Perilous Times Primer #2

Solid Preparations for an Uncertain Future

Part One

While we were in Papua New Guinea, we were cut off from all news. For two weeks, I taught the book of Romans to the graduate students, while Nan taught women’s and children’s classes. The last week, we “saddled up” with our backpacks and trekked village to village, through some amazing triple-canopy jungle, visiting outlying churches. The so-called modern world seemed very remote indeed.
Meeting Frank, the Hunter
One personal highlight was meeting Frank, a renowned hunter, who often sets off into the jungle for a week or two with his dogs and spears, to hunt wild pig and cassowary. Nan and I sat in his hut, with the fire smoking and Frank eating baked yam, surrounded by his wife and family, as he told of his hunts and hunting methods. A strong Christian, Frank had one request. He said, “I have only a New Testament, and I need a whole Bible so I can study the entire Word of God.” Frank had been challenged by a class Logan Carnell had taught in the village church, and expressed a desire to learn to better “live by faith,” I was able to leave Frank not only a Bible, but also passed on to him my Cold Steel Bushman knife, promising that I would bring him a pig-spear blade made by the same company when I returned (on the provision that he would take me on a pig hunt). When we parted, he whispered to me, “Don’t forget pig spear!”
A Radical Contrast
Imagine living for weeks with people who wrest their survival from the jungle with only a machete and a spear, then returning to a world of billion-dollar bailouts. We left Frank’s family of seven, who live in a thatched-roof hut of two rooms, with total possessions that could easily be carried by one person, to frantic television reporting of people in America, bleating into the camera, “We need financial help to keep our car, our house, our furniture,” etc. Another was quoted saying, “I’ve got to have my own kitchen, bathroom, bedroom … and so on. I do not deny that many are facing hard times, but rather, I want to emphasize a difference in mindset of what is essential, and of self-reliance versus the modern attitude of helpless dependency.
Finding Sufficiency in Unstable Times
All of this narrative brings me to think on a question often asked, “How can we prepare for an increasingly dismal looking future?” I pondered this question quite a bit during our travels and would like to offer, not what I think others should do, but what I have come to as my own approach. I personally believe we are entering a time of testing that may well surpass the Great Depression. I fully realize that I could be wrong, but my philosophy has always been, “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and be ready for anything.” If I prepare for the “worst-case scenario,” I should—A Fortiori—be ready for any lesser conditions. So the big dilemma is, how to proceed and what preparations/provisions do I need. My criteria, I decided after visiting Frank, must be based on a true perception of the word “need.” Though my thoughts and theories will no doubt continue to be refined, I offer some ideas reached so far in my own pursuit—and they may surprise you!
The Cord of Three Strands


“Two are better than one … for if they fall, one will lift up his companion.


But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him


  up … Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.


And a cord of three trands is not easily broken. Ecc 4:9–12


This passage spoke to me years ago, during a time of great personal struggle. At the time, it gave me much strength and wisdom, and its implications have resurfaced repeatedly in times of need. Read the entire passage, and note that the author speaks of “two” who meet adversities together, then concludes with the axiom about the three-fold cord. How did Solomon get three out of two? I am convinced he was introducing the necessity of faith in One who is unseen. By doing so, he reminds us of the providential care of God, and of His unfailing presence with those who entrust themselves to His care. Now let’s apply the principle to the question at hand, with three distinct levels of preparation. 

Level One

At the most fundamental level of my preparations, I must consider the extreme possibility of facing the worst adversities armed with nothing but a full heart and empty hands. To fail to account for this grim possibility is to deceive myself about how precarious is our existence and how fragile our civilization. Many in history have been confronted with this bleak scenario. How can I be sure I will not? I remember years ago seeing a poster with the image of an American Green Beret on it. He was wounded, bandaged roughly, but with fists clenched, staring out of the picture with an orange sun rising out of the mists behind him. He was devoid of arms or equipment, just himself. The heading under the picture read, “Your mind is your ultimate weapon.” It is this condition I must face at the very bed-rock level of preparation. For such a seemingly hopeless situation, I would want three things.

1.  A storehouse of Scripture hidden in my heart. This means Bible memorization. My Bible can be taken from me, but the storehouse of my heart cannot be plundered. So learned the author of Psalm 119, whom I take to be a young captive of Israel, taken on the death-march to Babylon. I must, therefore, prepare by a disciplined memorization of Scripture.

2.  A strong and resilient faith. I remember in the first Rambo movie, after he had escaped capture, evaded forces sent to apprehend him and, with only his knife, wreaked havoc with snares and traps laid for his pursuers. His former commanding officer made the statement, “He is resilient, isn’t he?” Like Rambo’s skills, resiliency of faith does not come overnight. It is developed by daily, determined practice. The book of James teaches us that every little or large trial is an opportunity to develop a resilient faith. We need to face each day’s troubles with the certain knowledge that we are in the gymnasium, preparing for greater battles. Somewhere in one of my old Bibles, near a passage where Paul speaks of his sufferings, I have written a quote from the old stoic philosopher, Epictetus. He said, as I recall “When you find yourself facing some great adversity, then be sure that God, the Great Coach, has paired you with a worthy adversary, so as to prepare you for victory in the Great Games.” Today’s trials, great or small, are opportunities to build strength for some greater test tomorrow.

3.  A genuine daily fellowship with Jesus ChristWe must get over the spoiled-child mentality of asking, when trials come, “Where is God when I need Him,” or, “Why does God not hear my prayers.” These are spiritually immature statements. We have absolute assurance in the promises, “I will never leave nor forsake you,” and “Whatever you ask, believing, you will receive,” If we live in a daily growing relationship with our Savior, His presence alone is all we need in troubled times. This mature approach to the evils of life is best expressed by Paul, who said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Paul’s consistent victories on the battlefield of life were won through the conviction that he was never alone, though often forsaken by men. In Jesus Christ, he found the constant companionship and all-sufficient source of strength to meet adversity. 

If I have nothing but empty hands and a full heart, I can face whatever the future may hold. This should give great comfort, for there is nothing here too expensive for even the poorest of men to buy. As the prophet Isaiah said so long ago, in Isa 55:1-3:
“You who have no money, come buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and
without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what
does not satisfy? Listen to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance.
Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen that you may live; and I will make an everlasting
covenant with you according to the faithful mercies shown to David.”
This is the spiritual “final option” for every believer. It is the true bottom line for facing whatever may come. With it, Daniel and his friends overcame the greatest earthly kingdom in history.
Starting as helpless slaves, stripped of all outside supply or support, they overcame every obstacle, until their Lord was honored in the kingdoms of Babylon and Persia. These resources sustained men and women facing incredible hardships through the span of Israel’s history (Heb 11:32–40). And, since I have taken so much space with the first level of preparation, I will save the next two for a later posting.
Stay faithful, and stand firm!
Gene Cunningham
February 23, 2009

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