By Matt Proctor
Life is hard.
Someone wrote that 10 years ago, our world had Bob Hope, Johnny Cash, and Steve Jobs. Now we have no Jobs, no Cash, and no Hope! Maybe you’ve experienced those moments of “no hope.” The normal challenges of life—financial shortfall, physical illness, family conflict—are tough enough. But for believers, life can be even harder. In John 16:33 Jesus promised, “In this world, you will have trouble.” In Acts 14:22 Paul said, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” You may know those hardships very well:
You’ve struggled to get free of a sinful habit that won’t let you go.
You’ve ached through a painful church conflict that tore your congregation in half.
You’ve poured yourself into a promising young leader, only to see him walk away.
You’ve prayed for a lost friend for years, spent countless hours building a relationship, but your heart breaks because she
remains resistant to the faith.
Every spiritual leader I know has experienced discouragement. Ministry is a contact sport, and after a painful season of serving, many of us limp off the field . . . not sure if we’ll return. When life is hard, it’s easy to feel defeated.
That’s why I want to personally invite you to the 2013 North American Christian Convention in Louisville, Kentucky. Our theme is “Victorious,” and we’ll be preaching through the book of Revelation. I am confident that God will use his Word to encourage us, inspire us, and challenge us to be overcomers in Christ!
Why in the World Are We in Revelation?
If the New Testament were a neighborhood, then at the near end of the street would stand the Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are familiar territory—warm, well lit, welcoming homes. But at the far end of the street, shrouded in darkness, stands the haunted house of . . . Revelation! The last book of the Bible can seem scary, and not everyone wants to go in there.
But Revelation proclaims a powerful message of hope: No matter how bad things get, at the end of the story we win.
Revelation was written to believers besieged by a corrupt and hostile culture. They were tempted to conform to the world around them or be singled out for persecution. (Sound familiar?) So the apostle John challenges them to persevere, to join in the “suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus” (Revelation 1:9). In doing so, he pulls back the curtain on the spiritual world to show them that hardship is temporary, God is all-powerful, Heaven is real, and a day is coming when Jesus will return, Satan will be defeated, and we will go home.
When we know the end of our story, we can make sense of the story’s middle where we live right now. Revelation gives us the glorious news: If we’ll be faithful in the middle, we’ll be victorious in the end!
An Outstanding Company of Preachers
To proclaim that message at the 2013 NACC, I get to stand in the company of some great preachers. You’ll want to come Tuesday and stay through Friday as we walk through every chapter in Revelation. Here’s a preview.
Encounter Christ Powerfully. On Tuesday evening, I will open with Revelation 1, reminding us that if we are to be victorious, we need a powerful vision of Christ. In Revelation 1, Jesus is not a meek and mild-mannered Mr. Rogers Messiah. He is a huge and towering figure, the Lion of Judah who will not be tamed, powerful enough to confront our sin and comfort our fears.
Love the Church Honestly. On Wednesday morning, Aaron Brockett of Trader’s Point Christian Church in Indianapolis will walk us through the seven churches in Revelation 2, 3. The churches are a mess—just like the ones we know. But Jesus still loves these churches, and we’ll be challenged to love our own imperfect congregation.
Worship God Selflessly. Also on Wednesday morning, Randy Harris of Abilene Christian University will usher us into Heaven’s throne room in Revelation 4, 5. As we enter this cosmic corporate worship service, we will suck in our breath, shield our eyes, and drop to our knees before a God so glorious we can only describe him with thunder, lightning, rainbows, and jewels. He is the reason we will be victorious.
Endure Suffering Patiently. On Wednesday evening, Jon Weece of Southland Christian Church in Lexington will take us through the trials of Revelation 6-9: war, famine, murder, earthquakes. When we suffer, we sometimes ask, “How long, Sovereign Lord?” (6:10). But God’s people endure patiently because we know a time is coming when “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (7:17).
Bear Witness Boldly. On Thursday morning, Dr. Frank Smith of Christ’s Church for Our Community in Louisville will hold up for us God’s spokesmen in Revelation 10, 11—the apostle John and the two witnesses. They each speak God’s message despite persecution. Their actions are courageous, their example is contagious, and we’ll be challenged to be bold witnesses for Christ in a hostile world.
See Evil Clearly. On Thursday night, Kyle Idleman of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville will show us how evil is personified in Revelation 12-18 as a violent dragon, two grotesque beasts, and a prostitute. We need these shocking images because the world seeks to dress its ugly realities in beautiful disguises. To be victorious, we must see evil as it truly is, avoid being seduced by our culture, and remain fiercely faithful to Jesus.
Welcome Salvation Joyfully. On Friday morning, Rick Atchley of The Hills Church of Christ in Fort Worth will bring us to the story’s climactic moment in Revelation 19, 20—the final showdown between our adversaries and our Hero. The good news: Christ will return, the dragon will be defeated, and God’s eternal kingdom will be established! That coming salvation prompts in Revelation 19 the only New Testament usage of “Hallelujah!”
Desire Heaven Deeply. To close the convention on Friday morning, special guest Joni Eareckson Tada will take us on a tour of the new heavens and new earth in Revelation 21, 22. Sometimes we can get so wrapped up thinking about this world that we fail to focus on the next. But when this lady who has spent the last 45 years in a wheelchair as a quadriplegic speaks, I think we will all find our hearts stirred with a longing for Heaven. As we head home, we’ll all be looking forward to Home!
If You Need a Big Dose of Hope . . .
Because Revelation was written to persecuted believers, we thought it would be good to remember our brothers and sisters in the persecuted church around the globe. In each of our six main sessions we’ll hear testimonies from international believers, many of whom have suffered for their faith. We will then have a special time of prayer in each service, praying for the victorious advance of Christ’s church around the world.
We’ll also have special musical guests, the African Children’s Choir, on Thursday night. These children have lost one or both parents to AIDS or other poverty-related diseases, but they have now been given a home, an education, and the life-changing love of Christ. When you see their joy as they sing, you’ll want to join them in celebrating our victory in Jesus!
So put July 9-12, 2013 on your calendar now, and bring your family to Louisville next summer. If you’ve ever felt those moments of “no hope,” the 2013 NACC will be just what you need. You’ll pray, worship, connect with old friends, make new ones, eat, laugh, learn, swim with your kids in the hotel pool, and look forward in victorious anticipation of Heaven. Join us, and let God’s Word shoot the adrenaline of hope through your soul!
Matt Proctor is president of Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri and president of the 2013 NACC.
To prepare for this year’s convention, think and pray through the themes the speakers will develop:
• Encounter Christ Powerfully
• Love the Church Honestly
• Worship God Selflessly
• Endure Suffering Patiently
• Bear Witness Boldly
• See Evil Clearly
• Welcome Salvation Joyfully
• Desire Heaven Deeply
Consider how your life reflects (or doesn’t reflect) each theme this year. Make a list of stories and truths you’ve learned about each theme that you could use to encourage others. Make a list of lingering questions or frustrations you have in each area, and pray that God will use the speakers and attendees at the NACC to draw you closer to him in your point of struggle.