration... what is it?
Let's start with a question... when looking at the world at large, or even your world, what would you say is accelerating? And no, I'm accepting 'my grey hairs, wrinkles, saggy skin and deteriorating eye sight.' Alas! I'm afraid these things are common to all since Adam and Eve decided to do things their way! But what is it that is speeding up and increasing? I guess the common scripture to mention is this favourite from Daniel:
Dan 12:4 "But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase."
This tells us that at the time of the end knowledge and travel will be increased. Many will be going to and fro... zipping this way and that. For most, travel was basically by foot or horse till around 1900. Now people are criss-crossing the entire globe with over 100,000 planes in the air per day. What about knowledge? Goodness! One website said:
' Buckminster Fuller (in 1982) created the 'Knowledge Doubling Curve'; he noticed that until 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By the end of World War II knowledge was doubling every 25 years. Today things are not as simple as different types of knowledge have different rates of growth. For example, nanotechnology knowledge is doubling every two years and clinical knowledge every 18 months. But on average human knowledge is doubling every 13 months. According to IBM , the build out of the 'internet of things' will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours.' 2
When you read that you might be thinking 'ok... stop the bus... I want to get off!'
Basically, by the time you take your new computer home from the store and unpack it... I'm sorry, it's a little bit out-dated! We now live in the days of virtual reality, robots, driverless cars, artificial intelligence, and, as mentioned in the quote above, the increasing 'Internet of things' that could lead, according to IBM, to a doubling of knowledge every 12 hours.
What is the 'internet of things' again, you ask?
Well, it's where all devices and appliances are connected to the internet, sharing and receiving information. An example might help. Let's say you are about to leave work for the day when you get a txt. It's not your wife or your husband. It's not you son. It's a txt from your fridge. With little to do, your fridge has been scanning the items on its shelves and noted that the barcode on your milk confirms that it is indeed past it's used by date. So your fridge has contacted the website of your local supermarket and ordered some more. He's txting you to say it should be delivered at 5:30 tonight, right at the time you normally get home according to information he received from your garage door opener. But your fridge also wants you to know that he's (not sure why your fridge is a 'he'... unless it's because it holds a lot of food!) decided on trim milk because he received some telling information from your bathroom scales (who is also sending the results wirelessly) which do not read well! No more full cream milk for you pudgy boy! As well as trim milk your fridge has scanned the internet and has included some specials on local gym membership. Just as a friendly hint.
Now I'm exaggerating a little but you get the message. The 'internet of things' is ' the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data' and according to IBM this will lead to a doubling of human knowledge every 12 hours. Nuts. So what else is accelerating? We could mention the population explosion, natural disasters, species extinction, government and household debt, crime...3
On a spiritual level, a massive one for the believer is the apostasy... the great falling away from the faith and truth. In short, it is getting harder to run this race because the acceleration and increase of the false, the counterfeit and the general opposition to the things of God is rapidly increasing in this age, as prophesied would happen in God's Word. Especially in the Western world. And it is tiring. It can be very difficult seeing what is happening where good is called evil and evil good. But it is not without Biblical precedence. Let's look at...
The days of Jeremiah
It is interesting to look at the days of Jeremiah (pictured here to the right by the famous paint by Rembrant). Some quick points about Jeremiah and his times are:
He was called as a youth to speak and prophesy to the nation of Judah - a nation that had had God's word but was progressively turned away to pagan religions and practices.
He prophesied from about 627 b.c. till at least 586 b.c (when Judah was taken into captivity by Babylon).
He was a man of God who could see that change and difficulty was coming.
He was sensitive, initially reluctant, and called the 'weeping prophet'
Jer 12:1-5 You are always righteous, O LORD, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease? (2) You have planted them, and they have taken root; they grow and bear fruit. You are always on their lips but far from their hearts. (3) Yet you know me, O LORD; you see me and test my thoughts about you. Drag them off like sheep to be butchered! Set them apart for the day of slaughter! (4) How long will the land lie parched and the grass in every field be withered? Because those who live in it are wicked, the animals and birds have perished. Moreover, the people are saying, "He will not see what happens to us." (5) If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?
Things were accelerating in the days of Jeremiah and not in the right direction, so we hear Jeremiah asking the age old question - 'How come the wicked are prospering? How come evil seems to be winning? Why won't you judge them Lord?' Jeremiah was struggling. He didn't like what he saw. It isn't easy seeing things deteriorate, then or now. He could see that things had changed and not for the better. We find ourselves in the same condition today. The Lord's answer is quite telling... ' If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?' In other words... 'things are about to speed up Jeremiah. Yes, the pace is increasing. If you are struggling running now, what will you do when things really accelerate?' 4
Some relevant themes from the times of Jeremiah
So why was Jeremiah struggling? What was going on in his day that made it hard to take? Some examples:
- Babylon in coming Jer 1:14-15 Then the LORD said to me, "Out of the north the evil will break forth on all the inhabitants of the land. (15) "For, behold, I am calling all the families of the kingdoms of the north," declares the LORD; "and they will come and they will set each one his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all its walls round about and against all the cities of Judah. We live in the day when the spirit of Babylon is increasing. We don't face the threat of Babylon as a nation but we definitely do spiritually. 'Mystery Babylon' - the spiritual harlot of Revelation 17 and 18 is taking root in the thoughts of the Western world. The spirit of Babylon is clearly seen as far back as Genesis 11 with the where mankind came together, in opposition to God, to build the tower of Babel. A tower that would reach into the heavens and thus making a name for themselves, showing how great mankind is. Mystery Babylon will be seen in a one world religion where all religions are equally valid and we all worship the same God. I read an article by the actor Sam Neil5 during the week where he argued not to rebuild the Christchurch Cathedral but to 'dismantle the old wreck' and build a new 'interfaith hub' 'that would symbolize a different, current Christchurch' . To him, the crumbling Cathedral is symbolic of the old days of Christianity and it needs to be replaced with an interfaith centre with no creeds. To him this would be 'an inclusive heart in the very centre of a great resurgent city, and make Christchurch a byword for a new harmonious world.' This is the prevailing thought and spirit of the day. All religions are equally valid. Babylon is coming!
