A national radio call-in show spent two hours of a recent broadcast focusing on the book of Revelation. The host posed the following questions to his listeners: “Do you believe that all the recent calamities are God’s judgment for our nation’s sins? Do you think the book of Revelation is being fulfilled? Do you believe we’re living in the end times?”
The amazing part is, this was a secular radio show. And a majority of callers answered yes, they believed society had become so lawless and immoral that God had to intervene with action. These callers were convinced God is warning our society through all of the recent storms and calamities.
Anywhere you go, it seems you hear conversations on Revelation and prophecy. People are saying, “Something is definitely happening. Is God speaking through all of this? Are these calamities supposed to mean he’s judging the nations?”
Think of the mounting number of disasters that have taken place in recent years:
The American mainland was attacked for the first time in our history, with New York City and Washington, D.C. the targets of terrorism.
Massive hurricanes struck Florida, causing over $20 billion in damage and leaving multitudes homeless.
A tsunami struck in Asia, killing hundreds of thousands of people and leaving millions homeless.
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed a major American city, flooding New Orleans and causing unbelievable destruction along the Gulf Coast, leaving thousands without homes.
A massive earthquake struck Pakistan, registering an incredible 7.6 on the Richter scale. It was the deadliest quake in modern times, killing over 70,000 people and sending aftershocks throughout India. Half a million people were stranded without aid, and another million were left homeless.
International health organizations are warning of a deadly flu pandemic, from a lethal strain of bird flu. It has spread from China eastward to Russia, Romania and Turkey. If it mutates, it could kill 2 million people in the U.S. and countless millions worldwide.
Famine is raging in Zimbabwe. The Catholic Archbishop in the region warns that 200,000 people could die within the next four months. Already, 700 people a day are dying from AIDS, and 700,000 people have been left homeless.
As I wrote this, Hurricane Wilma had already wreaked destruction on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Experts at the national hurricane center said their computer models, which forecasters use to gauge the storm’s spread and direction, had completely collapsed, making predictions difficult.
In forty nations around the world, terrorist cells are growing and threatening those nations from within their borders.
If we believe the Bible is God’s eternal Word, then we must believe what Peter has said:
“God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; and spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly” (2 Peter 2:4–6).
God brought down fire upon Sodom and Gomorrha, destroying those cities. And he sent a flood to destroy a wicked, vile society in Noah’s day. Indeed, there have been earthquakes and famines and plagues throughout history. Yet, I wonder: did all of these things happen with the same intensity and quick repetition that we’re seeing today?
For an entire generation now, there have been many prophetic warnings about such calamities. Interest has so increased in these subjects that in the past few years some popular book series on the rapture and end times have become international bestsellers. Yet, to many, it is just another horror story.
Over the past twenty-five years, I have been but one small voice among many that have repeatedly warned of a worldwide shaking to come. Yet I believe most of these messages, mine included, have made virtually no impact whatsoever on secular society. Believers have been stirred to pray and prepare, but sinners seem to shrug their shoulders.
Think about it: has there been any mention of God in world leaders’ responses to these calamities? God forbid that anyone in Congress should ever suggest the Lord may be involved in the shaking of all things. God forbid that the Lord may be saying something about the sin of our society. In spite of all the clear warnings and shakings, God has been left completely out of the equation.
In devastated New Orleans, the mayor has declared that he wants to turn the flooded areas into a massive Las Vegas-like district with huge gambling casinos and pleasure palaces. According to one recent report, committees are now planning for one of the biggest Mardi Gras celebrations of all time. They’re inviting people from around the world to come and help celebrate.
You can be sure New Orleans will come back. And it’s going to be wilder and more sinful than ever. Yet all of this is happening in spite of the warnings and pleadings of God’s watchmen. I thank God that as believers flocked to the troubled areas to help evacuees, a good number of people turned to the Lord. But even in the midst of the disaster, the secular crowd refused to acknowledge God or even mention his name.
In Revelation we read of calamities so devastating that “men (shall) seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them” (Revelation 9:6). We read of God pouring out “the wine of (his) wrath” (14:10), followed by ecological disasters, scorching heat, pandemic diseases. These all come after God has already sent voices and trumpets to warn. They come even after Christ has appeared to warn and awaken his church.
Incredibly, the Bible says those “not killed by these plagues … repented not … that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver … neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts” (9:20–21).
“Men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory…. They gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds” (16:9–11).
