"Hope In Hard Times"  (November 2008)

I have been hearing the phrase “doom and gloom” a lot lately.  Perhaps you have too.  You can’t turn on the news without hearing about the economy and the terrible mess that it’s in.  It’s happening worldwide.  One day the stock market is up, the next day it is down.  Each day unemployment rises to a new high.  The financial institutions are in serious trouble- they are losing money hand over fist.  The government is so strapped that it really can’t take on any more debt.  Panic runs throughout the major cities and small towns because of the uncertainty of tomorrow.  Everyone wants a bailout from the mess that they have gotten themselves into.  People are desperately looking for someone to make the problems go away and change things back to the way they used to be.  They are looking to the Congress, the president, the incoming administration, Wall Street, news analysts, anyone who can make sense of it all and save us from this devastating situation we are in.  If that’s not enough, we are still dealing with terrorists, diseases, natural disasters, divisions within the nations and persecution of the church is on the increase. There never seems to be any good news.

I hate to tell you this, but it’s not going to get any better- only worse.  Oh, we may have a few “moments” when we can “catch our breath”, but it won’t be lasting.  The Bible clearly tells us that in the last days- more specifically prior to the return of Christ- what we can expect.  “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; but evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:1-4,13)  Matthew 24:8 even calls it the “beginning of sorrows”. 

I guess you are thinking to yourself that this is going to be another word of “doom and gloom”, but before you put it down please keep reading.  I personally believe that the events that we see taking place in this nation and around the world are not like events of the past.  This nation has been through several recessions and even the Great Depression and we have come through it.  The whole world has been through two world wars and has come back strong and prosperous for the most part.  This time I can’t help but believe that it’s different, we aren’t going to “bounce back” like we have in the past- or if we do it will be short lived.  Our grandchildren and great grandchildren aren’t going to go on with life as usual after the events that are happening now, and will be happening in the near future, are over.

Why is this time any different?  I believe that the events of the present are setting the stage, not only for the return of Christ, but for the rise of the antichrist which happens prior to the Lord’s return.  The whole world is in a turmoil and according to the Bible a man will come on the scene who will bring the “solution” to all the problems.  He will set up a one world government, economy and religion.  Let’s go back to the news reports.  There was a summit recently in Washington, D.C., of the G20 nations to discuss the financial markets and the global economy.  When Obama was elected president, some of the news headlines considered the possibility that he might be the first president of the world.  No, I am not saying that president-elect Obama is the antichrist, I am saying that from the comments that were made it lets us know that the world is ripe for a one world government and would welcome a merger of all the nations to become one.  There is a rise in Islam- whole nations are being converted at an alarming rate.  We have never been this close to the fulfillment of these prophecies ever in history.  Then when you consider the fact that Israel is being threatened with annihilation, it only adds more evidence in that direction.  Not to mention the “falling away” that is happening in the church.  Many are falling for false doctrines and leaving the soundness of the truth of God’s word for something that tickles their ears.

So where’s the good news in all this?  Jesus said, “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:28)  Because of what we see happening in the world, we know that the time is getting short and the day of His return is drawing near.  That’s good news!!!  It’s our great ray of hope in a dark and foreboding time.  But in the meantime, what do we do?  Jesus said that our redemption was getting near, not that it was already here.  What do we do if the economy collapses, if we face another depression, if we lose our homes, our jobs, if the banks fail, if there is a famine in the land?  There was another word that Jesus spoke, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” (John 14:1)  Don’t let your heart become troubled because of the fearful things you see coming upon the earth.  He’s saying to be at peace no matter what happens around you or how disturbing the events become.  “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (verse 27)  The key to this kind of peace is found by placing your whole life- what to eat, what to drink, what to wear in the hands of the Lord.  It’s found by putting your trust, faith and confidence in Him- not in a man, not in the government, or in education, knowledge, talent, not in a system and not in the arm of the flesh.  It’s found by believing that He is who He says He is- that He is the Provider, the Deliverer, the Healer, the One who is All Powerful, All Knowing and able to do exceeding abundantly above all you can ask or think.  The key is in “believing in God and the Lord Jesus Christ”.  Jesus is the only true source of peace because He IS the Prince of Peace.  He doesn’t just posses peace, He IS peace.  Peace is His very nature. (Isaiah 9:6)  It comes as you place you whole confidence in the Lord to keep you physically and spiritually.  “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul.” (Matthew 10:28a)  “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

The Bible is full of examples of people who placed their trust in the Lord when facing tremendous difficulties and devastating times.  In each case the Lord proved His faithfulness to them.  Noah faced a flood- a deluge that wiped off everything from the face of the earth.  It drowned every man, woman, child and animal.  It covered all vegetation.  It destroyed every home and every business- nothing was left.  Nothing but one lonely little boat floating in a world covered with water- nothing but water as far as the eye could see.  Everything was gone, they had to start all over, but God kept Noah and his family safe and provided for their every need.  The future is full of uncertainty, no one knows what tomorrow may bring.  We may loss everything that we have worked years for to attain.  Many people already have.  I have been at that point once upon a time.  Even through the loss of everything, God is still able to keep us and provide for our need.  “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

