The grip of the eagle’s claws dug into my gloved hand, and it took every ounce of my strength to hold up his 20+ pound body on my outstretched arm. Within just a few minutes, the eagle’s trainer, who was standing by, came up behind me to help me hold up my arm as its claws dug in. I was in Mongolia shooting a project on how Christianity spread to the ends of the earth and the stories of the many missionaries who had made unthinkable sacrifices by giving their lives and sacrificing the lives of their spouses and children so that God’s story and light might be made known. Holding that bird became a teaching moment for me. One I’ll never forget.
In Luke 17, Jesus is trying to provide some understanding to those listening of what the end times on earth will look like. Many throughout history have speculated on when Jesus will return for the final time and what life will be like. Jesus shares a few examples and then tells us that it will be like the days of Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah, when there was much debauchery. To those living there, it was normal and nothing new. They had accepted the culture into their lifestyle.
It’s interesting to think about what our “normal” lives have progressed to be like today. What is normal today is not what was normal for me as a child nor normal for my parents and grandparents before me. Our “normal” climate, economy, government, moral and social codes are very different, and they continue to change, often disturbingly. Our consumption of “things” – our wants and desires – continues to escalate, and our sense of security grows more unstable as our fears expand. Covid has only accelerated it. We try to avoid the circling vultures looking for dead prey and instead consume ourselves in denial and busyness until we have a “suddenly” moment. Then everything freezes. Like the piercing cry of the eagle, it comes to a screeching halt. It lands and weighs us down as its claws (our choices) dig in. Throughout Scripture, we read the word “suddenly” many times. Suddenly… an angel appeared, the waters parted, the sun stood still, and the earth shook. God is a “suddenly” God, and He, too, sweeps down into action.
The sovereign God never wastes a second when He decides to act.
I have often read this chapter in Luke and the words of Jesus and think of D-Day – December 7, 1941 (we’ve just marked it again in our history). It was a normal day until the bombs fell, killing 2,400 in Pearl Harbor and starting the war with Japan. The bombs landed, and it changed the world. In Luke 17: 37 (TPT), the apostles ask Jesus this question, “Lord, where will this judgment happen?” Their question isn’t when but where will it happen? Jesus answers them that “it will be obvious, for wherever there are those spiritually dead, there you will find the eagles circling.” They land on spiritual carcasses. Those of us who are observant see what is circling in our culture today. We see masses of people who have turned from engaging with God and have instead chosen to immerse themselves in science, technology, and man’s wisdom to solve the many dilemmas, disruptions, and unknowns in their lives.
As I held that enormous bird in the negative 4-degree weather that day, I felt the physical pain of its claws, weight, and the brutal cold of the power of sin in our world. I vividly understood how selfish desires and fears consume and prey on our lives and overwhelm us. It’s why we must have Jesus come beside us and hold us up.
Jesus tells us not to lose heart.
Like the eagle trainer, God steps in behind us with His power and strength to hold up our arms. Jesus tells us in Luke 18 how to approach life when it looks like “the days of Lot.” He tells a story of a widow that didn’t lose heart. She kept asking for justice from a judge who didn’t want to listen, until he couldn’t bear her unrelenting requests any longer, and then he granted her justice. Jesus tells us to keep praying relentlessly, so we don’t become the prey of the circling eagles. We are to pray without ceasing, stay in the Word, and keep our eyes on God, the eternal rightful Judge of this world. He will answer with speed, and invade your life with a “suddenly.” He stands behind us and is holding up our arms. In Luke 18: 8, Jesus asks a final question: Will God be able to find “a faithful people” on earth?
Will He? Will you endure? Will you be faithful? Or will you be one of the spiritually dead?