Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Labor Pains and Peace

Dannah Gresh: Jesus told His disciples that at the end, this world’s troubles will seem like labor pains. Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines . . . that means there is still a long way to go. We’re not there yet! It may seem like, “Ugh, these pains, this world is groaning, it’s in travail, it’s writhing, it’s so painful! How could the world get any worse than 2020!?” Let me tell you, it can. But, suffering and peace can go hand in hand.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Surrender: The Heart God Controls, for October 29, 2020. I’m Dannah Gresh. 

Nancy: I’m so grateful for those who have been joining from around the world to cry out to the Lord together during this month of October. As we’ve been praying, as we’ve been seeking the Lord together, as we’ve been expressing our concerns to Him—realizing that desperate times call for desperate prayers—we’re realizing that we live in desperate times, that we need those desperate prayers!

Dannah: We really do! I don’t know about you, but my heart has been motivated in a way I don’t believe it ever has been, to pray for the world and, more importantly, God’s plan that’s unfolding in it.

Today, Chizzy Anderson is here to lead us in crying out to God. Then we’ll hand it over to Nancy to continue our study in Mark chapter 13. Let’s pray.

Chizzy Anderson: Lord God . . . come! We need You, Lord. We need You! Bring Your peace; bring Your grace. Father, rise up, rise up! Remove from us the things that block our eyes from seeing You. Father, we lay our lives open before You, and we ask that You examine, remove what does not please You, and that You would fill us up in Your mercy. Fill us up with Your likeness so that we would reflect You and only You!

But, be here, Lord. Look at us and come to us! Father, we need You! Come, be here. May our eyes be ever turned towards You. In Your holy and precious name I pray, amen.

Nancy: We’re looking at a passage in God’s Word this week, Mark chapter 13. If you have your Bible, let me invite you to turn there or scroll on your phone if you need to. We’re looking at how to thrive in turbulent times. 

I’m so glad I don’t need some secular pundit or wise person of this age to tell us what to do. God has given us in His Word the wisdom that we need to not just survive in crazy times—2020! And who knows? The year 2021 could be crazier still; it hardly seems possible, but it could be. We don’t know. 

But we know that God tells us there are going to be turbulent times, and He tells us how we can thrive in those times. I want to begin where we started yesterday, in Mark 13, verse 1 (you find similar passages in Matthew chapter 24 and in Luke chapter 21). This is a lengthy discourse of Jesus, given to His disciples as He was getting ready to go to the cross.

Just probably two days later, He would be crucified, so these are some of His last words He is sharing with His disciples about what they would be facing, and it is so incredibly relevant to what we face today!

As he was going out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Teacher, look! What massive stones! What impressive buildings!” Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another—all will be thrown down” (Mark 13:1–2).

Wow! Now, that was quite a statement!

We just kind of read over it quickly, but as we talked about in the last session . . . Which, if you missed it, you can go to ReviveOurHearts.com or wherever you get your podcasts and listen to the first day in this short series. We talked about how things that look impressive to us are not necessarily always impressive to God. . .

Jesus saw what was going inside the temple. He saw what was going on in the hearts of the religious leaders. He saw how the disciples and others valued these rich people who gave these huge offerings. But they placed no value on this poor widow at the end of Mark chapter 12 who gave all that she had to live on.

It was not an impressive offering, humanly, but as God measures things, it was the most impressive offering! We’ve just got our values twisted and the price tags have been switched. And so Jesus says, “Do you see these great buildings? Yes, they’re great, but they’re not going to last. They’re going down!”

They would go down as part of God’s judgment against the barren, empty, hypocritical religion of His people. Verse 3,

While he was sitting on the Mount of Olives across from the temple [having just dropped this bomb on his disciples], Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately . . . 

Now, these names of these disciples . . . If you go back to the earlier parts of the gospels, you’ll remember that these were the four disciples who were the first ones to be called to follow Jesus. So they had been with Him all along. They loved Him; they knew Him, and they knew when they had a question they could go to Him.

So they asked Him privately, and then they asked two questions:

“Tell us, [1] when will these things happen? [“These things that You just said are going to happen . . . not one stone will be left upon another, all will be thrown down. When will this happen?”] And [2] what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” (v. 4)

“How will we know when it’s going to happen?” The people who are closest to Jesus want to understand their times. They go to the Lord, and they seek Him for wisdom and for understanding. It’s a good thing for us to go to the Lord and to ask Him, “Lord, help us understand what You’re doing in our day. What are You saying?”