I am reminded of the story of Lot who lived in the wicked city of Sodom.  The wicked cry of the cities had come up before the Lord so He was going to destroy them.  Before He did, He sent His angels to Sodom to bring Lot and his family out so that they would not be destroyed along with them.  “And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; and the men [angels] said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place:  For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord; and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it. And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city. And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the Lord being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city.” (Genesis 19:1,12,13,15,16)  Lot lived among the wicked.  He was vexed in his soul by their conversations and manner of lifestyle.  He was confronted with moral decay daily, perversion flaunted itself at his door, violence was the common means to get what those who practiced immorality wanted.  When the patience and forbearance of God said, “Enough”, He brought destruction upon the cities and rained down fire and brimstone upon them until they were completely consumed.  “Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.  And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the Lord: And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.” (Genesis 19:24,25,27,28)  While judgment was falling on Sodom and Gomorrah and they were being destroyed, God kept Lot safe and delivered him from the destruction.  “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; and delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked.” (2 Peter 2:6,7)  When we look at Sodom and Gomorrah, we can’t help but see a parallel to our own country.  Morals are becoming a thing of the past.  Sexual perversion is on the increase.  The homosexuals have not only come out of the closet, but are “in our face” with a bold, militant, violent attitude that declares “accept us or else”.  Look at the violence that has erupted since the election and Proposition 8 in California.  Homosexuals want to be able to marry each other and they want it in the constitution.  After they didn’t get their way they have made violent attacks against churches and individuals.  History has shown that when a nation goes the way of homosexuality and abortion becomes accepted as the norm, judgment comes upon that nation.  You have to wonder how long before the patience of God runs out on America.  But the good news is that even in the midst of judgment, God knows how to protect, preserve and deliver His people.  “And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (2 Timothy 4:18)

David is another example.  When he faced a giant, God not only delivered him but caused him to defeat the giant.  Was David’s trust in his own abilities?  Did David trust his skills, his knowledge, his past experiences to give him victory?  No, his trust and confidence was in the Lord.  “Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.” (1 Samuel 17:45,46)  The economic situation has become a giant of worldwide proportion.  It threatens to destroy businesses, major industries, financial institutions, unemployment of millions, the collapse of nations.  There are many giants that are arising on the scene that can cause devastation to scores of people.  The good news is that giants are no match for God!  Giant sized problems dwarf before Him.  Mountains become molehills.  Even the giant of fear is no match for God.  “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8,9)

Hagar and her son Ishmael were cast out of Abraham’s house with bread and a bottle of water.  While wandering in the wilderness the water ran out.  “And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs. And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bow shot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept. And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation. And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.” (Genesis 21:15-19)  God heard their cries and sent a well of water to quench their thirst and a word in season to encourage them.  God ministered to their physical and spiritual need.  God is faithful to a thousand generations.  He does not  forsake the righteous in our time of need.  He will meet and supply all our need- whether it’s a physical need, a spiritual need, an emotional need.  “Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear.” (Isaiah 59:1)   

What about the whole nation of Israel when they were in the wilderness?  There were over two million people who wandered around in the wilderness for forty years.  They had no homes, no economy, no retail stores, no farms, no banks, no loan companies, no stock market, nothing but desert!  I heard once that the average rainfall in the wilderness where they were was 1/2 inch every ten years.  There was no water to drink, to bath, to give their livestock, to grow gardens.  Did they go hungry or thirsty?  I read something that was very interesting.  Based on Exodus 16:16- if each of these two million people ate two pounds of manna a day it would equal to 2,000 tons per day, and 4,000 on the sixth day.  If an average train boxcar carries 50 tons of manna, it would take 40 boxcars per day to feed them.  If each person drank a gallon of water a day, that would mean that they needed two million gallons of water per day.  If we assume that a railroad tank car holds about 20,000 gallons, it would take 200 of them each day.  That would be a train approximately 1.5 miles long consumed each day.  Even though there was such a great demand of just the basics- bread and water- they never went hungry or thirsty.  God sent manna each day from heaven and water from a rock.  He didn’t need Wal-Mart, He didn’t need the government, He didn’t need a big brokerage firm, He didn’t need McDonalds, He didn’t need food stamps, He didn’t need anything or any help to supply the needs of His people.  He hasn’t changed; He still doesn’t need help.  He can still provide, He can still speak, “Let there be”, He can still turn water into wine, put money in a fish’s mouth, send manna from heaven, pour water from a rock, cause an ax head to swim, part a sea-- nothing is impossible or too difficult for Him.

I am not saying that it is not natural to be concerned about the events that are taking place, but for the child of God there is hope and peace even in the midst of trying and difficult times.  We need not be afraid for the Lord is with us.  He has promised never to leave us nor forsake us.  His name is a strong tower of refuge that we can run into and find safety in times of trouble.  He does not leave us begging for bread.  He meets and supplies all of our needs.  “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.  God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.” (Psalm 46:1-5)  Remain focused- not on the events of this world, but on the Lord.  “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” (Psalm 121:1)