What incredible passages. People would rather chew their tongues and curse God than repent, even when the invitation is made available to them.
Beloved, if the secular world is not moved by prophetic messages, then why warn at all? Why tell the ungodly, “God is speaking through these things”? If, after all these devastations come upon the earth, sinners still end up shaking their fists at God, why even raise a voice?
The Bible answers us with this: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). Simply put, God is faithful to warn, because that is his justice and his mercy. He may use scientists and other secular voices to issue warnings, but no matter what the means, wicked nations and individuals must be warned.
Jesus told us that when we begin to see these things come to pass, we are to look up and rejoice, for our redemption draws nigh. But this is quite different from rejoicing over calamities. If all we can say to a sinful world is, “The end is near, judgment is beginning, and we told you so,” then we’re not offering them any hope at all.
We have already seen that as calamities increase, and the world seems to spin into chaos, hopelessness increases and hearts become hardened. If there is no message of hope or redemption, the sinner will conclude: “If this is God’s wrath, if this is the end and we’re all headed for hell, then let’s all party and go out stoned.”
Over thirty years ago, I wrote a prophetic book called The Vision, in which I warned of drastic weather changes that would strike our coasts. These calamities would be so phenomenal, experts would say of them, “This is beyond comprehension. These disasters are of biblical proportions.”
When I wrote a book about a coming financial holocaust, I sought God over the message I was given. I was deeply heartbroken, thinking, “Is this all there is, only a negative message? Lord, is this really the word you want me to deliver? Am I going to spend my life just warning?”
The Holy Spirit made me a promise at that time. He impressed on me, “When the shaking worsens, when you see these things coming to pass, you’re going to be among those preaching hope. While others are worried and nervous, I will anoint you with a message of mercy, grace and redemption. In a time when hopelessness abounds, your preaching will abound with hope.”
What I write to you now is one of those promised messages.
The message of hope we’re called to deliver can’t be merely an attempt to convince sinners of how wonderful heaven is going to be. We don’t tell them to repent just so they can escape the current mess and go to paradise without suffering.
Of course I believe in heaven. In fact, it’s a subject I love to preach about. I get exhilarated as I contemplate being in paradise with Christ for eternity. But if that is the only hope we preach to sinners — peace and rest someday, beyond this world — they’ll come back at us with a response somewhat like this:
“Look, I’m not thinking about eternity right now. I’m not preoccupied with ‘heaven someday.’ When you talk about God, you tell me that somewhere, someday, I’ll get some relief. That sounds fine, but right now I’ve got to find something to get me through another day. I’m overwhelmed, facing crisis after crisis. And I need some kind of hope or miracle, not tomorrow but today.”
At present, the world is anxious, perplexed, out of its mind with fear. So, how do we preach hope to those living in despair?
Honestly, I have grown tired of saying, “Let me show you what the world needs,” or, “Here is what the church must do.” I’m too old to start a “new hope” movement, with TV appearances and books published and “hope conventions.” I simply don’t have pat answers anymore. I think of all the books and sermon tapes circulating today about how to find peace, about how to cope with stress, about hope. So few of them seem to have had any impact at all on the secular world.
All I can do is tell you how the Holy Ghost is dealing with me.
Why have people lost faith? It’s because they couldn’t find evidence of it in the one place they thought they could find it: the church of Jesus Christ. Sinners have come to the church looking for someone who perseveres in his trials and hardships, who, when all is sinking around him, has a solid, anchored faith.
The world has heard many sermons on faith from television and radio. Non-believers have heard the doctrines of faith, have even read the books on faith that we preachers publish. And they’ve heard Christian after Christian boast of having faith. But everywhere they look now, they see examples of shipwrecked faith. Christians who once espoused faith are now giving up their trust in God in the midst of their hard times.
I heard a newscaster say recently, “We are living in a nervous society.” New Yorkers are nervous about terrorist strikes on subways. And multiple millions worldwide are worried by all the shaking that’s going on around them.
So, where do people turn for hope? Where do they find examples of unshakable faith?
The Spirit has spoken a clear word to me: “You have to anchor your faith, David. Set your heart to trust God in everything, at all times. Make sure your faith does not waver.”
To “set” our faith means to “stabilize, make unshakable, set down roots, put pillars underneath, lay a foundation.” Scripture says it is within our power to do this. James writes, “He that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord” (James 1:6–7).