If all you watch to get your perspective on what’s going on in the world is the news—on the Internet, at cable TV, or wherever you get your news; if you only follow Twitter or Facebook or Instagram—you are not going to have a true view of what is going on in our world and where it’s going and how it’s going and what’s going to change.

We have to go to Christ. We have to go to His Word and say, “Lord, what’s going on? Can you help us better understand the times in which we’re living?”

This whole month of October, this Crying Out! theme we’ve had this month, that came out of some days and weeks as a team of seeking the Lord and asking, “What are You saying?” The True Woman conference we had planned for, just a couple of weeks ago, was not able to happen because of COVID.

“What are we supposed to do? What are we supposed to be saying?” We saw women who were fearful and nervous and unsettled and out of their rhythms and discombobulated. (Can I use that word to apply to all of us for 2020, in some measure?)

So we’ve been asking, “Lord, what’s the message? What do You have for us in this time? What are we supposed to be saying to people in these days that will be helpful, that will be redemptive?” So those who are close to Jesus go to Him and they ask Him, “Lord, help us understand!”

Where are you looking? Where are you going to find out what’s going on to get answers for your questions in our day? The answers are not going to be found on your favorite talk show or your favorite cable news channel or your favorite podcast or best-selling books or your friends. If you want wisdom, ask the Lord for it. Ask the Lord. He gives wisdom.

Now, the disciples were expecting that Jesus—whom they had come to believe was the Messiah. They were expecting that He was going to bring in the splendor and the glory of the millennial kingdom (that you read about, for example, in the book of Isaiah; it’s glorious).

What they didn’t understand is that the passages about a dying Savior were separated by many years in their fulfillment from the passages about the glorious kingdom Savior, the reigning King. They just saw it all through one little lens. They were expecting Jesus—any day now—to bring in this glorious, splendid, millennial kingdom. They were ready for Him!

People hated Rome! “I’m going to get rid of the tyrants! Throw them out of office, and let’s have Jesus’ kingdom come in!” Wouldn’t you love that, like right now!? That’s what they wanted, and they thought that the destruction of the temple—which Jesus had just prophesied, predicted—would signal the end of the age and would usher in the messianic kingdom.

They didn’t anticipate that there would be a lo-o-ong interval between the destruction of the temple and the coming of the messianic kingdom. Now, when I say “a long interval,” that’s been at least two-thousand years thus far, but in God’s economy, in God’s timing, that’s not long at all!

Two days? “One day is like a thousand years” in the Lord’s sight. (see 2 Peter 3:8) So if we see things humanly, we say there’s a long interval there. But they didn’t realize that; they thought it was all going to happen back to back. 

They weren’t prepared for the things that were going to happen between the destruction of the temple (which was imminent) and the bringing in of the messianic kingdom. He will reign forever and ever! Amen! Hallelujah, hallelujah! We’re ready for that! But they didn’t realize there were some things that had to happen first.

Jesus wanted to prepare for the things they were going to have to face between now and that kingdom coming. He wants to prepare us, too, and that’s why we have this passage—and ones very similar to it in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. 

Now, there was a crisis that was soon to come. The near fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy was the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. But that crisis foreshadowed another, greater crisis at the end of time. The ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy will be in the Great Tribulation and the return of Christ.

The disciples said to Jesus, “When will these things happen?” Now, Jesus is going to give a long response to their questions, but one thing He does not do is tell them when this is going to happen. He doesn't give them a date. He didn’t tell them everything they wanted to know, but He did tell them everything they needed to know.

And He’s told us everything that we need to know to thrive in turbulent times. So in the passage that follows, as Mark 13 unfolds, Jesus tells his disciples about impending disasters, both in the short term (that was the coming destruction of the temple) and in the distant future (with the Tribulation and the return of Christ). 

He told us what to expect in the season leading up to His return. We have the same hope now that they did then, and we are living in the end times. Does that mean Jesus is coming back in the next three years or three months? I don’t know. He could, but not necessarily. 

It could be three-hundred years. But we are in the end times, and what He described in this chapter is what the disciples would experience back then, and it’s what we experience today. He not only told us what to expect would happen, but He also told us what to do and how to live in the light of what was going to happen.

In fact, in this passage—verses 5 through 37 of Mark 13—there are nineteen imperatives, nineteen commands. “Do this, do this, don’t do this, don’t do that.” We are going to summarize those in categories today and tomorrow. So let me start with the first one. Jesus told them in verse 5, “Watch out!” 

