To Our Venture Church Family and Fellow Comrades in the Faith,
As Jesus continued to discourse about the end of the age as recorded in Matthew 24, He made it clear that there would be trouble on the earth unlike any other time in history (Matt. 24:21). He didn't sugar-coat his warnings, but instead He gave us a relevant picture comparing how people would respond during the "delay" between His first and second coming as the "midnight hour approaches" (Matt. 24:48; 25:5-6; 25:19). He makes the distinction between being faithful and wise versus being fearful and foolish (Matt. 24:45-Matt. 25:29).
He asks, "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time" (Matt. 24:45, ESV)?
Jesus then tells two important parables to further describe what faithfulness and wisdom will look like in that hour. In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, we see that the wise believers were watchful and prepared with oil to light their lamps when the time came, while the foolish believers were unprepared and without oil (Matt. 25:1-13). The wise were ready because they made it a priority to aquire their own oil while the Bridegroom was delayed, whereas the oil is referring to intimacy with God through His Holy Spirit. It’s times like we are living in right now that we realize we can’t live off someone else’s oil. Though community is still vitally important, we each need to make it a priority to buy our own oil, to personally know Jesus through a lifestyle of costly devotion. To talk to Him, to hear His Word, and to walk with Him in obedience each day. Their lamp, like the symbol used for the churches in Revelation, refers to their ministry influence and impact. We have yet another tremendous opportunity as a Church to make His light shine like a lamp on a stand---to bring clarity, direction and hope, but we must first have oil to burn inside our lamp.
“You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth…He was a burning and shining lamp…” (John 5:34-35, ESV)
In the Parable of the Talents, we see that the good and faithful servants, instead of drawing back during the delay, actually invested and multiplied what they had been given. They rose up in faith and did their part, although it wasn’t much, they were still fruitful. Conversely, the other servant hid what he had been given because of fear; therefore, the master cast him out as a wicked, worthless and lazy servant when he had returned (Matt. 25:14-30). Now is not a time for Christians to draw back in fear, which comes from having wrong views about God. Now is the time to be more faithful than ever before in obeying our assignments, even if the methods shift. We can look at the difficulty of our circumstances and make excuses, or we can be like the early church and take advantage of the opportunities ahead of us. Even as the first century church scattered because of persecution, they still found a way to multiply. What if we responded in the same way as this coronavirus pandemic tries to scatter the 21st century church? As many of us are mostly confined to our own homes, how can we be fruitful? How can we make disciples? How can we strengthen our families? How can we do the most good for the world around us? We will either stay fearful, or we will be faithful.
I believe we are in a moment right now as a Church where we are going to see these distinctions that Jesus referred to more plainly than ever before. Crisis will always reveal the fault line between the prepared and the unprepared. The coronavirus is another birth pain in the delay that alerts us to be ready. The enemy is raging. Sin is flaring. Creation is groaning. God is shaking everything that can be shaken, until only that which cannot be shaken remains---His kingdom (Heb. 12:26-29). We must submit to God by choosing to be faithful, wise and willing to serve others in love (especially those stuck in the same house), and we must resist the devil (James 4:7). What the enemy means for evil, Jesus turns it for our good (Gen. 50:20; Rom. 8:28).
So in summary, Jesus teaches us that our response ought to be one where we continue to demonstrate faithfulness in serving people and obeying our assignments from Him as well as choosing to be wise by prioritizing our life around drawing closer to Him. He is looking to set faithful and wise servants in place over His Church for such a time as this, who will give their fellow servants the food of His Word in season (through our speech and actions). The entire world is looking for answers, so when they look at the Church, may they see us doing good and give glory to our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16). There is still so much more to process as all of this unfolds, but hopefully this brief letter can give some helpful perspective as we look into more practical ways to apply what this looks like. Here at Venture Church, we are going to continue doing our best to be faithful and wise servants as we seek to do our part. Please stay tuned for more updates and resources.
"Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes" (Matt. 24:46, ESV).
In Christ's Love,
Nick Russo (@nickjorusso) is one of the associate pastors here at Venture Church. He is author of the book, Wage Good Warfare: A Solemn Charge to the Church in America, and he resides in Liberty Hill, TX with his wife Jennifer and their three kids.
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