By David Dombrowski
An Analogy of Finding Our Way
As we now move away from the year 2020 and reflect on where that year has taken us, I am reminded of an interesting experience I had years ago. It was 1972, and having been drafted into the military, on one particular day one of our training sessions was on navigation. It seemed a bit peculiar to me that this session was running so late in the day until I later realized we would be doing our navigation exercise at night.
Back then, soldiers at military bases did not have GPS. Instead, we were each issued a compass for the exercise and given instructions on how to use it. Ironically, only months before this, I was taking a university geography class where we spent some time learning about reading topographical maps, using a compass, and correcting magnetic north for true north. But on this particular day in the army, I was learning more of the practical side of using a compass.
Once it became dark, the first thing we did was to “charge” our compasses by holding the phosphorescent dial and needle up to a bright light bulb for about two minutes. We were each then dispersed with compass in hand, having adjusted our own compass for a specific bearing on the dial. Because this was a military training exercise, none of us bore flashlights as we needed to avoid being seen, but as our eyes adjusted for night vision, we were able to see our way to our destination.
The key step, we were told, in using the compass was to sight an object or feature in the terrain that fell in line with the compass bearing. Once that spot was reached, each of us performed a new sighting to bring us to the next spot leading to our destination. On a smooth piece of landscape, sightings can be fewer and farther apart, but rough terrain necessitates frequent sightings because we cannot see as far.
A Year That Required Frequent Sightings
I believe this illustration serves as a good analogy of the need to stop and reflect and get fresh direction from our Lord because 2020 was an especially hilly year requiring frequent “sightings.” Often, during the year, I would hear acquaintances (including pastors) express the desire to “get through this and back to normal.” Basically, all of us, in varying degrees, had to “get through” something or a combination of things which included COVID-19 (and all its many facets), rioting, massive forest fires invading cities and towns in the West, and unusual weather changes. Compounded with these challenges that so many faced were financial tensions, social isolation, restrictions on church and family gatherings, and failing businesses; needless to say, it was an incredibly difficult year, and many people experienced high amounts of stress, hardship, and suffering.
As I pen this commentary in the first month of this new year, the prospect for 2021 looks very foreboding as our nation appears to be teetering on the brink of full-blown moral, financial, and political disaster. Countless businesses are trying to hold out just a little bit longer even as government leaders talk about doing full-scale extended lockdowns; the aftermath of a turbulent election and the uncertainty about America’s future feels like a real and present danger; a socially “progressive” Marxist-leaning agenda continues stealing the minds and the faith of our young people (and older ones too); and in the midst of widespread false teachings and heresy going on in churches across the land, efforts continue in 2021 to prohibit church gatherings; and the list goes on. It is easy to feel overwhelmed with what is happening in our country, in Canada, and in the entire world as the problems appear to be getting more insurmountable and complex.
The Complexity of the Day
Reason would tell us that any solutions to these complex problems need themselves to be complex. However, Jesus did not offer a complex solution to the problems of His day (which must have seemed equally as challenging and complex, especially for the Jews who were under the thumb of Roman rule). Nor did Jesus require that one had to be an intellectual to be His disciple. Most of His disciples were simple, uneducated men; and His teachings to them, regarding spiritual matters, were given in simple language, often in the form of parables.
Yes, Jesus lived in a complex time of Roman occupation complicated further by violence and unrest. Likewise, some of the greatest worries of North American Christians include the understandable fear of an overthrow of what is left of conservative democracy in exchange for a liberal, Marxist-influenced anti-moral ideology. While the Israel of Jesus’ day was occupied by Roman soldiers, Jesus was not perplexed by what He saw even though He knew the future outcome. He even knew that the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed; but He also knew that He, being the true temple of God, would be resurrected three days after His death on the cross, and He would abide with His disciples in the person of the Holy Spirit.
It is no wonder, then, that when Jesus taught His disciples, He taught them of eternal things that would never be destroyed. He kept them on track and moving even when the times were tough and discouraging.
