Monday, November 10, 2008

Preparing for What is Ahead


Romans 8:31-39

Some weeks ago a major storm hit the Gulf Coast. Do you remember seeing on the news how people were preparing for the storm? Boarding up windows and doing everything possible to be able to weather the storm.

I have seen couples go through lots of things in life when they have needed something to hold on to . They never dreamed they would ever face such a crisis, but when it happened, they found they had already developed the strength to weather it.

My wonderful mother-in-law lay in the hospital for a least seven weeks fighting for her life. I saw her and my father-in-law stand the storm because they had prepared before the storm hit.

My wife’s brother and his wife went through a storm that took her life and he now has suffered for a few years with an unexplained sickness. I have watched and prayed for him but he never given up on God because his faith in God was anchored deep.

Now what about us, here today?
Most of us will probably never experience the enormity of the crisis that these couples faced.
But still, there will be storms, heartaches, decisions, and gut-wrenching moments that have the potential for bringing us into a life-changing crisis. The storm that is facing our nation is going to be a big one. If things go sour and our nation drifts further away from Godliness then what?
What will we do then? Will we be prepared to face it? Will we have the inner resources that we need? And if not, then how can we prepare ourselves for that day?I’m convinced that if we want to have the resources we’ll need for a time of crisis, then each of us must make our preparations for that day.

Here are a few things that will help:

I. Be sure of your relationship with God. Do you know what it means to have a real relationship with Jesus Christ the Lord of Lords? Have you received Him as Lord and Saviour of your life?

The Bible gives us some vivid examples:
Abraham walked with God and was called “a friend of God.”
Noah walked with God and when the flood came, he and his family were saved.
Moses walked with God in the desert, and God prepared him to lead his people to freedom.

David walked with God as a shepherd boy, and when called upon to rule his people, he was prepared for the task.
Daniel was saved from the lion’s den, and his friends were spared from the fiery furnace.

But God does not always pull His children out of the fire. Stephen was a young man "full of faith and of the Holy Spirit" [Acts 6:5] when he was stoned to death. But his entry into Heaven was triumphal. Look at the fate of some of the apostles:

Peter was crucified upside down.
Andrew was tied to a cross with thick ropes for 3 days before he died.
John was a prisoner on a desolate island.
Bartholomew was beaten & then beheaded.
Thomas was murdered while he was preaching.

These men literally walked with God, and they suffered. But with their lives they echoed the words of Paul:
2 Tim 4:7-8 "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing"
Although we were not present with them nearly 2,000 years ago, we have access to the same strength they had. And as we walk with our Lord, and come to know Him better day by day, we too, can say with them: "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain" [Philippians 1:21].

II. Open your Bible and use it as a guide for your life.

Secondly, we need to open our Bible and use it as a guide for our daily life. But today there are more people who know the words to TV commercials than any words in the Bible!

Russell Morse, one of the great missionaries along the China/Burma border, was taken captive by Chinese communists in 1951, and imprisoned for 21 months. They told him that his wife and youngest son had been killed. For 15 of those months he was in an isolation cell, cut off from any outside contact. They broke his glasses and shoved him into that cramped cell without his Bible or any other book. Twice a day a bowl of food was pushed through a slot in his cell door, but he never saw a face or heard a human voice. Cut off from all human contact, unsure whether anyone in the outside world even knew that he was still alive or where he was, he later said that he would have surely gone insane if he had not been able to recall Bible verses and hymns that he had memorized over the years. That was all that kept his mind active.People have said that when they were suffering, sometimes they could only remember small parts of Scripture. One woman repeated over and over again, "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength" [Philippians 4:13]. I wonder, what verses have you stored up for the future? The Bible is one our greatest tools and yet all some use it for is a dust collector!

III. Make prayer a vital part of your life. Thirdly, even before the storms begin we need to make prayer a vital part of our life. We have talked about the importance of prayer before, but it seems as if we often pray during a crisis and neglect it the rest of the time.

We find our nation embroiled in a war – a war against terrorism, a war against elusive enemies who deliberately target civilians to underscore their hatred of our nation and the principles of freedom that we enjoy. If ever we needed to call upon the power of prayer, I believe that it is now!

