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“Stand Firm in Your Faith in All Circumstances!”

I want to start with something funny. I heard a story about a six-year-old boy. He was standing in the church lobby, looking at a large wall filled with names with small American flags next to them. He asked the Pastor what the names meant. The Pastor explained that it was a memorial to all the young men and women that died in the service. The little boy stood there silently and seemed to be so concerned. He finally looked up and asked, “Was it at the 8:30 or 11 o’clock service?

Today is Veterans Sunday. I do appreciate and honor all veterans for their service and sacrifice. We shouldn’t forget their sacrifice. Because of them, we can live in a safe country. You may have heard the saying that “freedom is not free.” Yes, because of their sacrifice, we have freedom. I personally appreciate those who participated in the Korean War.

I feel sad about my country, Korea, because it is the only country to be divided by political ideology in the world. I heard the scary stories of war in my childhood, and often I had to train on how to escape from an emergency during war. I still remember that we were taught once a month how to escape if war broke out. While we had a class, if the emergency siren rang, everybody was to run for refuge under ground within a short minutes. Because many adults had experienced the Korean War, they didn’t want their children to have those same terrible experiences of war. However, nowadays, they no longer train for the emergency of war even though we are still in the cold war between North and South Korea.

A few days ago, a friend of mine asked me, “Is there any dangerous situation in your country by North Korea?” She may have heard the news that North Korea tested its missiles toward South Korea. However, now the younger generation worries about war less than our generation and my parent’s generation. Korean male adults are required to have military training for about two years to prevent war and have regularly been training with the U.S. Army. Because we trust them, we don’t worry about wars. Instead, we can live in peace through their sacrifice. Again, we can live in peace because of someone else’s sacrifice. We sincerely appreciate all that the veterans’ give up for our safety and freedom.

In today’s scripture, Jesus seemed to talk about war. When Jesus and his disciples came out of the Temple after service, they looked at the beautiful and magnificent temple building, and someone said to Jesus, “Look, Teacher, what are the large stones and what is the large buildings?” The Temple they looked at was the Jerusalem Temple, which was a huge temple, beautifully covered by gold and decorated with treasures. Even if we see beautiful flowers on the street, we may say, “Hey, look at the beautiful flowers!” And then we may pause there, looking at the flowers. The disciples said to Jesus excitedly, “Teacher, look, look at the temples, how marvelous they are!” However, Jesus said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”

The Jerusalem Temple was everything to the Israelites. If the Temple was destroyed, it must have happened in a terrible war. Some scholars interpreted this as the Jewish-Roman war in 70 because that war destroyed the Temple. However, the Gospel of Luke was written in 85, which was much later, after the Temple was destroyed. We may find what that means by Jesus’ saying, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and ‘the time is near!’ Do not go after them.” As you guessed, it might mean a spiritual war, not a physical one. And we may understand it as the end of the world. You know, if a physical war breaks out, the military may fight for us, but if a spiritual war happens, nobody can fight for us. We should stand firm in our faith individually.

Jesus said as a sign of that happening, “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” As Jesus mentioned, we have experienced many wars, earthquakes, famines, and disasters over many years, but we are still here. Even though it is not the end of the world, we experience spiritual wars, such as the pandemic, family conflicts, and broken relationships. I said, the pandemic because it blocked our spiritual practice.

As Jesus said, those things might happen in our lives, but it is not the end of the world. Let us listen to him carefully. Jesus didn’t say, “don’t worry. I will remove all bad things, such as wars, earthquakes, famines, etc. Instead, he said, “before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance, for I will give you words and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.” We might have been through all kinds of difficulties in our life long. Still, Jesus will give us words and wisdom to overcome these things. In addition, he said, “but not a hair on your head will perish.” Veterans may know more than we do. If we had been through wars, our bodies wouldn’t be perfectly sustained without any injury. However, Jesus said, “even not a hair on your head will perish at all. By your endurance, you will gain your souls.” We can stay safe by standing firm in faith even though we have been through wars in spirit. That’s Jesus’ promise to us.

Some think that Christians should not experience bad happenings because God protects them. If they had bad happening in their life, some think they are being punished for their sins. God may protect his people, but everyone may experience bad things. God never said that he would remove all obstacles in our lives. Instead, God said, “I will be with you.” Here is an example. Daniel and his friends were thrown into the blazing furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar because they kept faith in God (Daniel 3:19-26). Then the King said, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” And his people said, “Yes, certainly we did.” But the King said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” It is the promise of God that he will be with his people. Even though we may experience difficulties, God will be with us. As Jesus said, it will be our testimony.

God said through the prophet Isaiah, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, your savior” (Isaiah 43:2-3a). Jesus also said you might experience being imprisoned, persecution, being put to death by your friends, relatives, and even by your family, “but not a hair on your head will perish. By standing firm in the faith, you will gain eternal life.”

Somehow, spiritual war is more difficult for us, but by standing firm in the faith, let us win the victory. Because we don’t know what kind of test or trial is on the way, let us wake up always through prayers and stand firm in our faith in all circumstances so that we may gain a final victory with Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God. Amen!