Perilous Times Primer #15

Never Quit

Recently, I have received several emails asking for guidance and direction. These questions relate to the recent election, what the future may hold, and how we can prepare for the uncertainty of the future. Following are some of my thoughts:
Dear fellow believer,
The things you have expressed are on the minds of many people, and I suspect that most have a deep-gut feeling things are not right, and that we are going into “unchartered territory.” When you add to the mix countless conspiracy theories, one begins to wonder where to turn or what to do. All I can do—as a fellow pilgrim and mortal with no more special knowledge than the next—is give you what the Lord, to this point, has given me.

The Lord is in Control

This is the baseline we must work from. When God told Habakkuk that the Chaldeans were going to invade and overthrow Judah, the prophet was dumbfounded. First, Habakkuk cries out to the Lord to judge the corruption and violence in the land (Hab 1:1–4). God’s response was, “Just watch, I am about to do something you won’t believe” (Hab 1:5–9), that is, use the Chaldeans as a scourge to judge Judah. “They are terrible and dreadful … more fierce than evening wolves … they all come for violence.” This set the mind of the prophet reeling. How could a loving God do such a thing? In his prayer of response, he asks in effect, how can you use those more evil than we to judge us (Hab 1:12–17). “You are too pure to behold such evil …” (Hab 1:13). The Lord’s response is given as Habakkuk “waits on the ramparts” (Hab 2:1). God’s answer, in essence, is you are right, Habakkuk, his proud soul (Nebuchadnezzar’s) is not upright, and that is for Me to deal with. But as for you, “the just shall live by his faith” (Hab 2:4).
God then goes into a long announcement of the “woes” that will fall on Nebuchadnezzar (Hab 2:5–20), ending with the promise, “But the Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him.” Now the enlightened prophet breaks out in song to the Almighty (Hab 3:1–19), recognizing that what God is about to do—terrible as it was to contemplate—is for the good of His people (Hab 3:11–13). The dread of the coming judgment caused him to tremble violently (Hab 3:16), yet he prays that “I might rest in the day of trouble …” (Hab 3:16), and makes the following commitment (Hab 3:17–19) “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls—yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.” In essence, he committed to the truth of Rom 8:28, that God is in control, and he—and we—could rest in that assurance.

No One Knows What Will Happen or When

There is a verse in Ecclesiastes that says, in effect, “If no one knows what will happen, who can tell when it will happen” (Ecc 8:7). I have heard the conspiracy theories since the early 1970s. I once belonged to a church that had an “inner circle” who considered themselves “prepared” for what was coming, usually referred to as “when the balloon goes up.” These scary stories were recounted daily, each new one with bated breath, as if it would occur the next day. Preparations were made, escape plans hatched, and warnings given from the pulpit, “If you are not one of us, and making diligent preparations now, don’t come to us when the balloon goes up expecting help. We will not help you; you failed to prepare and you are on your own.” Keep in mind this was a sound doctrinal church. However, there was a “no tolerance” attitude for anyone not acting on the “inside information” that was being given. That was 40 years ago! Remember also the great hype about Y2K, which got many worked up, making “Y2K preparations,” which never happened, yet the next September (9/11), we were hit by the greatest terrorist attack ever. What was expected did not occur, and what no one expected did! This unexpected attack has changed America forever, and our government has—as a result—usurped to itself powers that are unconstitutional, which it will never relinquish.
Now, let me say that the things being expected then (in the 1970s) are precisely what we see coming to pass now. The thinking was not necessarily wrong, it is just that “who can say when” it will happen. My approach is as follows; all right, if all the warnings, plottings, schemes are true, then what should I do? The common sense, and I believe biblical, answer is “Make what reasonable preparations you are able to make, without letting it take over your life.” If I lived in “Tornado Alley,” it would be wise for me to know the nearest tornado shelter. If I lived in the path of hurricanes—even if only rarely a problem—I would assess my risks, and make wise and cautious preparations to go without power, food and water supplies, for at least a month. To do otherwise is foolishness. In two biblical examples; Noah and Joseph (Gen 6:1–22 and Gen 41:1–57), we have two men of God who were warned in advance of coming catastrophe. Each made wise preparations which saved the lives of many. To fail to take warning and make preparation is to act without faith, since faith believes God’s warnings and takes appropriate action. Salvation is itself a result of heeding the warnings of God and acting on them, to place your faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. In this sense, to act in faith is the ultimate survival response.
My fundamental thought in regard to all the dire warnings coming out is this: if they all came true, what would be my best preparation? First, it is to be a believer in Jesus Christ. Second, I would be living in the Word, abiding in Christ and Him abiding in me on a daily basis. Third, to daily approach the throne of grace in prayer—not just for me, but for family, loved ones, neighbors, and this nation. Intercessory prayer is the chief work of a priest. Fourth, I would be diligently seeking to hear the voice of the indwelling Spirit of God, learning to hear Him over the babble of news, pundits, scare-mongers, etc. I fear we have lost the ability to hear His voice, which is heard only by the spiritually sensitive (1Ki 19:12). Fifth, to be preparing my soul with the “rations” no one can take from me, from the Word of God. If we face the worst, we will suffer along with many who are not at all prepared for it. We alone will have the answers to give to terrified souls seeking comfort, hope, and deliverance. The dark and difficult days ahead will be the greatest we have ever seen for true evangelism and ministry!

