Perilous Times Primer #3

Solid Preparations for an Uncertain Future

Part Two

Review: Level One Preparation
In my previous posting, we looked at the most fundamental essentials of spiritual preparation. These are things contained in the soul, in the event that we stand “bare-handed” in coming days:
     1. A storehouse of memorized Scripture (Psa 119:11).
     2. A strong, resilient faith (1Pe 4:12).
     3. A genuine, daily communion with Jesus Christ (Joh 14:21-23).
Level Two: Basic Necessities
Recently, I have been reading a book by David Roberts called Four Against the Arctic, the story of four Russian sailors who, in 1743, were stranded for six years on a barren, Arctic island. When they left their ice-bound ship to look for shelter, they had only the barest provisions. Between the ship and shore was two miles of shifting ice floes and thinly frozen sea ice. To minimize weight, they carried only “the clothes on their backs … a musket with twelve balls and twelve charges of black powder, a single knife, a single axe, a small kettle, twenty pounds of flour in a bag, a tinderbox and a little tinder, a pouch of tobacco, and one wooden pipe each” (pg. 4).
On returning the next day, they were horrified to find that during their absence, the sea ice had broken up and their ship and mates had gone down into the depths of the sea. They were stranded in a remote corner of the Arctic, with no real hope of being found. After bagging twelve caribou, their powder and shot were exhausted. They had enough meat and furs to last through the winter, but what then? Scouring the shore for driftwood, they discovered a few boards from a shipwreck, in which were a bolt and two six-inch nails. These proved to be their key to survival.
Using the bolt as a hammer, they flattened the nails into broad blades which they attached to heavy shafts. With these, they successfully attacked and killed a polar bear, providing both meat, and the right kind of sinew to make strong string, with which they strung a bow they had carved from the root of a fir tree found among the driftwood. With this crude bow, and arrows tipped with a few smaller nails flattened into arrow heads, they survived for six years and three months, at which time they were sighted and rescued by another ship blown off-course in an Arctic storm. Such is the possibility of determined minds, skilled hands, and a refusal to give in to hopeless despair.
What about us? What do we really need? Suppose that you are given the luxury of at least having the bare necessities to face perilous times, what would you include in your list? I have pondered this at length for years. My conception of “necessities” has been refined as I have visited and lived among people who truly know, by experience, the meaning of the word. As the old Aboriginal saying goes, “The more you know, the less you need.” Having studied survival craft for decades, my thoughts immediately go to the basic list—the order of which changes depending on the conditions faced. But the essentials, which I pare down to needs rather than equipment, are: shelter, food, water, fire, tools (knife, light, etc.), navigation (solar, stellar, map/compass), and signal (mirror). Each of these needs is met in various ways, depending on the individual. Yet, as I reflect on these time-tested ideas, I am convinced these things are not first on the list. Here are my suggestions of what should be:
1. Community
In the story of the four sailors, community is the big factor which contributed to the survival of each of them. Each member brought skills and abilities to the community pool. Each relied on the others to lift and encourage them. The four survived where one alone would have died. Our community begins with our family and includes a body of believers, each with differing talents and gifts. Without such a team, every adversity is more difficult to endure.
2. Ministry
Commercialism always looks at “profit” as the ultimate goal. Every act and move is calculated in light of “what do I get out of it?” This is why, as a nation, we are in the mess we are in. God’s kingdom works in diametric opposition to the “world system.” Living in the community of God’s people, our first concern is “others” and how we can serve them. Instead of being “consumers,” we think in terms of being “contributors” to the well-being of others. Every believer has spiritual gifts as well as talents and abilities, which God has given for “the profit [well-being] of all” (1Co 12:7). When our life is built around service, we learn to forget self, and leave our needs to God, who is faithful to fulfill His promises and meet all our needs. If this attitude had prevailed in the Great Depression, farmers would have given milk and meat to starving, out-of-work families, rather than dumping milk and letting slaughtered cattle rot, simply because they could not “profit” from their produce.
3. Skills/Tools
“Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond;
 cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.” – Mark Twain
While Nan and I were in the desert of Western Zambia last September, we saw a living lesson for life. One very poor, crippled old man survived only by the handouts people would give him. Since we came to this remote area in a four-wheel drive, instead of walking the eighteen hours across the bushland as Logan and I had done a year before, we were able to bring in a huge load of used clothes, which the church in Livingstone had collected for these poor people. Opportunity was given for each of the poor to pick through the clothes and choose something they could use. This old man had gotten a shirt and an old, worn-out pair of running shoes. The soles were separated from the uppers. As he sat in the compound, in front of our hut, I saw him working with a piece of wire about a foot long. First, he broke it in half. Then, he sharpened an end on one piece, bending the other end into a handle—he had an awl. With the other piece he did the same, except that he bent the sharp point into a very fine hook. He then took a very thin piece of plant fiber, used the awl to punch holes in the soles, then the small hook to pull the fiber through, and stitched the soles to the uppers. When he finished, I looked at the shoes, which looked as if they had been repaired in a shoe shop. I wondered if he ever thought of bartering his shoe-repair skills to others in the village for food or clothing?
The tools of the four men lost in the arctic were minimal, but their ingenuity magnified the usefulness of what little they had. Years ago, as a young Bible college student in Phoenix, I remember one speaker at chapel service who gave us the formula of America’s success. He said “Prosperity is the result of willingness to work, plus ability (training), multiplied by tools.” He emphasized that one major difference between capitalism and communism is that in America, the worker owns his tools, therefore takes care of them. Even the simplest tool, skillfully used, can multiply our productivity. Remember the little poem?
“Shamgar had an ox-goad;
David had a sling;
Dorcas had a needle;
Rahab had some string.
Mary had some ointment;
Moses had a rod.
What small thing do you have
That you’ll dedicate to God?
Hardship and adversity are great teachers. If we are teachable, we will learn many skills in coming days that we never considered before. I remember teaching, many years ago in my first church, that the days would come when we would need to learn skills from the homeless, street-people. Those days may be upon us. Learn to be self-reliant. Be observant and available to develop simple skills with which you can be a servant to others. Be willing to work—to help those in need (Eph 4:28). Don’t calculate what you will get out of it. As you help others, they may learn to help you, and God will certainly see to your reward.
Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together,
and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure
that you use, it will be measured back to you.” Luk 6:38
4. Teamwork
As a small boy, I remember my father telling me a story I have never forgotten. This happened in the early days of America, when George Washington was a young man. He came upon a few men trying to load some heavy freight into a wagon. The road was muddy from recent rains; the men were struggling and slipping in the deep mud, while a crowd of onlookers stood by, not wanting to get into the mud and help. Washington, a successful and prosperous land owner, got down from his horse and helped to lift the load into the wagon. Then my father said, “Never stand by and watch someone struggling at any job. Don’t ever be afraid to get dirty helping someone. What is an impossible task for one or two will be easily done by three!” I have never forgotten the story, and have often seen it proved true. We will all need to learn to work together, so that the burdens of these times are lessened for each of us. Remember the cord of three strands (Ecc 4:12)! If each one of us works to lighten the burdens of others, we will find our own will be lightened in return.
“The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me. The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day—and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus.  2Ti 1:16–18
May we so serve one another,
Gene Cunningham
March 13, 2009

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