Sunday, August 28, 2016

IS GOD REALLY IN CONTROL? (Finding Strength in Tragedy) Mark 4:35-41

(Finding strength in Tragedy)
08/27/2016 Mark 4:35-41
            We often hear Christians say well-worn quips such as God is in control, He is in charge.  However it is easy to say these words when you yourself are not going to through trouble, right? But how would you reconcile this fact with the reality, if you are living Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and in the recent flooding have lost everything?  According to the American Red Cross, the catastrophic flood in Louisiana is the worst natural disaster to strike the United States since Hurricane Sandy four years ago.[1]
            This is not just one isolated event, there are floods, earthquakes, and other natural disasters occurring more frequently all over the world these days. Just think about the devastation the recent earthquake of 6.2 magnitude caused in Italy. Over 280 people were killed, entire towns have been wiped out, and thousands were misplaced.  When such natural, and unexpected calamities happen we wonder whether the world is spinning out of control.
            At a personal level, when we are laid off a job, or are diagnosed with a terminal sickness, have lost a child due to drug overdose, are experiencing a relational conflict, or misunderstood and unfairly treated by our employer, unable to break free from a dilapidating habit.  We wonder whether God really is in control and whether we can depend on him.  I want to us to explore this question from God’s word, whether God is really in Control, and how we can find strength in tragedy? Mark 4:35-41
            It was a typical full day of work for Jesus. He healed many sick people, cast out demons, taught his disciples about the kingdom of God and the cost of following him. When the evening came leaving the crowds behind, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s go over to the other side,” the disciples took Jesus as he was, got into a boat and sailed off to the other side. Pay attention here as to how did this journey begin, whose idea was it for the disciples to go to the other side in the first place? By reading the text we can tell that it was initiated and commanded by Jesus and the disciples were simply obeying Jesus’ will and were sailing in the boat as per his instructions.
            Growing up some of us were taught that when we obey God’s will everything will go well, but when we don’t then things will go wrong. But how many of us know that even when we are doing God’s will, at times things can go against us? Let’s see how this journey initiated by Jesus ended up for the disciples. What lessons did they learn in the process?
            The gentle breeze, and the rocking boat on the Galilean sea would be just perfect on a hot summer day for anyone to fall off to sleep. After a hectic day of intense ministry, Jesus was exhausted and went into the stern (rear end ) of the boat and laid his head on a cushion and fell off to a deep sleep. The disciples were on the front of the boat, everything seemed to be going well until all of a sudden a furious squall, occurred on the ocean threatening their very lives.
            Knowing the background of the disciples one would assume, that they may have tried everything possible to bring the boat under control, but they couldn’t this time, because storm was very furious. Things were quickly getting out of control. So they went to Jesus and saw him sleeping on the cushion. The severe storm could not even disturb his sleep. Just imagine what may have gone through the minds of disciples seeing Jesus’ in deep sleep. How dare you just sleep like that when we are about drown? Why haven’t you come to rescue us? They just could not figure out how Jesus could possibly sleep in a severe storm. But does Jesus really sleep?
            The scripture tells us, in Psalm 121:3-4, “He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” Psalm 50:15, “call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Some times when we go through storms, it seems as if Christ is sleeping and unconcerned about our troubles and not hearing our prayers. Coming back to our story, I assume that the disciples may have read these scriptures but when the time came they forgot the fact that when Jesus is in the boat, it may be tossed but cannot sink, so they panicked and woke Jesus up saying, “Teacher don’t you care if we drown?” It was a cry for help out of desperation. Why did Jesus wait until they were about to drown?            
            Let’s ponder on this question of the disciples. When we go through troubles we wish that God would step right in and deliver us from that trouble, right? The more I read the Scriptures, it appears to me that at times God would deliberately wait until the last minute before he would step in. I believe that is His way of teaching us, patience, and endurance and to cry out to him in our desperation.  For example, the Israelites cried out to God for 430 years while they were in bondage in Egypt, at the end of 430 years God delivered them. (Exodus 12:40). When they were caught between the Egyptian Army and the red sea they couldn’t go any further He parted the Red Sea. The lesson here is, the Red Seas in our lives won’t part until we face it.