We Are Not to Live in Fear

Fear is the domain of the devil, and he controls all who live in it (Heb 2:14–15). We know that “… God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2Ti 1:7). Faith is the divine antidote to fear. By faith we enter into the “rest” of God (Heb 4:3) trusting in Him to be our daily Deliverer and Savior, as He has become the Savior of our souls. Since “it is impossible for God to lie” His promises become “strong consolation” to those who have “fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb 6:18–20). The specific promise in view is that we, as children of Abraham by faith, are heirs of promise, sons of the coming kingdom. Therefore, as Abraham did, we [look] for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb 11:10). We simply cannot become too attached to this world, for “the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1Jo 2:17). The most oft repeated command in the Bible is “Fear not.” It is one we should heed in these times!

Prepare with Prayer, and Pray to be Prepared

I believe we should be making wise preparations, praying at each step for guidance and divine leading. This includes anticipating extended periods of time without power. Therefore, food, water supplies, medical needs, and self-protection are all areas to be carefully thought out. This preparation should never be selfish in the sense of the church group I spoke of earlier. We are commanded in Scripture to “love your neighbor” (Mat 5:43) and we are [our] brother’s keeper” (Gen 4:9). Anything I have I will share, as long as I have it. However, I will not willingly allow what I have to be taken—thus the need for self-defense. I know that the first thing in the minds of those who have not thought this through is “give me a list, step by step.” I believe this attitude is part of our problem. While there are many good books on the subject (and they will give you all the lists you want and more than you can afford), my question is: “Why do we doubt the ability of the Spirit, the only One who knows what is coming, to be our guide?” Therefore I say “prepare in prayer.”
But then comes the second part, “pray to be prepared.” By this, I intend to face the most difficult and haunting part of the problem. What if I prepare, and then am deprived of all my preparations? What if along with others I am rounded up and incarcerated? What do I do then? Here is where we need, not to have preparations, but to be prepared people. Many have faced this terrible situation before (Joseph, Jeremiah, Daniel and friends, Ezekiel). There is no guarantee that we may not face similar conditions. If such should occur, we will no doubt look back at the time we wasted, caught up in trivial pursuits, accumulating more and more of this world’s goods, wasting opportunities to prepare ourselves and our loved ones, with great grief. Now we still have time. I believe the best preparation of all is to assume the worst (the scenario I have set forth here), and prepare from that vantage point. This keeps us from coming to depend on our preparations, and instead points us to become a prepared person, a believer in Jesus Christ who has a soul saturated and strengthened by His Word, and a love for others that supersedes my love for self. In light of this goal, all other preparations are superficial.

Walk by Means of the Spirit Today

We hinder our spiritual lives and disrupt our present joy if we live too much in the future. Again, only God knows what tomorrow holds. We should learn to truly live today, in the light of His Word (this means being in it daily), by the power of His Spirit, and in the enjoyment and expression of His love. None of us are promised tomorrow. If it comes, even with much trials and sufferings, it is still a gift. For those who have trusted in Jesus Christ, we know that “we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” We should be “strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith” (Act 14:22). The Apostle Paul lived in a turbulent time of human history. When he was departing from the Ephesian elders, he gave them the best counsel that could be given to believers in a time of tumult and uncertainty, saying “the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of those things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God … So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the Word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified …” (Act 20:23–24, Act 20:32).
The greatest resource, our greatest preparation, the indispensable necessity—no matter what may happen tomorrow—is the deep, strong, genuine relationship which we can have with our Savior. That preparation is the ONLY one that can be made only TODAY! Others can be made tomorrow, but not this one! It must be made today—and each day—for “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness … Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin …” (Heb 3:7–13).

Live Life from an Eternal Perspective

The Apostle Paul tells us that those who have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ are to “seek those things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:1–3).
As a child of God, we are told “do not love the world or the things in the world … the world is passing away, and the lust of it” (1Jo 2:15, 1Jo 2:17). It is my conviction that we, as believers, have all become far too tied to this present domain, which is under the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2). As I have travelled around the world and seen various forms and expressions of idolatry, I have returned home to America only to find idolatry in the form of rampant materialism and self-centeredness. I believe it was Gallup who found that the average giving of American Christians is two percent! All across the country, we see massive churches being built, churches that operate in debt, Christians who are as deep in debt as the unbeliever, even though we are commanded to “owe no one anything except to love one another …” (Rom 13:8). This does not project a lifestyle built on the conviction that “our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior; the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phi 3:20) The impression I get as I travel across America is that most Christians, and I am speaking of those in sound “doctrinal” churches, is that most would prefer that the Lord not come soon, because His coming would disrupt their present enjoyments and pursuits.
It is perhaps due to this prevailing mentality that God is about to rip our “toys” out of our grasping hands. If this is the case, the [temporary] light affliction[s] may wean us from this world and teach us to “not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2Co 4:15–17) The soul that is “weaned” from self (Psa 131:1–2) is free to “enjoy all things” (1Ti 6:17), yet have the spiritual balance to “use, but not abuse” the things of this world (1Co 7:31).
One thing we have learned in our travels—not only in Third World countries, but across this land that we love—is that so often those who are most willing to give of what they have are those who have the least. If we were to learn to be more giving and sacrificial by losing our prosperity and material blessings, it would be worth the pain and the loss. The Apostle Paul worked hard, not only to supply his own needs, but also those of his team. He said to the Ephesians, “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Act 20:35). It may be that God is preparing to teach us this very lesson.
It is my prayer that this message will give you both food for thought, guidance, and some measure of comfort in the midst of all the clamor going on around us. May God guide you—as only He can—to walk in His path in these increasingly dark times. He is not hard to find, for He is “the light of the world” (Joh 8:12), and His Word is “a light that shines in a dark place” (2Pe 1:19) and will not be missed by those who seek it with a pure heart.
Above all … Never Quit!
Gene Cunningham


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