The Christian and Crisis
To say the least, we live in uncertain times. Some might even call this a time of crisis. There seems to be no national consensus about what to do with the serious immigration issues where large numbers of children and families are streaming across our southern border. Likewise, there seems to be deep national division on almost every subject of significance from health care to monetary policy to national defense. We watch as conflict goes on between Israel and terrorists groups occupying Palestinian areas of that land. This battle goes on as Ukraine faces its own struggles with Russia. Longer-term troubles still loom on the horizon from several sources of religious terrorism across the mid-east threatening even our own land. These are just some of the reasons we might well call this a day of crisis. In times like these, partisan answers drawn from secular minds rarely offer wise and long-term solutions.
If we are a nation whose founding was based on a belief in God, and we were, and if we live in a day when still the majority of our people claim to have faith in God, there has never been a more important time for God’s people to stand up for what they believe. There are those who would ignore the faith of God’s people, but we need to be reminded God doesn’t need their help. All of us need his help.
It reminds me of the story about a man working on a tall building into the evening. In the dark he slipped and fell. His hands caught the edge of the building and he was able to hang on for a period of time. His cries for help were drowned out by street noise far below and the sound of other machinery. After a while, his hands grew weaker and his fingers began to slip. He cried out to God for help but seemed to get no answer. Then his hands gave way and he fell. Just as he was beginning to scream, his feet landed on a beam just inches below which he had not seen in the dark.
In a time of crisis, remember that God’s people do not face their crisis alone; they have divine help. The little story above illustrates the situations we sometimes find ourselves in when we face various crises in life. “Sometimes we feel that we are all alone, desperately doing all we can to save ourselves, crying out for help but feeling unheard, until finally we lose all our own strength and let go. It is then that we discover that we were never in any real danger to begin with. Oftentimes we give in to fear and discouragement in times of crises because we do not know or see that we are safe in God’s hands. We do not see because of the darkness that surrounds us, not literal darkness but the darkness of unbelief.”
If you are at all a student of Bible history, you will recognize that almost every generation and every leader in the Bible faced times of crisis, many times of national proportions as well as intensely personal experiences. This would be true of both of those in the Old Testament like Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua and the prophets as well as the apostles and leaders of the early church in the New Testament. The same God who cared for them has not forgotten His people. We must reclaim our belief that no problem is too big for God. The problem we face is that too many people think they are too big to humble themselves before God and to seek His face.
I would also observe that in a time of crisis it is necessary to keep your eyes on God because things may get worse before they get better. Who would have envisioned some of the issues we faced just a few years ago? We thought maybe there would be the beginnings of democracy in places where terrorists had reigned. But little of that hope remains. We may have faced some difficulties with illegal immigration previously, yet none could have imagined just a few months ago the problems we face on our southern border.
The Bible says “His ways are not our ways.” God does not act according to what we think will please us humanly. He is not our cosmic problem solver to make life easier. When God’s people are in crisis things did not usually get immediately better, whether the crisis is a health problem, financial problem, relational problem, or ministerial problem. Things tend to grow worse, so that we come completely to the end of our rope. When things get worse, we should not give in to fear or discouragement, but keep our faith in God. In fact, God’s people often choose to act like Peter when he started to walk on the water to Jesus. “He focused on the problem instead of on the person and presence of God.”
Therefore, the solutions to our national as well as personal crisis must first be sought out spiritually, not politically or socially. I am convinced when God’s people have their spiritual priorities right, they can bring influence upon a nation beyond anyone’s imagination.
Where do we begin? Let me suggest three things God’s people should do in a time of crisis. First, we must learn to pray the promises of God. “The point of our praying the promises of God is not to remind God of what he has promised, but to remind us of God’s faithfulness to his promises, so that our faith is strengthened in a time of crisis. Praying the promises reminds us of what God has already done, and what he is sure to do in the future. God’s people should pray when there in trouble, not take matters into their own hands.
A sign seen in a textile mill read, "When your thread becomes tangled, call the foreman." So this young woman, who was new on the job, found herself with her thread being tangled up and she thought, "I’ll just straighten this out myself." She tried, but the situation only worsened. So finally she called the foreman. When the foreman arrived, she said, "I did the best I could." The foreman said, "No, you didn’t. To have done your best, you should have called me."
The best thing we can do in a time of crisis is not try to handle it ourselves, but to call on God for help.” We talk more about it than we do something about it. Every Christian family should spend time every day in earnest prayer for God to heal our land. How many of us who read this article do so? I’m afraid it would not be very many. Jesus taught us to pray so boldly as to ask that His Kingdom might come and that His will would prevail “on earth as it is in Heaven.” I urge you to pray specifically, humbly and urgently about each of the crisis mentioned at the beginning of this article. It will make a difference.
Second, we must restrain ourselves from attitudes and words which do not reflect our faith. It is ever so easy to join in criticism just like secular pagans. Christ died for the sins of the terrorist or the illegal alien just as much as the leaders of our government and our own souls. The goal of every Christian must be to win the world to faith in Jesus Christ. In no way do I wish to be understood as saying that hard decisions do not have to be made or that there is not a time for defending our nation. But I would remind all of us that we must guard our hearts against hatred and bitterness. That is the pagan’s response to crisis. The Bible tells us that followers of Jesus must resist the temptation to lash out. The Bible tells us to leave room for God’s wrath. It’s hard to do in the heat of our grief and outrage, but these teachings of the Bible are given for times just like these. We must be the people of God who believe that God’s offer of grace is open to anyone who finds faith in Jesus Christ.
Third, God’s people must persevere. We must press forward, even in the midst of our frustration about events both at home and internationally. As followers of Jesus we persevere, knowing that the Bible is true when it promises ultimate vindication on the other side of perseverance. Whether in personal crisis or in the larger context discussed here, we find the true extend of our faith. Do we give in to lesser instincts or do we trust our Lord? The world takes note when God’s people act like God’s people, not pitiful creatures who seem to have a helpless religion. Paul reminded us that infirmities, reproaches, persecution or distress have the opposite effect upon a Christian than the world expects. He said, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” It is when we realize our own limitations and His unlimited power that we find our true strength.
We want to believe we’re self-sufficient, autonomous and self-reliant people who have life by the throat. We meticulously build around us an illusion of security, lulling us into the delusion our lives are untouchable. We plan months and even years in advance, believing that we are the captains of our own fate, the masters of our own destiny. We enjoy our life of illusion because it makes us feel safe and secure. Yet life experience teaches us we are not. The events we call crisis today will be replaced by others in years to come.
Perhaps we could conclude that God allows the events we face in our world to remind us of our need for Him and the feeble solutions people and governments offer who do not come to God for help. Our only hope in this life and that one to come is in our God. God breaks his people of self-reliance, so that they will recognize that he alone is the source of blessings.