The first half of 2020 seems to many like the beginning of the Seven Years of Tribulation. It is not, but a year for the record books for sure. How do we keep our sanity and soul in times of trouble???
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation [trouble]; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (–Jesus in John 16:33 NKJV).
1) Spiritually Hunker Down
This does not mean we crawl under a rock but rather double down into our spiritual lives that keeps our minds clear and our souls clean. Two great spiritual disciplines that work in peace or trouble is to study the Word of God and to be consistent in our prayer life.
Dig into the Word by methodically going through books of the Bible. There is nothing inherently wrong with reading random verses scattered throughout the Bible but the best discipline is to go through a book of the Bible so you can soak in the context and the wholeness of the scripture.
Settle in to pray. Prayer keeps our spiritual pipeline to God unclogged from the misinformation, anger, and clamor of the world.
2) Let Your Identity be in Christ
As a Christian, my identity is in Christ. Yes, I am who I am, but my overwhelming identity is in Christ. I am a follower of Jesus first and foremost. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24 NKJV).
During times of trouble, there are always a lot of name-calling and labeling. I like to think my soul is not covered in Velcro, if someone throws a label at me, it does not stick.
I had a life changing moment many years ago. As a young minister, I was confronted by a man who was very angry with me. He called me some hurtful names basically saying I wasn’t much of a preacher! It really hurt. Driving home at the end of the day, I felt defeated and began to believe what he had said about me. Then the Holy Spirit rose-up within me and instructed me. The Lord let me know that who I was in Christ did not depend upon what anyone thought or said about me. PERIOD! It was a liberating moment that to this day influences my life.
Don’t let people name you, let God name you!
3) Keep an Open Mind but Do Not Compromise Your Heart
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24 NKJV). The word consider means to perceive or understand; seek to understand someone else’s perspective.
I had a wise professor in college who really put this in motion. There was a somewhat controversial topic in the course we were taking. He announced one day that we were going to debate it in our class over the next week.
He asked our opinions by raising our hands and the class was almost evenly divided on the subject. He then forced us into two debating teams and each side had to debate in favor of the point of view that we initially opposed. In other words, I was forced to be convincing on a point that I did not hold. It was a very eye-opening experience, to seek to understand another point of view.
Keep an open mind to consider someone else’s point of view. He may be right. Yet, never let someone cause you to compromise the standard of God’s Word.
4) Don’t Compromise the Word of God for Your Emotions
Disagreements and arguments can cause emotions to boil. Emotions unleashed usually never end well. Logic usually flies out the window when we get overly emotional about something.
Emotions can also be good because it causes us to be passionate about something. An aspect of love is emotion and even anger has a place. Remember, Jesus made a whip and overturned money changers’ tables in the temple—don’t try that in an airport!
Our emotions need a parameter and the best boundary is the truth of God’s Word and the constraining power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has kept me out of trouble more than a few times.
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption./ Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice” (Ephesians 4:30-31 NKJV).
5) Don’t Be Easily Offended
People are so easily offended these days. Not just on national stages but even in our personal interactions. We all have friends or co-workers with whom we must “walk on eggshells”. This becomes very wearisome and after a while most people just try to avoid them.
Many people say things they think is benign, but others are offended by it. I have done that many times. I had no thought or intent of hurting someone and found out later they were offended. I have also been on the other end of that. My feelings were hurt and after some time I realized they had not intended it the way I took it.
I wished we were as quick to forgive as we are to be offended.
“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NKJV).
6) This World is not Our Home
I try to remind myself often that this world is not my home. I like to think of myself as a patriotic American but also remember that my eternal citizenship is beyond this ball of clay.
Even though this world is not my eternal home, I try every week to make this world a better place. I hope when my family and friends throw the last shovel of dirt on my grave they can say, “The world is a little better because he passed through.” And so I hope and so I strive.
Since I am a follower of Jesus; His Kingdom is my eternal residence. “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here’” (John 18:36 NKJV).
7) Continue to Love God and Love Your Neighbor
The two great standards of life are: to love God and to love others. If you can’t do those two things you have a problem that money, society, education, or legislation will not fix. Repent and surrender to God and allow Him to transform your life. This is what I preach to myself and to all.
“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’/ This is the first and great commandment./ And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself./ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40 NKJV).
Love God by submitting to Him and worshipping Him. We were created to be in a relationship with God. God the Father sent His Son Jesus to reconcile us unto Himself.
Love your neighbor by reaching out to someone. There is something refreshing about helping and serving others. There is a reciprocal blessing that comes back to those who are a blessing to others. It may be a bag of groceries, a phone call to a shut-in, or an encouraging text. You don’t have to create a world-wide ministry to show the love of Jesus. When we serve others, we manifest the image of Jesus.
On these two commandments (loving God and loving others) hangs all the rest. Every action and reaction in our lives need to be filtered and influenced by these two commandments.
This world has always had troubles and it will always have troubles. We all need to do what we can to be the change. Transformation of a community or a people begins and ends in the hearts of people. My circle of influence begins with me not you. If I want something to change, I start with me and pray that the goodness of God working through me will be contagious to others.
1 Peter 2:11-12 NKJV
(11) Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul,
(12) having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.
Yours on the Journey,
Harry L. Whitt