Theme: Do Not Be Alarmed
God is in control of the world now and until the end of time
And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.”
Today we complete the story of Dr. Barnhouse and how his story teaches Jesus’ lesson in Matthew 24. We find him in his hotel room waiting for his ride to the church.
In the morning his friends came to drive him to St. Enoch’s, perhaps the largest church in Ireland. The minister was quite beside himself, shaking the preachers hand repeatedly. It was a few minutes before eleven o’clock. Chamberlain had announced that he would speak on the radio at that hour, and everyone sensed that he would declare war on Germany. “Thank God, I do not have to preach,” he said over and over again. He went back to Barnhouse and shook his hand again, as though he had just come in. “The church will be full of lads who will never come back,” he said. “I pray God will give you something for them.” He shook hands with Barnhouse once more and thanked him once again for coming.
As the little group started into the church it occurred to Barnhouse that everyone would be home listening to the radio and that not many people would be there. But the church was full. There was not an empty seat. The service began. They sang hymns. An elder slipped a note to the pastor, who handed it to Barnhouse. It said, “No reply from Hitler. The prime minister has declared war.” A moment later Barnhouse was introduced as the speaker.
He began by telling how he had outlined his sermon in the dim light of his hotel room at four o’clock in the morning but that, in spite of the circumstances, he had a text for them that was the most wonderful text in the Bible for such a day, September 3, 1939. It was spoken by Jesus Christ, and it was a command: Matthew 24:6. “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.”
He then recounted the experiences he had had on his way to Belfast. He told of the horrors, but at each succeeding horror he stopped and repeated the text: “Do not be alarmed.” The tocsin will sound; mobilization will take place. “Do not be alarmed.” Millions of homes will be broken up. “Do not be alarmed.” Children will be torn from their mothers and will represent in their cries all the wails that have been going up from all the world. Jesus said, “Do not be alarmed.”
The tension was mounting in the church. But then, when monstrous grief had been piled on agonizing horror, Barnhouse stopped and said: “These words are either the words of a madman or they are the words of God.” He shook his fist toward heaven and cried, “God, unless Jesus Christ is God, these words are the most horrible that could be spoken to men who have hearts which can weep and bowels which can be gripped by human suffering. Men are dying. Do not be alarmed? Children are crying in their misery with no beloved face in sight. Do not be alarmed? How can Jesus Christ say such a thing?”
But then came the answer. Jesus Christ is God. Jesus is the Lord of history. He is the God of detailed circumstance. Nothing has ever happened which has not flowed in the channel which God has dug for it. There have never been any events which have flamed up in spite of God to leave him astonished or confused. The sin of man has reduced the world to an arena of passion and fury. Men tear at each other’s throats. Yet in the midst of the history of which Jesus Christ is Lord, each individual who has believed in him as the Savior will know the power of his resurrection and will learn that events, however terrible, cannot separate us from the love of God.1
This is our God. And this is the word of our God: “Do not be alarmed.” Instead of dismay, we are to serve Jesus faithfully even in the midst of all these many things—until he comes again.
1 The story is retold from Barnhouse’s original studies of the “Epistle to the Romans,” part 55 (Philadelphia: The Bible Study Hour, 1955), pp. 4-12. It does not appear in the later, bound edition of the Romans series. I have told it in a slightly longer version than here in James Montgomery Boice, The Last and Future World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974), pp. 132-139
What should our response be to horrific struggles and suffering?
Nothing has ever happened which has not flowed in the channel which God has dug for it.
How do you face fear and tragedy? When in those situations, challenge yourself with this message.
Pray that you will always remember God’s sovereignty and thank him for being in control.