Use your sanctified imagination to envision the following make-believe scenario.
Joel Osteen… Andy Stanley…Joyce Meyer...Ed Young Jr. ... Dave Ramsey... James Robison...Ken Copeland...Pat Robertson...Matt Crouch and other high-profile Christian leaders all begin their programs with an agreed-upon in- advance, sober warning to their collective millions of listeners.
"The following message is completely uncharacteristic of our normal broadcast. But we are not living in normal times. We can't keep pretending God's judgments aren't real. What's happening currently can't be dismissed as coincidental but providential. We have come to the conclusion that God has directed leaders across this nation to simply communicate eight words: '40 more days and America will be destroyed.' That's what He instructed us to say. But there still is hope if we believe that God will have mercy on us if we humbly turn back to Him and the ways of our Founding Fathers."
"Larry, that's unrealistic and too farfetched!"
Do you know that the greatest awakening in world history took place when an obedient servant of God echoed those exact words in a different location? The leader and the people were so shaken by the severity of the message that they turned from their sinful ways and returned to God.
"When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened."
[Read the entire account of this amazing, historical event in Jonah 3:3–10.]
What Will It Take to Awaken Us?
On an individual basis, scores of people say their conversion took place after a series of events jolted them to humble themselves and turn to God. Should we not expect something similar needful for a nation at large? "They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble and he delivered them from their distress" (Ps.107: 5-6).
An amalgam of unexpected, swift events exploding in tandem with each other would certainly get the attention of millions in America. The following are real and within the realm of possibility very shortly: Devastating economic collapse; horrific drought, gas and food shortages; Middle East war; a series of coordinated Islamic terrorist attacks; outbreak of new AIDS-like virus; racial riots erupting nationwide; multiple massive earthquakes, EMP (ElectromagneticPulse) Internet-crippling attack; assassinations and political chaos.
David Stockman, Ronald Reagan's former Budget Director, says of the economy, "All hell is about to break loose!"
ISIS just released a statement, as reported in Charisma News, that they have over 70 trained terrorists in 15 U.S. states now.
To picture what it could be like when some of these events explode on the scene, picture a segment from the film "Mad Max" or the TV show "Walking Dead." [I don't watch these but have seen pictures from them.] Or visualize a city like those in the Ukraine - once-thriving cities now lawless centers of desperate people who've become marauders and looters carrying out criminal acts with impunity.
Our parent's generation exhibited patience, sacrifice, discipline and civility in difficult times. Being realistic (recall Ferguson or Baltimore recently?) and not dismissing all of this as nonsensical conspiracy theories, do we really expect people in a crisis today to let others go ahead of them in lines and folks patiently serve one another amidst shortages, curfews and roving vigilantes?
"God hasn't given us a spirit of fear…" but it might wake people up to pause and ponder some of these coming realities. Just read afresh what Jesus said would be taking place prior to His Return.
How Should We Then Live?
In the 60s, theologian and prophet Francis Schaeffer posed this question to Christians. Analyzing events in history and foretelling what was coming to our nation, he warned us of this implosion while calling us engage our culture and beseech God for divine intervention.
Christians can no longer settle for "status quo" religion with neatly packaged, sanitized, inspirational programs and services while ignoring the epidemic of Christians being persecuted and Western civilization crumbling. In England, the former Archbishop of Canterbury said, "Christianity is facing extinction in Great Britain."
We are currently engaged in a titanic, unprecedented struggle with forces of evil and must categorically reject wishful thinking that this is simply temporary, cyclical or manageable. We are at a tipping point where either we experience a divine intervention of God in a Third Great Awakening or we will witness the fulfillment of A.W. Tozer's prophetic morning: "Historians will conclude that we of the 20th century had the genius to create a great civilization but we lacked the moral wisdom to preserve it."
One Word Captures Our Charge
In Matthew 24 and Mark 13, Jesus told us the signs of the end of the age. He basically summed everything up with these words, "He who perseveres till the end will be saved" (Mt.24:13; Mk.13:13). And in Romans 5:3 God tells us, "…suffering produces perseverance."
There simply are no shortcuts in difficult days. We must draw upon the grace of God and make a quality decision that we will persevere.
Presently I'm reading a book, The Churchill Factor - How One Man Made History. This biography of the towering figure of the 20th century who saved Western civilization from extinction demonstrated one overarching quality – perseverance.
When his fellow countrymen and Cabinet were capitulating to Hitler and his war machine, Winston Churchill told them to persevere, to fight and not to negotiate. "If this long island story of ours is to end at last, let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground!" With this almost Shakespearean climax, he rallied them to press on 'till victory was theirs.
Days ago I spent some time with my wife in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, called the "Secret City" during World War II. Here 75,000 citizens worked tirelessly to develop the atomic bomb to ultimately defeat Japan and bring about their surrender. These patriots, alongside of our servicemen and women who gave their lives on battlefields, and the D-Day invasion persevered to secure our freedom.
During these turbulent times, if you need a fresh read to bolster your perseverance, let me suggest a book called Staying Power by my 33-year friend, Ken Roberts.
Ken faced incredible adversity when his wife of 25 years was killed in a car accident, a church building project and pastoral team imploded and he resigned his ministry in a mudslide of despair.
Yet Ken Roberts drew upon the grace of God and discovered lessons to sustainability. He persevered and today has new life, a new wife and a new ministry impacting multitudes. I highly suggest readers check it out.
As we await the Supreme Court ruling that may tip the scales in a way that may accelerate judgment on our land, may perseverance be our watchword. Remember the words of the prophet Jeremiah:
"If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?" (Jer.12:5).