Throughout history, people have believed they could handle any calamity well enough without faith in God. The prophet Isaiah wrote that such scoffers boast, “When the overflowing scourge passes through, it will not come to us” (Isaiah 28:15). Isaiah calls these people spiritually blind (see Isaiah 26:11); in other words, they will not attribute any calamity to God’s work. Instead, they will act as if God is not in heaven at all.
Many scoffers in America think their wealth will save them from disaster but God says in no uncertain terms that when his divine shaking begins, the ungodly rich will suddenly see their possessions as worthless (see Isaiah 2:20-21). Others say, “Prophets of doom have been saying the same things for centuries but the world hasn’t ended yet. We just need to enjoy life while we can.”
It is true that God’s prophets have sounded warnings in every generation but history proves that God has always sent his judgments in due time. John Owen, the great Puritan preacher, gave a strong warning to his congregation on April 9, 1680, and while skeptics mocked, God did, in fact, send awful judgments on that society. John Owen lived to weep over a flaming catastrophe that engulfed London and destroyed that great city. In fact, he saw the fulfillment of every one of his powerful prophecies — wars, destruction, shattered economies, nationwide depression, diseases that wiped out multitudes of careless, unconcerned people.
Beloved, we are living in just such a time as Owen’s. And in times like these, there is only one response: “The just shall live by faith!” Owen admonished his people with tears to prepare an ark of safety for themselves and their families. “That ark is Jesus Christ — the only place of safety.”
We may see danger on all sides, but we have a fiery guard of angels surrounding us and a God who is under oath to carry us through any disaster we may face. Put your faith in Jesus and you can face the coming storm with quiet confidence and peace of mind. He is your good, loving shepherd and he is faithful to see you through!
The conditions in the world today are causing fear to mount. We are witnessing the words of Jesus come to pass: “On the earth distress of nations, with perplexity … men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:25-26). Christ is warning us, “Without hope in me, multitudes of people are literally going to die of fright.”
For Jesus’ followers, however, those who trust in God’s promises to preserve his children, there is glorious freedom from all fear. In fact, all who come under the lordship of Christ never need fear again if they will lay hold of the following secret: True freedom from fear consists of totally resigning one’s life into the hands of the Lord.
Resigning ourselves into God’s care is an act of faith. It means putting ourselves completely under his power, wisdom and mercy, led and preserved according to his will alone. If we do this, the God of the universe promises to be totally responsible for us — to feed, clothe and shelter us, and to guard our hearts from all evil.
Jesus provided the ultimate example of this kind of holy resignation when he went to the cross. Just before he gave up his spirit, he cried aloud, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46). Christ placed the keeping of both his life and his eternal future into the custody of the Father. And, in so doing, he placed the souls of every one of his sheep into the Father’s hands.
You may wonder, “But didn’t Jesus say he had the power both to lay down his life and to take it up again?” (see John 10:18). Since he had the power to “take up his life again,” why did he resign it into God’s hands to be preserved? The answer is simple: Jesus did this to set an example of trust for all his sheep to follow.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are to be constantly aware that the devil is out to destroy us. Therefore, Paul says, we need to know as much as we can about the enemy’s tactics and plans “lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11).
We read in Revelation that Satan has declared all-out war on God’s saints with a deadline that he plans to meet in completing his work: “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (Revelation 12:12).
While many Christians are slumbering at this midnight hour, just as Jesus predicted, the devil is working ferociously, making preparation for war. He is keenly aware of the short time he has to accomplish his evil purposes so he does not rest; he is scheming, ever devising ways to harass and destroy the Church of Jesus Christ.
Satan’s deadline was given to him centuries ago; it can be traced to a great wonder that took place in the heavens, a wonder of incredible warfare when Satan determined to destroy the Christ child (read the account in Revelation 12:1-4). How often Satan tried to devour Jesus! And while the great cosmic war is no longer between Christ and devil because Jesus now sits safely with the heavenly Father, the devil is still waging a war against Christ by directing his wrath at us, his seed.
Peter gives us this advice: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
When you sense the enemy advancing, the instant you move toward Jesus, he is rendered helpless. James tells us, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). The times ahead may get hard but the Father has promised us a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13).
“Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. When He came to the place, He said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.’ And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’ Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow. Then He said to them, ‘Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation’” (Luke 22:39-46).
We all know that Jesus gave his life to prayer. Likewise, we can be certain, as his followers, that it is his desire to bring each of us into this same passion for prayer.
The event recorded in Luke 22 occurred just before the last day of Jesus’ life. He could have been addressing a thousand issues, teaching in vital places, or meeting with the future leaders of the church, but he wasn’t. Instead, Jesus was giving his time, passion and energy to prayer.
We tend to think prayer is an attachment to our many demands and agendas — but to Jesus prayer was his agenda. Nothing drew his heart like communion with the Father and he wanted his disciples to follow his lead.
Jesus knew his time was short and he wanted to model prayer one last time to a few of his disciples. He wanted to show them how to pray earnestly, not just casually. He wanted them to know how to really seek the kingdom of God, how to intercede, and how to walk earnestly with him.
If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, you will want to make him your role model in prayer.
Spiritual courage is the great need for so many of us today. We may have heard excellent teaching and read multiple translations of the Bible. But what we need to do is to “stir up” the work of the Spirit within us. We must give ourselves afresh to God in prayer, Bible reading, and a new yielding to the Holy Spirit. We must also separate ourselves from thoughts, words, and actions that hinder the Spirit’s flow. Scripture says, “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8).
If we humbly draw near for a new intimacy with God, will he turn us away? If he gave us Jesus while we were yet sinners, will he now as our heavenly Father reject our petition for more of the Spirit’s boldness and courage? That would deny everything we know about him from Scripture!
How many believers come to the end of their lives and feel as if they somehow missed the fullness of God’s plan for their lives? They think that perhaps God had something planned, but it eluded them. This is a sad thought. But if we allow the Spirit to move through us, we will see his plans and purposes accomplished. We won’t come to the end of our lives regretting so many missed opportunities to do more for Christ.
Our future will be determined by how we allow God the Holy Spirit to work in and through us. We can live our days out in fearful hesitation and second-guessing, or we can “let go and let God.” God’s plan for us is not about who we are and what talents we bring to the table. It is about the resources and grace God has promised us.
So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper: I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6, emphasis added).
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.