His people had left their first love Jer 2:2-5 "Go and proclaim in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, 'Thus says the LORD, "I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth, The love of your betrothals, Your following after Me in the wilderness... (4) Hear the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. (5) Thus says the LORD, "What injustice did your fathers find in Me, That they went far from Me And walked after emptiness and became empty? God remembers the love of Israel in its youth but now they have turned from Him. What was asked of Israel can be asked of large parts of the Church - 'I remember the devotion of your youth. What did you find so wrong that you left Me and walked after emptiness?' It can also be asked of nations that had a strong Christian foundation but have moved from it. This thought is carried on in the next passage:
The Lord replaced with false religion Jer 2:11-13 "Has a nation changed gods When they were not gods? ... "For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, The fountain of living waters, To hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water. People don't tend to abandon 'spirituality' completely when they turn from the true God. Something always fills the gap and void that people feel. In my country Maori spirituality is back on the rise. Nearly all new roads and government buildings are opened with a Karakia (prayer to the various Maori gods) yet never to Jesus, the true God of Heaven and Earth. There is a lot of Eastern Hinduism and New Age beliefs. People are currently looking favourably upon Islam after the hideous Mosque attack in Christchurch (March 2019). Something always fills the void. G.K Chesterton once said 'it is often supposed that when people stop believing in God, they believe in nothing. Alas, it is worse than that. When they stop believing in God, they believe in anything.'
Prophets' want 'profits' so tell people what they want to hear Jer 6:13-14 From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. (14) They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace. 2Ti 3:1-2 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money... And there is no shortage of 'prophets' saying what people want to hear instead of the truth. Go on YouTube... there are countless 'prophets' saying that a great revival is coming soon to the West... well there is a revival. It's in Africa, China and parts of the Middle East. I read during the week that Africa is soon going to be the largest Christian continent in the world. They are already sending missionaries out... to where? To ungodly dark countries hardened to the Gospel message - like England! The very country that sent so many missionaries to bring the light of the Gospel to Africa 150 years ago!
People no longer want the 'old' way Jer 6:16 Thus says the LORD, "Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it.' 'Uh, it's old... you've got to be progressive. Out with all that out-dated stuff'. That is often heard today. 'We have to change with the times' (which often means throwing out a lot of good important things that made our countries great to begin with!) It is interesting to see the cycle that nations go through. A quote attributed to Scottish historian Alexander Fraser Tytler says
"'The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence...' (seen to the right)
Where would your country be on this cycle? According to the quote, the average age for nations to progress through this cycle is 200 years. At the time of writing the age from their founding of the US, Australia and New Zealand is as follows:
US: 1776 (Declaration of independence) - 243 years.
AU: 1788 (Foundation/Anniversary day) - 231 years
NZ: 1840 (Treaty of Waitangi) - 179 years
There was still hope. God would prevail with the coming Messiah! Jer 23:5-6 "Behold, the days are coming," declares the LORD, "When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land. (6) "In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, 'The LORD our righteousness.' We also have been given great hope and it is in the coming of the Lord for His bride.
Luk 21:28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
Luk 21:36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man."
Conclusion - What shall we do? The 5 lettuces in Hebrew 10
So what shall we do as we see things accelerating in our day? There is some useful advice in Hebrews 10 where five 'let-us-ces' are given. It's the full salad lunch that you need to munch on here! All of these things are that which scripture encourages us to do '...and all the more as you see the Day approaching'.
Heb 10:22 Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
Draw near to God. We have no strength apart from Him. He is the living water as He said to Jeremiah. And we need as much of Him and His life as we can get in this last days as the race pace quickens.
Heb 10:23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
What we believe will become increasingly unpopular. There will be more pressure to turn from it. More Christians in their place of work will feel the pressure to compromise what they believe. Hold unswervingly to the hope we profess. He who promised is faithful. The promises are real. The prophecies are real. The fulfilment will soon take place!
Heb 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
We should also think of other. Spur one another on in the faith - especially towards love and good deeds. Jesus said in John 13:35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." We shouldn't just be known for what we are against but more importantly what we are for!
Heb 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.
Continue to meet together. It's God's plan for believers from the start. The 'eccelesia', the body of the Lord, working together as one, supporting each other as a body does. Each member playing a part as the Lord has enabled and gifted. The way was never meant to be a solo run.
Heb 10:25 but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Why? Because believers will need it! The race pace will quicken. Things will be more difficult.