Faith to Face the Future

An article from SVM Spring-Summer 2011

Norm Edwards

Editor, Contributor

An article from SVM Spring-Summer 2011

Billion-dollar bank failures! Government rescues with trillions in bailouts, but somehow, nobody is at fault!

Global crop failures! Caused by global warming, or by genetic engineering and mass agri-business practices? Solved by the carbon tax—governments charging us to use the atmosphere?

Who are our enemies and who are our friends? Europe, Russia, Arabs, China, Korea? We do business with them all, but we don’t trust each other. We waged expensive war, based on lies, and have not reduced terrorism. We claim to bring freedom to other nations, but our own government wants to imprison and torture people without trial, to completely control healthcare, schooling, and just about everything else.

We need not fear any of this! The Bible shows us how we may have faith to face the future without fear— whether the “great tribulation” (Matt 24:21; Rev 2:22; 7:14) occurs in our day or many generations later. This faith is not dependent upon correctly understanding Bible prophecy! This is not to say that Bible prophecy is false or that nobody can understand it. It is saying that faith goes above and beyond Bible prophecy!

Faith not Fear

The following short verses tell us the story: But He [Christ] said to them [disciples], “Why  are you fearful, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26).

Are we fearful? Do we have Faith?

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love (1 John 4:18).

With the love of God in our hearts, we know He is working things for our good (Romans 8:28) and we do not need to fear what happens to us.

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The LORD  is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5).

It is easy to fall into the trap of covetousness. Big government and big business still live lavishly, and more media continue to trumpet money as the means whereby security and pleasure come to us. We hope to build a solid financial foundation for the future. But trust in those things is what produces fear in us. Indeed, the financial crisis and wars ahead might claim our homes, our cars, our savings and almost everything we have. But they will not claim what is eternal and important (1 Peter 1:3).

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Romans 8:14-15).

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26).

Good human fathers will let their children earn their own living and take care of themselves as they are able. But if they fall into disaster, especially not of their own making, their father will take care of them. God will take care of us!

I [Paul—and all believers] have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20).

Our purpose on the earth is to grow to be sons and daughters of God, to live forever with    Him. We are here to learn to live by faith in God and reflect Him. We can continue to serve Him with the resources we have now, knowing that we can trust Him to take care of us wherever we have to go, and whatever kind of good or evil leaders we may find ourselves under.

The Results of Fear

People who fear the future often spend a lot of time and money on prophetic books, videos, CDs, etc. While it is good to read Bible prophecy (Revelation 1:3), one can waste a huge amount of time trying to prove or disprove the thousands of prophetic interpretations of the Bible. These things often make their authors wealthy or powerful, but rarely can one find anything that accurately predicts events before they happen without error.

Prophetic interpreters usually have elaborate charts showing how Bible prophecies predicted the dates of past events and how yet unfulfilled prophecies predict the dates of future events. What is virtually always missing is a past “track record” of the prophetic interpreter, showing that his predictions of ten years ago all came to pass as stated. Rather, one usually finds that the prophetic interpreter has revised his prophecies over the past 10 years because they did not come to pass as stated. Sure, they will claim that God gave them new revelation or changed His plan to give mankind more time. But how do we know that God will not do that again with their current prophetic interpretation?

So do we need to know the dates of anything in advance? Indeed, it is the people who do not have enough faith in God that desperately want to know when the major trials will come upon the world. They will take time “to figure out prophecy” or spend money for someone else to do so to protect their lives and possessions. They want to pull their money out of the banks or stock market before they collapse. They want to flee to another city, state or country if trouble is coming to theirs. They want to store food and supplies for themselves before a famine strikes. None of those things are wrong by themselves. But trusting in our ability to physically take care of ourselves produces fear—because we might not be able to do it. But trusting in God does not.

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else  he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore, I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:24-26).

While the Bible teaches the wise use of our physical resources, no scripture says that we will be judged by how much wealth we acquired during our life. The decisions we make in how we treat others, in developing the love, mercy and justice of God in our lives are far more important. God may choose to show us personally when a disaster is coming so that we may save our resources to share them with many people. If he chooses not to show us, and we lose everything we have to military action or a natural disaster, he does not hold us responsible.

 

Let us consider an example in concrete terms. Suppose a Christian has a million dollars that he wants to save for difficult times in the future—for his family, friends and neighbors. The best thing he can figure out to do with it is spread it out among several accounts so that all the money is insured. But suppose the banking system collapses with no bailout and he loses all his investment. Is God going to hold him accountable for not interpreting prophecy or finding out about the secret backroom deals that bankers and governments make? Probably not. While this writer has seen and read about this kind of case occurring, there is another kind that is far more common.

 

Many Christians, unfortunately, intend to horde their resources for their own benefit during the troubled times to come. Even worse, some have wealth that they have dedicated to God, but which they are still using largely for their own benefit. Sure, these people probably do not think of it that way—they think they are taking care of their own needs, not desires. But if they would tell their story to an impartial group of brethren—or to Christ in the Judgment, the conclusion would probably be that they are serving themselves.