They say, “When is this going to happen, and what will be the signs?” It doesn’t even sound like Jesus is answering their question at all, but He’s telling them what they need to know. He understands their question, but here’s His response: He says, “Watch out.” That word means “to look, to see, to take heed.” It means, “Beware, keep your eyes open, be on your guard.”

So the first thing Jesus says—and it’s throughout this chapter—is, “Be alert, and be on your guard!” In fact, if you’re accustomed to writing in your Bible (which I hope you are), I want you to circle the four times this word in the Greek appears in our Bibles.

Jesus told them, verse 5, “Watch out.” That’s the first time; that’s that word that means, “beware, be on your guard, look out, watch out.” Look at verse 9: He says, “But you, be on your guard!” Same word for “watch out.” And then, verse 23, He says, “And you must watch!” Same word. 

And then, verse 33, Jesus said, “Watch!” It’s the same word. And then He uses another phrase in verse 33, “Be alert!” It’s a very similar word; it means, “to watch; to refrain from sleep.” Don’t go to sleep in these tumultuous times! And then, verse 35, you see that second phrase used again: “Therefore be alert.” Stay awake! 

Jesus is going to explain that there are dangers, there are temptations lurking in these final times before His return. There is opposition coming, and so He says, “Be alert, be vigilant, be watchful, don’t let down your guard.” Don’t get lulled to sleep as you wait for Jesus’ return. 

As you’re waiting, don’t let your mind become dulled from earthly pleasures and addictions and distractions or cares. Those who allow themselves to become anesthetized by such things will find themselves caught off-guard, and unprepared for the return of Christ. 

Now, as we unpack this passage, He tells us to be aware, to be alert, to be on our guard. And yet, let me say this—and you’ll see this in the tone of this passage—Christians are not to live in fear. They’re to be watchful; they’re to be awake.

Like, if Robert’s away from home and I’m concerned that there might be someone coming to do something at my house, if I’m watchful and I’m alert, I might also be fearful if I hear noises. And Jesus is saying, “You’re going to hear noises in the dark; there’s going to be stuff going on.” (We’re going to read about it in just a moment.)

He’s saying, “Be alert, be watchful,” but He’s not saying, “Be fearful.” In fact, He’s going to say, “Don’t be fearful!” You need to be prepared to face whatever comes, but that doesn’t mean, “Be fearful.” So, first, Jesus says, “Be alert,” and “Be on your guard.”

And then He says (also in verse 5), don’t be deceived. “Watch out that no one deceives you.” Now, Jesus was speaking to His closest disciples, remember that, the ones who had been with Him from the beginning. And this says to me that anyone can be deceived, anyone can be misled. You can be deceived; you can be led astray. I can be deceived; I can be led astray. Don’t think you can’t!

Every one of us needs to keep our eyes open, not to be deceived. Jesus goes on to say in verse 6, “Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and they will deceive many.” We’re waiting for the return of Christ, and He says in-between now and then there are going to be false Christs, there are going to be false teachers.

They’re going to say, “I’m representing Jesus,” or “I am Jesus!” Many are going to be deceived. He tells the disciples, “Watch out that no one deceives you!” Christ has to keep us from being deceived. These false teachers, these false prophets, will claim to have the truth. They will claim to be able to solve the problems of our world, and people will flock to them.

There will be religious leaders, philosophers, authors, speakers, educators, political leaders and they’ll be popular. They’ll have big crowds; they’ll have big followings. There are going to be more and more of these as we get closer to the end. 

These false teachers, these false influencers, they’ll be persuasive. That’s what makes them deceptive. They seem real; they seem legitimate, but they’re going to point us to themselves rather than pointing us to Christ. They’ll teach things that are not in accordance with this Book.

They will be close enough to the truth to deceive a lot of people who will think they are actually telling the truth. So how can we avoid being deceived? One way is to get to know the truth; get grounded in the Word.

Develop discernment so when someone comes along, even if it’s selling on Christian retail sites or they’re supposedly Christian authors or whatever, you can weigh it against this Book and say, “Does it measure up? Does it match up? Is it true?” Don’t be deceived!

  • Number 1: be alert, be on your guard.
  • Number 2: don’t be deceived.
  • Number 3: expect trouble in this world.

Now you may be thinking about this, This is not really encouraging! I come to Revive Our Hearts to get a daily dose of encouragement! Well, sometimes you can’t get encouraged until you realize what you need to be careful about, what you need to be warned about.