            Under the leadership of Joshua the Israelites had to obey the lord’s directions and march seven days, and on the last day seven times and cry out to the Lord then only the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. In the New Testament, before raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus waited deliberately until Lazarus was fully dead. As we are waiting for the Lord to come through in our troubled situations at times we feel like we might be drowning, just like the disciples have felt.
            But one thing was going good for them, Jesus was very near to them in the boat, so they rushed to him with these words, “Teacher don’t you care if we drown? Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and the waves, “Quiet Be Still! Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. What powerful words those are, “Quiet Be still! Let’s ponder these words. Oh how desperately we need to hear those words. May be your heart is troubled like a raging sea! There may be unrest in your home, in your marriage, and certain relationship are beyond your control.
            May be you are battling through a sickness that seems to be over powering you. May be you are facing a situation that seems to be drowning you. Don’t panic under these pressures, all you need to do is to come to Jesus and cast all your anxiety upon him because he cares for you. When you come to him bringing all your troubles to him he will not rebuke you, instead he will rebuke everything else that is troubling you with these words, “Quiet Be still.” Just like in our story, the winds of opposition will die down, the waves that are threatening to drown you will start to recede. The situation that seem to be beyond your control, all of a sudden becomes manageable. There will be peace and complete calmness into your chaos, fear and anxiety.
            In our story, the waves and the wind recognized the power of Jesus Christ, and back tracked because they knew who he was.  But the disciples have such hard time to believe in Christ even after they saw numerous miracles right in front of their own eyes. Just like us, they were stubborn to acknowledge that Jesus is indeed in control of everything including their very own lives. So Jesus turned to them and to us today and says these words, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him! Recently I had to remind my daughter not to be afraid but to trust in her heavenly father to provide finances for this fall semester. She has seen how God has helped her in the past, but this time she could not see how God could come to her aid!
            We were late in providing the needed tax information to the College Board. So she was certain that she cannot go to college this semester. But as we turned in the documents, prayed and waited patiently, she got all the needed financial aid for her to go to college this semester.  Just like the disciples, even after seeing all the miracles, my daughter at times lacks faith in God. Not only she but we all do struggle, when it comes to trusting in God from time to time. When things are beyond our control, we fret, panic and come under anxiety attacks.
            What can we take away from this story? Firstly, remember life is full of storms, some are small, some are big and some are huge and they are the ones threaten to drown us. Secondly. Don’t rely upon your own strength to bring control to a situation that is beyond your control. Thirdly, don’t feel hesitant, to go to Jesus thinking that he may be having something more important to do than to attend to your situation. Fourthly, through your prayer you can access the power of God. Fifthly, run to Jesus, cry out and say Lord please help, don’t you care if I drown. Then you will hear the master’s words, “Quiet! Be still, then you will experience complete calmness.
            In closing, here is a quotes. “No matter what you might be facing right now or what comes up in the future remember two things: God is with you and He is in control.” Joyce Meyer. I want to exhort you with these words. When you face troubles beyond your control, don’t be afraid. Trust in God. He is truly in control not only of the whole world, but also your very own life, and the lives of your family.  Though it may seem delaying, God is never late in keeping his promises. He would always come to your aide. Some of us should step aside and and let God have full control of our lives. May I leave you with these assuring words: “Now may the Lord of Peace himself give you peace at all times and every way. The Lord be with all of you.” 2 Thess 3: 16 Amen


