By Dr. Roger Barrier, Crosswalk.com
I want to be honest with you. I've been a Christian for a long time and I’m scared. It seems like the globalization of our world teeters on the brink of collapse. I worry about recession and unemployment. I worry about our retirement funds. I worry about the future of our children. I can’t believe it, but I’m scared to wake up in the morning. How will I survive? I hate to admit this, but I’ve even gone through a doorway and found myself looking with suspicion at everyone, wondering if one of them is going to harm my family by infecting them or robbing them. I feel there is an invisible enemy waiting to pounce. Stock market dives, natural disasters, violence, and political unrest terrify me! How do I find peace?
I recently talked to a person who told me that He’d was completely prepared to secure his future. When I asked him about his “plan” for surviving any scenario of nuclear war, starvation, anarchy, or economic collapse, he was quite clear and confident! Here was his "prepper" advice.
Bill said, “Here is my plan to get ready:”
Build a bunker.
Hide my guns before the government takes them away.
Buy gold and stash it.
Stockpile food and water.
He thought he was ready for anything! Or was he? He sounded rather certain, but inside I know that he was at least somewhat afraid. Why else would he go to all of this trouble? Self-preservation is a powerful instinct to overcome.
Untested faith is easy.
Selfishness Is Easy, Selflessness Is Hard
If we look at Bill's plan, the four things that concerned him are the same things that concern us.
We want to be safe from disaster (build a bunker).
We want to be protected from danger and from evil men (have a gun).
We want to be secure financially (buy gold).
We want to have enough to eat and drink (stockpile food and water).
In the midst of all these threatening world-wide times and difficulties, I think that Jesus’ advice to us might be, “Don’t be afraid; be at peace.”
I was chatting with a friend about our world situation, and what might happen if we entered a global recession and unmitigated chaos. Historically, we've been here before.
Even Today, We Are Not Alone
Many people around the world face these challenges every single day.
Will there be food in the markets? Can I find clean water? Will the banks have money left? Will I have a place to live? Will I be persecuted for my faith?
According to the Borger Project, "Of 793 million starving in the world, more than 100 million suffer from severe malnutrition and risk starving to death. Of the 793 million, 780 million, or 98 percent, inhabit developing countries."
Do you know who gives the most to the Salvation Army? Poor people.
Even with their "widow's mite," they understand the plight of the poor and are quick to give. Organizations like World Vision and Samaritan's Purse do a fabulous job of ministering to the needy. When you are feeling tempted to "hoard" today, give to one of these ministries!
In Matthew 25:24-40, Jesus spoke of the sober moment when He would separate the sheep from the goats. He gave a powerful and sobering message:
Then I, the King, shall say to those at my right, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, into the Kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world. For I was hungry and you fed me; I was thirsty and you gave me water; I was a stranger and you invited me into your homes; naked and you clothed me; sick and in prison, and you visited me.’
Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Sir, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you anything to drink? Or a stranger, and help you? Or naked, and clothe you? When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’
And I, the King, will tell them, ‘When you did it to these my brothers, you were doing it to me!’ TLB
Now Is the Time to Be Even More Unselfish
Worried, in the midst of all these threatening world-wide times and difficulties, we have an opportunity to be more kind, more generous, more unselfish.
So why would we "hunker down" and "build bunkers?"
Because our god is too small. We are self-reliant. We cry out to the Lord like the father with the ailing son, "Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!" Mark 9:24 NIV
I think that Jesus’ advice to us might will be, “Don’t be afraid; be at peace.” But peace has a price. We must actively seek the Lord. David cried:
“I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4)
Jesus is the Giver of Peace.
"Peace I leave with you; My [perfect] peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. [Let My perfect peace calm you in every circumstance and give you courage and strength for every challenge.]" (John 14:27 AMP).
We can’t procure our own peace. It has to be the peace that Jesus gives, and we must receive that gift by faith. We can key off of that.
We have the choice to calm down and trust God for the future, or we can live in fear and be miserable.
Lean Into Scripture to Strengthen Your Faith and Invite Peace
Memorizing scripture can build faith and bring peace. Here are my favorites:
Regarding Building A Bunker:
"But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble." (Psalm 59:16)
“He who dwells in the shelter of the most high will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, he is my refuge and my fortress...(Psalm 91:1)
Regarding Protection From Evil Situations And Evil Men:
Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. (Psalm 37:1-2)
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. (Psalm 34:7)
Regarding Financial Security:
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
Regarding Food And Drink:
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’. For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. (Matthew 6:30)
There is a caveat here.
The above verses are designed to bring us peace in the midst of difficulties.
However, we will go through life with difficulty and suffering.
Jesus said that there would be war as well as earthly calamities. He said we would be persecuted and betrayed. But He promised He would be united with us in our hour of need.
I have told you this so that you will have peace by being united to me. The world will make you suffer. But be brave! I have defeated the world! (John 16:32-33)
Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven. (Matthew 5:11-12)
Paul had a wicked thorn in his side. Truthfully, the verses above are not how life always works out. We use the verses as blessings and hopes through the difficulties of life. Paul wrote:
Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:1-4)
These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 6-7)
What Do We Do When We Fear the Future?
First, we saturate our minds with Bible verses about God’s care so that we have them available when we need peace. That's why I challenge you to write and quote God's Word. Build spiritual muscles with biblical protein.
Second, we quiet our minds and practice David’s Psalm 131.
Behavioral psychologists would teach that mindfulness is the result of "emptying our minds and quietly focus." David teaches us that we need grace to quiet racing thoughts and adrenaline rushing through our bodies in a more specific way. The key? We put off pride, arrogance and self-effort. We lay aside insignificant pursuits, and trust solely on the provision and love of God.
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, I am like a weaned child at its mother’s breast; like a like a weaned child I am content. Psalm 131 (RSV).
David tells us that he had the choice of calming his own soul or of letting it rage in fear and anxiety. He chose to calm himself. But the last verse's picture is the most insightful. The baby is not content because the mother gave him her milk. The baby is weaned. It has learned to do without and still be content and close to God.
We face the same choice. We can quiet down before God and calm our souls, or we can be miserable and afraid. This is what choosing peace is all about.
Third, we keep walking forward in faith. What does that look like?
How Do We Keep Walking by Faith?
Here are four practical ways to continue strengthening your faith, and uplifting others, in times of crisis:
1. Invest in His Kingdom.
He told us to invest treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy. When our economic future is unsure, we do the opposite. We hoard. We stop giving to God's work. Be frugal and wise, but remember you are investing in a kingdom that won't pass away.
2. Share the gospel boldly. Everywhere.
The command of Jesus at his ascension was “Go and Make disciples.” The worse the world gets, the more receptive people are to the good news of Jesus. They need hope.
3. Worship every day. Praise Him, sing to Him. OUT LOUD.
Focus on His greatness. An old hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” Sing songs to experience God's presence, even if you just make a joyful noise. Praise His attributes.
4. Meet with other Christians.
God designed the church for a reason. Even if you are meeting and praying online, we are greater together than alone. We may not always have that privilege.
One of Corrie Ten Boom's most famous quotes blesses my life:
"If you look at the world, you'll be distressed. If you look within, you'll be depressed. If you look at God you'll be at rest."
Worried, I know that you’ve been afraid; but remember that Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid, I have overcome the world!”
I hope that these thoughts are helpful to you.
Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at [email protected].
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.