And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. “And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ “So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”‘ “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:15-21).

This writer has seen the above happen—Christians who amassed wealth and died young. He has also seen cases where selfish Christians amassed wealth and lost it—their life being spared. Maybe God preserved their life so they could learn from the experience and go on to grow and be in the first resurrection.

The circumstances of each case vary considerably. Some people simply had much-above-average savings and investments, knew that they could help others from their abundance, but chose not to do so and lost it due to unexpected illness or financial reverses. Others had property or investments that they believed God wanted them to use for a specific purpose, but instead of selling them right away for a moderate price, they hung on to them hoping to get more—only to later see their value dwindle to little or nothing. These unfortunate situations were almost never foreseeable from a human perspective and in most cases the technical financial advisor might have said the people were doing the right thing. But they were not putting God first.

The Results of Faith

If disastrous days are nearing, we need to have the faith to be ready for them. If we believe that God has told us to sell our house for a third of its current value and move elsewhere, would we have the faith to go through with it? What kind of revelation would it require for us to do something like that? A personal revelation to us? One to our local congregation or our church headquarters? What if our church leaders or members were divided on the validity of the revelation? (This writer has seen this happen.) Sure, we might receive $100,000 more by waiting for the right buyer. But if we stay, our city may be destroyed by a cataclysmic event, one for which insurance companies will not pay. If we wait for evidence so obvious that everyone knows a disaster is coming, nobody will be buying houses. We need to learn to live by faith each day. We need to be led by the Spirit of God in what we do: For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God (Romans 8:14).

We can oppose the evil of our day, without fearing it— even though it comes to pass. When we see corrupt laws passed or injustice done in our nation, we can speak, write and sometimes vote against it, just as John the Baptist, Christ and the apostles condemned evil in their day and as the “good and just” Joseph of Arimathea voted against it (Luke 23:50-51, NWT). If we are successful in resisting evil and implementing righteousness, praise the Eternal. However, we cannot make the mistake of thinking that either our salvation or the salvation of mankind depends upon our successes in dealing with corrupt human governments. If our efforts to implement righteous rule do not succeed in implementing it, they do succeed as a public witness that there are Godly people with righteous options, who were rejected by the masses.

But even when the evil that we strongly opposed comes upon our nation, we need not fear it. Most of mankind, and specifically those who believed in God, have suffered under corrupt governments ever since the Tower of Babel. Hebrews 11 chronicles righteous people who suffered, and who are going to reign with Christ in the first resurrection. Some people mentioned there lived a long time, others died young. During the first couple of hundred years after Christ, the church was persecuted greatly, but it grew!

While we realize many people will suffer in difficult times, we also realize that many people come to God in those times. The goal of the Christian is to bring people to God, not to live the middle-class American dream. Peace and protection come from God, not from getting ourselves (or our children and grandchildren) into nice houses, good schools and good jobs. It is not wrong to have good things, but all of these things should be used to advance the Kingdom.

As we see the time of the end approaching, we should not be hiding ourselves and our provisions away where we think we will be safe. Rather we should be:

  1. “…Consider[ing] one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25. See also Malachi 3:16-18).
  1. …Sigh[ing] and cry[ing] over all the abominations that are done within it [our nation]” (Ezekiel 9:4). “And [God] delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed [or distressed—NIV] by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds) — then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:7-9).
  1. Resolving to refuse to cooperate with evil religious and economic systems, even at great risk to ourselves. We may not know exactly what the “Mark of the Beast” is, but we know that people both worship the Beast and receive economic benefit from his mark, and that we should do neither (Revelation 13:16-17; 14:9-11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4).
  1. Making preparations to reach people with the gospel during troubled times as many people will come to repentance because of it (2 Corinthians 7:10; Revelation 7:9-14). This seems like such an obvious idea, but this writer has heard few ministries that are stockpiling Bibles or booklets to bring people to God in difficult times. Many plan to escape the tribulation, but they should consider Matthew 16:25; 24:45-47; and Luke 12:42-44.
  1. Making sensible preparations even secret preparations to sustain lives of people in danger, even at a risk to our own lives (1 Kings 18:3-4). This would include basic things like food, water and shelter, and maybe more sophisticated things like alternate energy, agriculture and construction facilities. The question to always ask: Is it for you or is it for the kingdom?
  1. Let[ting] no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being” (1 Corinthians 10:24). “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
  1. Realizing: For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: “…and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (John 12:25).

Knowledge is Power

There is a tendency among Sabbath-observing believers to value the spiritual gifts of knowledge, wisdom and teaching very highly. These gifts are indeed valuable. Sabbatarians have managed to come out of much error that entered Christianity through paganism and unbiblical church tradition. However, knowledge must still be kept in perspective. God does not always work through knowledge. As difficulty increases toward the end of the age, even correct knowledge of prophecy, governments, business, farming, food preservation, alternate energy and other survival skills will probably not be the only means by which God takes care of his people.

Several different Scriptures contrast the knowledge and the power of God.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue (2 Peter 1:2-3).