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Thomas The Doubting Apostle: John 20:24-29

John 20:24-29 (The Master’s Twelve- Part XII) 8/14/2016
These days it is all about poll numbers! A recent poll showed that almost one in three young Americans do not believe in the existence of God. The Poll conducted in April 2012 by Pew foundation showed that 31 percent of respondents under the age of 30 have doubts about the existence of God, compared to 9 percent of those polled who were over 65 or older. What these numbers do tell us is that young people are having more questions regarding, God and their faith now than ever before. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?         

If you ask Jonathan Morris a Catholic priest from the Archdiocese in New York, he would say, “Having doubt doesn’t necessarily mean that the young people don’t believe in God. Questioning one’s faith could be a positive thing leading to a mature acceptance of their beliefs. He went on to say, even, “Mother Theresa had doubts and questioned her faith at times.”[1]

Is there a place for doubts in the Christian faith? Can we question and reason with God? What is the difference between doubt and unbelief? For the past eleven weeks we have followed along an ancient path travelled by Jesus and his twelve apostles. We have learned about: Peter the Go-Getter; John the beloved disciple; Andrew the problem solver; James the ambitious but broken; Philip the skeptic mind; Bartholomew, in whom there is no deceit, Matthew the Evangelist, and Simon the (zealot) Militant. James the less known Apostle Judas Iscariot who became a traitor and Judas the faithful disciple.  Today we will learn about an apostle who struggled with his own doubts yet when he saw for himself, became a convincing witness.

Not only him, but all the other Apostles too have struggled with doubts yet in the end they were all commended for their faith. Let’s unfold the life of “Thomas the doubting apostle” Who is Thomas, What was his early life like? How his life with Jesus was and what were his later years like? John 14:24-29

I THOMAS’ EARLY LIFE:                                  
Before we delve deep into studying the life of Thomas, let’s look at what is the difference between doubt and unbelief. Doubt is a “feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction." synonyms: unsureness, indecision, hesitation, dubiousness, suspicion, and confusion. Unbelief is lack of religious belief; an absence of faith. It is another term for disbelief. This is how one blogger explains the difference between doubt and unbelief. “There is a difference between doubt and unbelief. Doubt is a matter of the mind. Unbelief is a matter of the heart. Doubt is when we cannot understand what God is doing and why He is doing it. Unbelief is when we refuse to believe God’s Word and do what He tells us to do. We must not confuse the two.”[2]  
What do we know about Thomas? With the exception of Peter and Paul, we have more information on the life of Thomas than any of the other Apostles. Matthew, Mark and Luke only mention Thomas’s name in the listing of the Apostles. Most of our understanding of Thomas comes from the gospel of John. Thomas (Aramaic), also known as Didymus (Greek) both mean “The Twin.” Thomas was said to have been born in Antioch, is also considered as a native of Galilee, like most of the other Disciples. Thomas might have been a fisherman, since he appears along with six other disciples, who had gone fishing after Jesus’ death and resurrection. (Jn 21:2)

What has changed this ordinary fisherman from Galilee, into an International Evangelist who preached the Gospel as far as Persia and India? It was the call and the appointment as an Apostle by the Master. It appears to be that Thomas has been faithful in following Jesus from the Mountain top to the upper room where He received the power of the Holy Spirit. There are three recorded incidents where we see Thomas engaging in a conversation with the Lord.  First, In John 11, we read about the Death of Lazarus. Upon hearing that his close friend was sick Jesus stayed back three more days in Jerusalem, which was only two miles away from Bethany. Jesus said to them, “Let’s go back to Judea,” That did not make any sense to the disciples, because Jesus wanted them to go back to the place where Jews tried to kill him.

After a while sensing Lazarus was death, Jesus told his disciples in plain words, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” I wonder, whether Thomas was voicing what other disciples too were thinking at that point? Perhaps, they thought, living with Jesus, and going with him to dangerous places would one day result in dying for Him?

The second time we see Thomas was during the Last Supper in John 14. Jesus, comforted his disciples whose hopes were dashed by the announcement of his own departure to his Father’s House. But he assured them that He was going to come back and take them with him so that they too can be with him forever. For that Thomas was troubled, and confused just as the rest, but none of them dared to question Jesus except Thomas. His sense of curiosity, and ambiguity made him to ask one of the boldest questions ever.

Thomas said, “Lord we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way? We are forever to be grateful, that Thomas did not shy away from asking one of life’s most important questions that we must ask at least once in our life time. If and when we do just like Thomas, we too will hear this profound answer of Jesus who said, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” In one way through his doubts Thomas has opened the way for the whole mankind to go to the Father. One of the church’s early fathers, St. Augustine remarked, “Thomas doubted so that we might believe.”

