We are entering a dark period of history, and we need to be ready for it.
I fear we are far from ready.
Are you ready? Am I?
“God did not give us a spirit of fear.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
I believe it is absolutely critical for believers in the risen Jesus Christ to embrace and live out this verse.
We live by faith, not fear. Or at least that is how we are meant to live. But my observation in lockdown was that many believers were as susceptible to fear as anyone else, absorbing endless fear-inducing messages and being crippled into inactivity and despondency when we should have been beacons of hope and light in that dark time.
Remember the Satanic Lullaby? (Check it out here). This message went viral because it resonated with so many of you. Indeed, huge numbers of people are getting taken out by it. But whether we’re being lulled to sleep or conditioned into fearful living, it’s crucial that we recognise what is going on. The stakes are high.
Folks in the West – I’m not talking to Burundians or many other cultures and nations that have suffered for so long – we need to develop resilience (*see bottom for eleven tips on how to do that). We are possibly the most unresilient generation in the history of humanity. Despite being the most materialistically ‘developed’ society ever, we’re experiencing a darkening shadow of existential emptiness, anxiety, and hopelessness.
Since the Second World War, this largely peaceful period has shaped us over decades to seek comfort and ease above all else, which has weakened our ability to stand firm in a crisis. We’ve simply had it easy for too long – collectively, not necessarily individually – and we need to wake up. Jesus said: “In this world, you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
We just weren’t ready for the Covid crisis, and we’re still not ready for the multiple crises to come. Last month I listened to this measured but extraordinary prophetic word (watch it here), and it really chimed with my spirit. It’s 38mins long but well worth the listen. The picture painted is very bleak indeed on the one hand, but provides a glorious opportunity for those of us who choose faith over fear, have a balanced theology of suffering, and develop healthy resilience whilst boldly living out the glorious gospel.
Looking back and learning the lessons of history helps us to be able to look forward with confidence and vision. Tim Dieppe does just that in this excellent article, and challenges us at the end with the question: ‘How will our generation of Christians go down in church history?’ Read it here…
Along a similar line, Dr Stephen Backhouse wrote:
“In 165AD a plague swept through the mighty Roman Empire, wiping out one in three of the population. It happened again in 251AD where 5000 people per day were dying in the city of Rome alone. Those infected were abandoned by their families to die in the streets. The government was helpless and the Emperor himself succumbed to the plague. Pagan priests fled their temples where people flocked for comfort and explanation. People were too weak to help themselves. If the smallpox did not kill you, hunger, thirst and loneliness would.
The effect on wider society was catastrophic. Yet following the plagues the good reputation of Christianity was confirmed, and its population grew exponentially. Why is this? Christians did not come armed with intellectual answers to the problem of evil. They did not enjoy a supernatural ability to avoid pain and suffering. What they did have was water and food and their presence.
In short, if you knew a Christian you were statistically more likely to survive, and if you survived it was the church that offered you the most loving, stable and social environment. It was not clever apologetics, strategic political organisation or the witness of martyrdom which converted an Empire so much as it was the simple conviction of normal women and men that what they did for the least of their neighbours they did it for Christ.”
We can all be those people again in our day! We are here for such a time as this! The cliché is true: we may not know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future – and we can live confident in that.
Smith Wigglesworth gave this challenge to followers of Jesus:
“Live ready. If you have to get ready when the opportunity comes your way, you’ll be too late. Opportunity doesn’t wait, not even while you pray. You must not have to get ready, you must live ready at all times.
Be filled with the Spirit; that is, be soaked with the Spirit. Be so soaked that every thread in the fabric of your life will have received the requisite rule of the Spirit – then when you are misused and squeezed to the wall, all that will ooze out of you will be the nature of Christ.”
So if need be, wake up! If awake, then get ready, and live ready! Not on your own, but deeply rooted in an active community of believers. This is no soft sell, but I look forward to seeing what oozes out of us…!
11 Suggestions (amongst many possible ones!) On Developing Resilience
- Live connected – in a community of faith, down your street, with family and friends. We can’t do this in isolation.
- Acknowledge and welcome God into every part of your day – I try to picture myself wearing glasses, and the lens through which I see everything is Him. I invite Him to filter everything. That brings much more peace and stability.
- Switch off the news – it’s good to know what is going on in the world in order to pray effectively, but you don’t need to absorb relentlessly negative news 24/7, it’s so depressing! That’s why I started my ‘Inspired…’ podcast, to counteract all the bad news with wonderful stories of overcoming faith.
- Memorise Scripture – storing up God’s promises in your heart and standing on them gives strong backbone.
- Get exercise – ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ – it’s true. Push yourself, even if you don’t want to. It doesn’t have to be much but it makes a huge difference.
- Be grateful/thankful – acknowledging and focusing on the blessings in your life brings joy and lightness that can blast away the negative thoughts.
- Keep things in perspective – as my Burundian brothers taught me, you will make it! God is still on the throne. The sun will rise tomorrow. One step at a time.
- Embrace the reality that you can’t be in control, and that change is a given – Remember the serenity prayer? “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference”.
- Take care of yourself – not in a narcissistic or self-absorbed way, but make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating well, working reasonable hours, not stuck indoors the whole time, doing activities that bring joy, make you laugh, etc.
- Listen to the right voices – God’s voice, your friends’ and families’ voices, trusted voices, not the relentless bombarding cultural lies we are being fed. Seriously limit time spent on social media. Get off that screen, cross the road and talk to a neighbour over a cup of tea!
- Ask for help – We all have tough seasons. Find a trusted brother or sister in Christ and share it without shame. Allow yourself to be encouraged by them and remember, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (1 Corinthians 12:9). Likewise, look out for those who may be in that place now.