The Greek word for “power” here is dunamis, from which we get words like dynamic, dynamo, etc. It refers to “miracle working power” as in “And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power [dunamis] went out from Him and healed them all” (Luke 6:19).

This word dunamis should always be understood as miracle working power, as there are other Greek words used for being strong, full of energy or political/military power. The Bible shows that the corrupt Sadducees did not understand either the Scriptures or the Power of God, but that God wants us to understand both:

Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power [dunamis] of the Holy Spirit. Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another (Romans 15:13- 14).

The Apostle Paul teaches that certain people tend to seek after different things, in this case the Greeks sought wisdom, an off-shoot of knowledge, but the Jews sought a sign.

For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power [dunamis] of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:22-24).

Of course, Christ gave the Jews a miraculous sign, his resurrection from the dead (Luke 11:29-30), but most of the Jewish leaders started a conspiracy to defame it rather than accept it – Matthew 28:11-15). The apostle Paul showed the Greeks at the Areopagus the wisdom of God, but most mocked him or put him off indefinitely, not accepting the wisdom of God (Acts 17:18-34).

When the Corinthians were being deceived by false teachers Paul said he would not enter an argument with them, deciding the issue through knowledge, but would deal with them according to the miraculous power of God.

But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up [knowledge puffs up—1Corinthians 8:1], but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power [dunamis] (1 Corinthians 4:19).

Future Understood by the Power of the Holy Spirit

When it comes to the trials at the end of the age, Peter made it very clear that the power of God would see us through, not someone else’s understanding of biblical prophecy. This author realizes that many people are very serious in their desire to understand Bible prophecy and work very hard at it—many hours per week for many years. But even so, much of that work may be out of their own fear of the future, or from a desire to be considered spiritual by others. Even so, unless one’s prophetic understanding is inspired by the Holy Spirit, the most intricate prophetic interpretation, even if it explains every prophetic verse, is still a “cunningly devised fable.”

For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power [dunamis] and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain [the “Transfiguration” Matthew 17:1-9]. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed [“more sure word of prophecy”—KJV], which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:16-21).

Prophecy cannot be understood simply by man trying to understand it! While some of the New Testament writers wrote as if Christ might return in their lifetime, there is not one place where they said that God had revealed that to them—because He hadn’t. Nor did they ever claim that they knew Christ was returning based upon the prophecies of Scripture. They just knew the times they were living in were extremely difficult—so much so that Paul’s human wisdom caused him to recommend that single people not marry, though he said it was not sin to do so (1 Corinthians 7:25-28).

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power [dunamis] toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power (Ephesians 1:17-19).

Paul is speaking to all believers here. The “spirit of revelation” gives us understanding of the hope of our calling. This revelation is a part of his “miracle working power” (Greek dunamis). This theme of revelation by the Holy Spirit to all believers is found elsewhere in scripture.

But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of  man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1Corinthians 2:9-13).

Christ taught his followers that they would understand the future through the Holy Spirit:

“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:13).

The same knowledge and power duo is here, too. The spirit guides us into truth—helps us to study the Bible and history so that we understand the plan and purpose of God. But it also shows us things to come, something that can only be done by miraculous power.

How do we Experience the Power of God

We receive the miraculous power of God by asking, by asking a lot, by asking for it to do God’s will, not for our own benefit. We receive it by faith.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17).

…Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure (James 4:2-3, NLT).

Does not James understand the way many believers are? How often do we ask our Father for His miraculous power to serve others? How often do we ask for miraculous revelations of the future, so that we can know what to do now? Some people, who claim to believe in God, would think we are “nuts” for doing such a thing. This is not power so that we can become a religious leader and have a following after ourselves. This is power so we can serve others and do his work now!

Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, “Get justice for me from my adversary’. And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8).

Some Christian writers have gone as far as to say that God is no longer working by miracles, but only through the efforts of church organizations, collecting and spending money to do His work. Certainly, some of His work has been done that way and He will give His servants credit for it (1 Corinthians 3:12-14). But it is also understandable why people who only understand this kind of work would fear the future. The financial structure of the world—and also these church organizations—is likely to fall apart.

Those who trust in the power of God realize man can do nothing to exceed God’s power. We do not need to fear the future, even the collapse of our economy or nuclear war. If we do not feel close enough to God that we are comfortable with His care, then we need to begin to get there, now.

One way to strengthen ourselves is to get in the habit of continually speaking to others, confirming our trust in God to deliver us in difficult times.

Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, And the LORD listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the LORD And who meditate on His name. “They shall be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts, “On the day that I make them my jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him” (Malachi 3:16-17).

We should be able to talk about our trust in God for miraculous deliverance with the same practicality that we talk about our jobs, our school, going shopping, etc. We should not have a “practicality voice” which we use to discuss physical things, and a sanctimonious voice we use to discuss religious things. The same God that created the food we eat and the ground upon which we stand is the one that will deliver us by his miraculous power. Our Messiah and Savior commanded that we not be ashamed of Him and His words:

When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:34-38).

Through our prayers and ongoing sharing of His words with those we meet, we can have faith to face the future, through the miraculous power of His Holy Spirit. Amen

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