The third encounter was on the evening of the first day of the resurrection. The ten disciples were together, with doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, except Thomas was not with them. Perhaps he went out grieving and possibly searching for some evidence that Jesus actually rose from the dead as he had promised.
As we know Jesus appeared to them through the closed doors and showed them his hands and side giving them ample proof that indeed it was him who had risen from the dead as he had promised them earlier. The disciples reported to Thomas saying, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

It looks like Thomas was the kind of a person who needs hard evidence before he is fully convinced.  Perhaps, this quality may have inspired John who later encouraged the believers with these words, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” I John 4:1 Searching for hard evidence, before believing certain things is a welcoming personality trait these days. Some are born with it, but many others are encouraged to develop this trait. If you are an inquirer and a seeker of the TRUTH, I am certain that one day you will tumble upon the one who said, I am the truth, the way and the life.

Coming back to our story, a week has passed since Thomas raised his concerns to what the disciples had told him. This time all the eleven disciples were in the house, including Thomas. Jesus came right through the locked doors and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” In a way he was saying to them, “Put away all your doubts.” He had something to say directly to Thomas, “put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.” Stop doubting and believe.” After hearing those powerful words Thomas had no more arguments except to say, “My Lord and my God! Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

After having that powerful encounter with Jesus, Thomas was never the same again. He was convinced that Jesus has indeed risen from the dead and he is alive. He went far and wide preaching the gospel so that millions, who have not seen Jesus would believe in Him.

Once Thomas left Jerusalem, there is no evidence that he ever returned. He left his doubts behind. Without a shadow of a doubt Thomas believed that Jesus was truly the Messiah. He headed to the ends of the earth preaching the good news of the gospel.  Thomas traveled north and east from Israel, passing through Babylon (Iraq) and Persia (Iran) and making an impact as far as the southern regions of India. There is ample evidence that Thomas indeed preached the gospel in India and led several Brahmin priests to believe in Christ. As a result a Christian community was formed, and till today they are known as the ‘St. Thomas Christians.

There is a mountain called St. Thomas Mount in Chennai where many believe that Thomas was pierced to death by Hindu priests. A church has been built on the top of the mountain which supposedly contains a relic of St. Thomas. Since at least the 16th century, the St. Thomas Mount has been a common site revered by Hindus, Muslims and Christians.( Wikipedia) In 1985, I spent six months during my Discipleship Training Course with YWAM in St. Thomas Mount area. Even Wilma the girls have vivid memories of having a picnic on the Mountain. One of the things that challenged me to serve God in missions is the life of Thomas. God sent a doubting apostle to India to bring the good news.
I am personally grateful that Thomas was obedient to bring the gospel to the masses of India so that many Indians have come to know Christ. In 2005, I believe God has brought me and my family to the USA to preach the gospel, disciple and strengthen the believers. All I can say is God you are simply amazing!

What would be the message of Thomas the doubtful Apostle for us today? Firstly, he might say, keep your inquisitive mind alive, keep wrestling with complex questions of life. Secondly, It is OK to have doubts about your faith from time to time, but don’t remain doubting the rest of your life. Thirdly, when Jesus reveals himself, and answers your questions, stop doubting and believe in Him, and confess saying, “My Lord and My God. Fourthly, he would commend all of us saying you are blessed because you have believed in Christ even though you did not see him personally. Finally, keep your faith up, hold on firmly and never let it go.

When I began this series I said that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. We looked at the lives of twelve Apostles. All of them with the exception of one, risked their lives for the sake of the gospel even to the point of death. They are our heroes and models. As we conclude this series but go forward on our journey, may I encourage you with these words of our master and Lord? “Look I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Our response should be, Amen! Come Lord Jesus. (Rev 22:12-21)


[2] ( When We Doubt by Greg Laurie http://bibleportal.Christianpost.Com )

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Judas The Faithful Disciple: The Master's Twelve: Part XI

John 14:22 (The Master’s Twelve- Part XI) 
When we look at the TV, read daily newspapers, and hear political rhetoric of the candidates running for the office of the president one can tell that indeed we are living in perilous times. Let’s not be surprised, these days were predicted by our Lord and by his Apostles long time ago. When the rest of the world is gripped in fear and panic, how are we to live as the followers of Christ? What message can we bring to our neighbors, colleagues and friends who are confused yet searching for answers to life’s most complex questions? 
In order to understand how we are to live as Disciples of Christ in the last days, and
How to contend for our holy faith we have been studying the lives of the twelve apostles of Jesus. In spite of all the ridicule, persecution even to the point of death, the apostles remained faithful to the gospel that was entrusted to them. Except one, the rest of them were all commended for their faith. Our present times are somewhat similar to their times, so by studying their lives we can learn valuable lessons to live faithfully during difficult times.