Jesus said, “Be realistic. Expect trouble in this world!” Verse 7,

“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, don’t be alarmed; these things must take place . . . For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (vv. 7–8).

So Jesus is saying, “There are going to be national and international conflicts. There are going to be wars (that may refer to ones that are close by), rumors of wars (maybe reports of wars that are far away in parts of the world that we don’t come close to or are not as familiar with). We’re going to hear about them, we’re going to experience them.

He says there are going to be earthquakes and famines, natural and economic disasters. Ultimately these are not a matter of the weather or the environment. I’m not saying science isn’t science, but I’m saying God is over all of this. Ultimately, these are things that God sets into our world to bring our world to repentance and to faith in Jesus Christ. 

He said, “These disasters are going to come,” so don’t be surprised, and don’t give in to fear. “These things must take place,” He said. “Expect it!” If we expect this world to be rosy and expect any political leader or person or influencer to be able to bring in this great utopia, or any political party to be able to do that for us, we are sadly mistaken!

Now, there are some that are better than others in some respects, to whatever extent they represent the law and the Word of God. It’s better to have good government than to have bad government, but government is not the solution to our world’s problems. These things must take place. Jesus told us they would.

And look at what He says at the end of verse 8: “These are the beginning of birth pains.” Let me see the mothers who have had birth pains. Most of the women in this room. Labor pains! I was actually born on Labor Day in 1958. My mother knows about labor; she had six children in her first five years of marriage, and she knows about birth pains!

Labor pains mean the end is coming. The end of what? The end of pregnancy. . .the imminent birth of the baby. When the birth pains start, you know it’s about time for this waiting period to be over. “It’s about time for what I’ve been waiting for, what I’ve been longing for!” And those birth pains, those labor pains, at first they’re infrequent, right. There is some time between them.

But just before that child is born they gradually increase in frequency and in intensity! I see some pained looks on women’s faces, because they’ve been there, and you know they’re getting closer together and they’re getting stronger and they’re getting more powerful just before the child is born!

Well, Jesus likened what is going to happen in our world prior to His return to labor pains. And what He is saying is that troubles are going to increase in frequency and in intensity . . . so expect it, don’t be surprised by it. But don’t forget the objective.

When you’re having labor pains, if you didn’t have any reason for them, that would be really discouraging. But when you know that there’s a new life coming, there’s a new era coming, you realize there’s purpose to the pain. 

The labor pains on earth that Jesus describes—wars and rumors of wars and earthquakes and famines—these are leading up to the birth of Christ’s kingdom in our world. If you can see the big picture, you can keep your eyes on the end result that will help you endure all the way to the end!

Jesus said, “These are the beginning of birth pains: wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines.” That means there’s still a long way to go! We’re not there yet! It may seem like, “Ugh, these pains, this world is groaning. It’s in travail; it’s writhing; it’s so painful! How could the world get any worse than 2020!?” Let me tell you, it can and it will, unless Jesus comes back between now and the end of 2020.

But He may not, and if He doesn’t, the intensity and the frequency is going to get worse and worse. There is still a ways to go. And here’s the thing, Jesus’ followers will not be exempt from the troubles. 

They’re going to be drawn into the fray, because ultimately the battle is not between nations or between political parties or between ways of thinking or worldviews. Ultimately, this is a fallen world in conflict with her Creator. Therefore, this world is going to seek to attack and destroy anything and anyone that is allied with the Creator!

So when you profess faith in Christ, you become a target for this world that is hell-bent on destroying Christ. So Jesus says in verse 9: “But you [my disciples], be on your guard!” There’s that word again, “stay awake; be alert; watch, be on your guard!”

“They will hand you over to local courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues. You will stand before governors and kings because of me.” Jesus says, “You’re going to be persecuted.” You’re not going to escape this. 

Just because you’re a Christian, you’re not going to get cocooned away from trouble and problems between now and the return of Christ. There’s going to be opposition through official channels, through hostile authorities.

There is going to be religious persecution by false religious systems and by political systems that are anti-Christ. This is happening to believers in many parts of the world today, and increasingly, I believe we’re going to see this in the United States, where we’ve had something called religious liberty. I believe we’re going to see those liberties stripped away.

Jesus said, “It’s going to happen. Be on your guard! They’re going to hand you over. Be ready for that. Be alert!” Verse 12:

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of my name” (vv. 12–13).