There is a story in the Bible about prayer being used against a wicked ruler. This was an Assyrian king, (much like Ben Laden), who boasted that he would defeat God’s people and take over their land. He sent messages to Israel, taunting the people about their weakness and boasting of his strength. When this king spoke, the world trembled! Israel’s king, Hezekiah, was a man of faith. He knew that on a purely human level, the Assyrians could destroy them. But Hezekiah had a secret weapon. He called the prophet Isaiah in, and they fell to their knees in prayer. And look what happened! Lets look at 2 Chron 32:7-9 and read what King Hezekiah said to the people.

“Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him: With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.”

Then look at what God did: II Chronicles 32:21-22 says, "And the Lord sent an angel, who annihilated all the fighting men and the leaders and officers in the camp of the Assyrian king. So he, the king of the Assyria, withdrew to his own land in disgrace. . . So the Lord saved Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem. . . He took care of them on every side."
B. But it is not just in times of war that we need to pray.

We have so many other battles going on in America today. We, the people of our nation, have allowed God and anything to do with God to be taken away from us by our government.

Our government needs prayer. (Never has our nation been so divided!)
Our leaders need our prayers. (Without God leaders will fail.)
Our schools need our prayers. (Our teachers have an uphill battle.)
Our youth need our prayers. (They are the future of our nation.)
Our families need our prayers. (A family that prays together will stay together.)
And our churches need our prayers. (That we will lift up Jesus.)

Today our nation, and the church, are facing the undisguised hatred of militant Muslims who proclaim a gospel of death, a religion that through the centuries has been spread by the sword, and even today maintains its power by the sword.By the way, did you know that 30 years ago there was only one Muslim mosque in the United States, and today there are over 3,000 mosques? And that new mosques are being built here at the average of one a week? The apostle Paul warns us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Are we spiritually prepared as individuals, as a nation, as a church? If we are to survive in a Godless and materialistic world, in a world increasingly witnessing the hatred of militant Muslims, we must repent of our prayerlessness, and make prayer a priority. Even churches today have gotten away from prayer. Food and fellowship gatherings seem to have taken precedence. Miracles have happened when God’s people turned to Him in prayer. We should not pray for God to be on our side, but pray that we are on God’s side. Remember, God does not promise always to deliver us, but He will be with us.

IV. Finally, we must practice the presence of Christ. How do we experience the nearness of our Lord? Do we need a picture drawn by some artist to be able to imagine Him with us?

Charles Spurgeon once said that there had never been 15 minutes in his life when he did not sense the presence of Christ. I wish I could make that statement, but I cannot. What strength we would have if we trained for life as if Christ were walking alongside of us.

The best selling book, “In His Steps,” tells of a challenge given by a preacher to his congregation to pledge for one year not to do anything without first asking the question, "What would Jesus do?" This challenge was provoked when a tramp, mourning his wife who had died in poverty, stumbled into this wealthy church and addressed the congregation. He said, "I heard some people singing at a church prayer meeting the other night,

‘All for Jesus, all for Jesus;
All my being’s ransomed powers;
All my thoughts and all my doings,
All my days and all my hours.’

"I began wondering as I sat on the steps outside just what they meant by that. It seems to me there’s a lot of trouble in the world that somehow wouldn’t exist if all the people who sing such songs went and lived them out."

If that tramp had spoken to us, how would we have responded? Do we live our lives with the thought, "What would Jesus do?" Do we practice the presence of Christ every day?
In the story, the tramp died, but he struck the conscience of the congregation so profoundly that the lives of many were changed, just as our lives would change if we truly followed "in His steps" and asked, "What does Jesus want me to do?"

Rather than asking the question "What Would Jesus Do?," a better question for most people to ask themselves would be: "What Would Jesus Have ME Do?"

"Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." John 6:28-29

Christ promised His disciples: Matt 28:20, "And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age"

What a wonderful promise! We need to cultivate the sense of His presence as we go about the daily routine of our lives. And we need to remember the words of our scripture.

Romans 8:31-39.
“If God be for us, who can be against us?” Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So what about it? Are you preparing for the storms of life, or will you be caught without the resources you need?

The best way to prepare is :
To make sure that you know God, and that Jesus Christ is your Savior;
To treasure His word in your heart;
To make prayer a vital part of your life; and
To practice His presence daily in your life.

The words to an old but great song comes to mind! Written by Priscilla Owens:
Will your anchor hold in the storms of life.
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain.

Will your anchor drift or firm remain?

We have an anchor that keeps the soul,

Steadfast and sure while the billows roll!
Fastened to the rock which cannot move.

Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love.

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