So far we have learned about: Peter the Go-Getter; John the beloved disciple; Andrew the problem solver; James the ambitious but broken; Philip the skeptic mind; Bartholomew, in whom there is no deceit, Matthew the Evangelist, and Simon the (zealot) Militant. Last week we learned about James the less known Apostle and Judas Iscariot who became a traitor.

Today we will learn about another Judas who has a powerful message for us as we face perilous times. Let’s unfold the life of “Judas the faithful disciple” Who is Judas also known as Thaddaeus?  What was his family background? What was his early life like? How his life with Jesus was and what were his later years like? John 14:22

I JUDAS’ EARLY LIFE:                                                                                      
There are eight men who has the same name Judas in the Newt Testament: 1) Judas Iscariot who became a traitor (Matthew 10:4); 2) Judas, a brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55) 3) Judas, Paul’s host in Damascus (Acts 9:11) 4) Judas, called Barsabbas a leading Christian in Jerusalem and companion of Paul (Acts 15:22), 5)Judas, a revolutionary leader Acts 5:37 6) Judah, an otherwise unknown person in the genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:30) 7) Judah, a son of Jacob in the genealogy of Jesus and an ancestor of an Israelite tribe (Matt 1:2; Revelation 7:5 8) Judas son of James and one of the twelve apostles (Luke 6:16).

For our study we are looking at the life of Judas son of James one of the twelve apostles. The name Judas comes from the Hebrew name, Judah which means He (God be praised). In Lk 6:16, Acts 1:13 we see Judas son of James mentioned whereas in Matt 10:3, Mk 3:18, he is referred to Thaddaeus. These both are one and the same. In Greek Thaddaeus means a heart or courageous heart. What do we know about his background? Nothing much, all we know that Judas was the son of James. We also know that Judas was an ardent disciple and follower of Christ. Judas was chosen to be part of Jesus’ apostolic ministry team.  

The Gospel writers sensed the need to indicate when they were talking about Judas the betrayer of Jesus or Judas the faithful disciple. We know that both disciples named Judas died violent deaths: the first by his own hands out of remorse; and the second by the hands of others with whom he was carrying out Jesus’ command to spread the gospel to the world. What perhaps motivated these two disciples to reach such tragic end? For Judas Iscariot it may have been love of money, control and power.

Let’s discover what has motivated Judas the son of James, as we look at how his life was influenced by the powerful and compelling teachings of Jesus Christ. We could only imagine that Judas’ life was transformed as he spent more time with the lord.

Let me set the scene where Jesus appointed his twelve apostles. As we have already established that Jesus after spending all night in prayer with the father on the mountain. When the day came, he called the disciples up to himself. Among them he chose twelve those he wanted for the sole purpose that they would spend time with him so that he could send them into the world to preach his words of peace, love, and hope. (Luke 6: 12-19)

After appointing them as the apostles Jesus came down the mountain with his twelve apostles. The scene was electrifying!  It was the first public appearance of Jesus and his twelve together. Can you imagine what must have been going through Judas and the rest of the apostles when they saw a huge crowds of disciples, and people from all over the region?  People were being healed, demons were coming out with shrieks, and multitudes were trying to touch Jesus. The gospel writer Luke describes, “for power was coming from Him and healing them all.” What a spectacular way to launch out into public ministry through signs and wonders?

What can we learn from this process of selection, appointment and the display of God’s power? Firstly, it is God who calls people to follow him and among his followers he would set aside and assigns them special tasks of carrying the message of the gospel. Secondly, when we think we are powerfully being used by God, let’s remember it is not our power but it is the power of God working through us, so let’s be quick to give him all the glory and praise that is due to his name. Thirdly, God wants the message of the gospel to spread all over the world.