Birth pains. They’re getting more frequent; they’re getting more intense; they’re getting harder to bear! He’s saying followers of Christ would be persecuted, even betrayed by close family members, dragged before civil authorities “because of My name.” He says this twice, in verse 13 and verse 17.

There’s a stark contrast between light and dark, between good and evil, between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. And because of that contrast, there’s going to be opposition. There’s going to be persecution, even within families and the closest of human relationships.

Now, Jesus knew what He was talking about. Keep in mind, He was about to be betrayed by one of his best friends. He was going to be arrested by the religious leaders, the ones who should have celebrated Him. He was going to be put to death by the multitudes that He had healed, who would turn against Him and demand His death, demand that He be crucified!

He knew this would happen to Him . . . and He knew it would happen to His followers. If you don’t expect trials, if you don’t expect trouble in this world, if you don’t expect birth pains, you’re going to become fearful, disillusioned and bitter when the troubles come.

“Why me? Why should this happen to me? Christians should have religious liberty!”Tell that to the Christians in China or in the Sudan or in Morocco or in Iran. Tell it to the Christians in the first century who gave their lives for the sake of Christ and the gospel. Religious liberty is a precious thing if we have it, but don’t expect that we always will. We’re not living with the home team advantage anymore.

Now that doesn’t mean we should be contrary or we should act in such a way that we make people reject Christ. We need to still be winsome and grace-filled and compassionate toward those who are lost. But if you follow Christ, you are going to be a target of these troubles that Jesus said are coming in the world, so expect it.

And then, finally, remember that no matter how bad things get, this is not the end of the story! Verse 7 of Mark chapter 13:

“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, don’t be alarmed; these things must take place, but it is not yet the end.”

These are the beginning of birth pains; it’s not the end!

You see, we become so despairing and discouraged and depressed if we think that the way the world is going, the trajectory it’s on, which is horrific . . . If we give in to hopelessness and fear, we’re losing perspective. Jesus said, “This is not the end!” It’s getting ready for the end, it’s moving us toward the end, it’s necessary for the end, but it’s not the end!

The story ends with Jesus as King forever and ever and ever! The best is yet to come! If you’re a child of God you know that, you believe that, you claim it. Jesus promised there would be tribulation, but listen to what He also promised:

“Indeed, an hour is coming, and has come, when each of you will be scattered to his own home, and you will leave me alone. [You will desert Me, you will abandon Me.] Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. I have told you these things so that in me you may have [what?] peace.”

Peace! Peace in troubled times, peace during labor pains, peace during the world upside-down and inside-out, in tumult and turmoil. He said, “You will have suffering in this world.” But you know, suffering and peace can go hand-in-hand. He’s told you these things.

“You will have suffering, but I’ve told you these things so that You may have peace. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:32–33).

He said, “I have conquered the world!” We can’t see it yet; we see it with eyes of faith. But one day prayer will become praise and faith will become sight, and then the end will come, and Jesus will reign forever and ever and ever! Amen!

In the meantime, be alert, be on your guard, don’t be deceived, and expect trouble—not just a little bit of trouble, but a lot of trouble. But keep your eyes beyond that on the finish line. Amen!

Dannah: Amen! You know, I truly have experienced peace in a different way than I have at any point in my entire life. But I have found that if I don’t keep my mind focused on the truth of God from the Scriptures, and the story that God is unfolding, I will lose that peace very quickly. How are you doing with that?

We just heard from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth in the series “Thriving in Turbulent Times.” Recently, I’ve been thinking about how very turbulent Christmas must have been for Mary. Now, maybe that seems odd to you—for me to be thinking about that in October. But my heart has been crying out for the hope of Christmas! In fact, I’ve started decorating already.

And to that end, I want to encourage you to consider how Mary thrived through that time. One way to ponder that is with Nancy’s newest book, Born a Child and Yet a King. It’s a thirty-one-day devotional meant to be used for the whole month of December. It’s the third in her trilogy of Advent devotional books, and I think it will be a great encouragement to you!

We’d love to send you a copy as our way of saying “thank you” when you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts right now. Revive Our Hearts is a listener-supported ministry, and we need your help to continue to encourage women all around the globe with the hope of Jesus Christ. 

To make a gift right now, you can visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959. And as you consider that gift, I want to thank you in advance for your support. Tomorrow we’re going to hear part 3 of this series from Mark 13. 

Nancy will talk more about the peace that comes from keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, even in the midst of—and I would say especially in the midst of—turbulent times. I hope you’ll be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Challenging you to be grounded in God’s Word, Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the CSB.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.