In this passage, the Lord lays the whole responsibility on the believer. God is telling us, in essence, “When the world looks at my people in these days of trembling and anxiety, they have to be able to see faith. While everything is shaking, faith is what must remain solid and unshakable. So, you, believer, anchor your faith. You, Christian, take a fixed position. And never give up that position.”
I’m convinced the world doesn’t need more sermons on faith. They need to see an illustrated sermon: the life of a man or a woman who’s living out their faith before the world. They need to see servants of God go through the same calamities they’re facing and not be shaken by them. Only then will sinners come face to face with the powerful testimony of unwavering faith.
David described this when he spoke of “them that trust in (the Lord) before the sons of men” (Psalm 31:19). He was talking about believers whose strong trust and faithful lives are beams of hope to those in darkness.
Once, when I was in the process of setting an enduring faith, when I truly laid all my burdens on the Lord, I received a phone call with news that shook me. For a fleeting moment, a flood of fear swept over me. But the Holy Spirit gently whispered, “Hold your faith position, David. Don’t give it up. I’ve got everything under control. Just stand steadfast. You are never, ever to cast aside your set posture of faith and trust. Leave it all with me.”
I’ll never forget the peace that flooded through me in that moment. And by day’s end, my heart was full of joy as I realized, “Oh, Lord, I trusted you. I didn’t waver. Thank you.”
In Psalm 78, we read about Ephraim, the largest tribe in Israel. Ephraim was the most favored tribe of all: numerous and powerful, skilled in the use of weapons, and well equipped for battle. Yet, when Ephraim went out to meet their enemy, we read this of them: “The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle” (Psalm 78:9).
This mighty tribe had gone out better armed and more powerful than their enemy. But for some reason, when Ephraim saw the opposition, they gave up and retreated. They had resolved to fight and win, but once they came face to face with their crisis, they lost heart.
Ephraim in this passage represents the numerous believers who have been blessed and favored by the Lord. They’re well taught, equipped with a testimony of faith, armed for battle against whatever may come. But once their enemy shows up and starts to threaten them — when mounting trials and troubles seem too big, too much to handle — they turn back and quit, casting aside their faith.
Scripture says Ephraim questioned God’s faithfulness: “Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness? Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? Can he provide flesh for his people?” (Psalm 78:19–20).
“[They] believed not for his wondrous works. … Neither were they steadfast in his covenant” (78:32, 37). Finally, here was the result: “[They] limited the Holy One of Israel” (78:41).
Ephraim’s lack of faith and cowardice shook up the other tribes in Israel. Imagine the damaging effect when the others saw what had happened: “This highly favored people weren’t able to stand. If those who claim to wear God’s armor and wield the sword of his Word suddenly fold in their troubled times, what hope do we have?”
Beloved, we dare not condemn Ephraim, because we may be more guilty than they are. Think about it: we have been given more light. We have their example to warn us. We have the Holy Spirit abiding in us. And we have the Bible, the fully revealed Word of God, with greater promises.
I for one am guilty of Ephraim’s sin. Over the years, in times past, I went out fully armed, determining, “This time, I will set my heart. And I will not fear. I will not listen to the doubts and fears of my flesh. I won’t waver, and I won’t turn back. I will not pout, fret or wallow in self-pity.” Yet, so often, unbelief robbed me of victory.
Even today, I cannot boast in my flesh. I have so much yet to learn about “setting my faith.” But I have tasted the victory that comes when I trust the Lord in all things, when I purposefully lay all my burdens on Christ and go my way at rest.
The Greek word for “obtained” here means “to bear witness, to become a testimony.” Our ancestors in the Lord had a settled, unwavering, anchored faith and it became a testimony to God’s faithfulness in troubled times.
First, they had a witness within that God was pleased with them. They had trusted him through floods, mockery, bonds, imprisonment, torture, warfare, lions’ dens, fire. And after it all, they knew the joy of the Lord smiling at them and saying, “Well done! You believed and trusted me.”
“Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). Whenever we hold our faith position through hard times, we have the same affirmation from the Holy Spirit: “Well done. You are God’s testimony.”
When I can rest through storms, when I have cast every burden on Christ and I hold my faith position, then I have obtained a “good report.” And I am becoming a beacon of hope to those around me. Those who watch my life at home, at work, and on my block may not respond openly. But they will know there is hope and redemption available to them.
They can look at me in my hour of crisis and say, “There is hope! There stands someone who hasn’t lost faith in God. There is a fighter who won’t quit. He trusts his God.”
As calamities increase, and the world falls into greater distress, the believer’s response must be a testimony of unwavering faith.