I am sure these are some of the things that Jesus wanted his newly appointed apostles to learn and live by. What do you think, did they live up to the expectations of their savior, master and Lord? Of course they did.  Because of their faithfulness, and obedience to their call you and I have the privilege to hear the gospel and to respond to the call of God in our lives.

Coming back to the story of Judas the faithful disciple, we don’t hear much coming out of him except one time he had a profound question to Jesus. This was the moment when Jesus just disclosed his intentions of leaving his disciples and his earthly ministry and return to his father, the thought of itself was very troubling to the disciples. So Jesus encouraged them with these words. “Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God believe also in Me.”(John 14:1) He went on to say, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you…whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.” Vs 22, “Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” Vs 23, Jesus replied, In NASB it reads, “Jesus answered and said to him” “Anyone who loves (continually) Me will obey my teaching.  My Father will love them and we will come to them and make our home with them.” Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.”

Let’s break this Q&A session between Judas and Jesus down. What I see playing out here is that, Jesus encourages us to come to him directly with our questions. He will answer us directly, but his answer may not always be based on what we want to know but what we need to know. Jesus wanted Judas and other apostles to know a key principle of love and obedience. 

 He wants them to know that is not enough to know his teachings in the head but keep them in the heart and obey them. He wanted their love to be expressed just not by words but through obedience. In simple words, “if we love Jesus we will obey his teachings. If we are not obeying means, we are not loving Him.

These words of Jesus must have made a deep impact on Judas, the other apostles and subsequently on all those who believed their teaching.  Jesus is expecting the same kind of love and obedience from all of us even today. Let’s see how Judas faithfully carried out the teachings of Christ during his later years in ministry.

Matthew and other Gospel writers give a vivid description of what were Judas Iscariot’s final days and moments like before he committed suicide.  Whereas when it comes to Judas the faithful disciple there was nothing much said or written about him except his name was still included along with the rest of the disciples in Acts 1:13. Judas followed Jesus closely, witnessed his betrayal, crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection and even his ascension into heaven. In Acts 1:14, we read, Judas was among the 120 disciples who were devoted to prayer. While they were praying in the upper room the Holy Spirit fell upon that group of devoted disciples. The rest is history recorded in the book of Acts.

The traditional accounts of Juda’s ministry have him preaching north and east of Jerusalem, even as far as India.  Like fellow disciple Bartholomew Judas has a strong historic bond with Christianity in Armenia, an ancient land between the Black and Caspian Seas, spilling down into what we now call eastern Turkey. Armenia has long been recognized as the first Christian nation, based on early evangelization and the “official” declaration by the state designating itself a nation for Christ in the 4th century. But the source of that early influence for Christ goes back to Judas and then Bartholomew. Judas/Thaddaeus arrived first and carried on a ministry that lasted eight years.  He was executed as a martyr with arrows or a javelin sometime around AD 70.  Here is another apostle who lived for Christ and died as a martyr for Christ.

Their lives and stories are sources of inspiration for us in our journey of faith. The Apostle Paul, writing to the church in Philippi reminds them saying, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also suffer for him.” Philippians 1:29.  I wonder how many of us are willing to risk our lives for what we have believed in. All the apostles risked their lives even to the point of death. They are our models to follow.

I started my message saying that we are indeed living in dangerous times. Christians and their faith has come under severe attack in our times more than ever. Long time ago Jesus predicted that these days indeed will come, and it is noted by one of his apostles Matthew the evangelist in Matt 24:9-13, “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith…Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

How can the life of Judas encourage today in standing firm in our faith? What Judas the faithful say to us today? Firstly, he might say, “Hold on firmly to your faith, no matter what don’t let it go? Secondly, don’t hold back from asking questions, bring your most difficult questions to Jesus and he will answer them for you. Thirdly, by his own experience he would reiterate and challenge us by the words spoken by Prophet Samuel long time ago, who said, “Obedience is better than sacrifice.”

Finally, he may encourage us with these words. “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.  We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction the very end. Hebrews 3:12-14. Will you stand firm in your faith till the end? Amen