The Wearing Down of the Saints
In Daniel 7:25, Daniel speaks of the coming Antichrist, who “shall wear out the saints of the most High,” but already it seems that the saints are beginning to wear out. Much of what we see happening today is undergirded by Satan himself. And I believe there is a reason why we see so much accelerated demonic activity both within and without the church today, for Revelation 12 speaks of Satan in his wrath speeding and intensifying his activities in the last days:
Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. (Revelation 12:12)
Now is not the time for the church to be overwhelmed, discouraged, or asleep as we see the darkness approaching. We are heading home, and we need to keep our eyes on Him and continue doing what God has set before us. Revelation 12 also indicates that the overcomers will be those who hold fast to the Gospel and the proclamation of the Gospel:
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (Revelation 12:11)
Regardless of the cost, we dare not forsake the Gospel. The Gospel offers the full gift of salvation to the “whosoevers”—that means all who put their hope and trust in Christ and what He did for us at the Cross. The Gospel is simple enough for anyone to receive and profound enough to save everyone who comes to Christ our Redeemer.
A Simple Solution
Now, approaching the task of finding God’s simple solution to the problem of living in an increasingly stressful and complex world, we turn to Jesus’ words when He said this to His disciples in Matthew:
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)
The “But” in the above verse refers to all the distractions, worries, fears, and oppressions that can lay hold of us in a world that has largely forsaken the God of the Bible (i.e., the true and only God). We can always find comfort and strength in our Lord. So Jesus said we should take no thought for money (vv. 19-21) nor for our life, be it food, drink, or clothing (e.g. shelter, vv. 25-32), nor should we even take thought for tomorrow (v. 34).
There is one thing God will never say to any believer; He will never tell us that we trusted Him too much. As we look around and see the crippling force that fear and worry have on so many people—overtaking them rather than helping them—we see people being robbed of health, vitality, and faith.
The saddest thing about this, for believers, is that it can render us ineffective in sharing the Gospel if our thoughts are consumed with earthly cares. God will take care of us no matter what comes, but time and opportunities are ticking away when it comes to sharing the Lord and letting our “light so shine before men, that they may see [our] good works, and glorify [our] Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). May God help us to be salt and light to the world. That is why Jesus said, “seek ye first . . .”
What constitutes an emergency? Let me explain. In an emergency, one experiences a sense of danger and the need to act immediately. When we see an ambulance racing through the streets with lights flashing or a fire truck speeding by with sirens and horns blaring, we call it an emergency. If the emergency involves us or our loved ones in any way, we feel anxious if not fearful.
During the past year, it seems as though our entire country had been in emergency mode. Early in the year, we heard of coronavirus, and media coverage made it seem like the world was nearly coming to an end, at least the world as we know it. Then rioting in the streets majorly affected many of our cities, dashing morale and security to the ground. In our own personal case, we had three instances of family members living in Oregon and northern California who had to flee their homes against the threat of raging fires. Then too, because of all the political turmoil, people throughout the country felt a sense of restlessness, insecurity, and anxiety. All in all, 2020 felt like being in an emergency that just kept going and going.
Seek Ye First . . .
As we turn to God’s Word, we are reminded that God knows about all these things, and He has compassion on those who are suffering. But there is something more I believe He wants us to see. God has His own state of emergency, and that is over the souls who are perishing. Thus, Jesus’ words, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God.”
One thing that really brought this message of urgency home to me was in reading Warren Smith’s latest book, The Titanic and Today’s Church. I read of Pastor John Harper, a minister and evangelist who happened to be on the Titanic on its maiden voyage to America; Harper shared the Gospel with people he encountered on the ship, not knowing the sinking of the Titanic was soon to happen. But even later, as the ship was sinking and he was soon to drown, he struggled through the icy waters of the North Atlantic, sharing the Gospel with those he came upon, clinging to the debris of the ship. This reminds me that God has compassion for the suffering and the dying, but His sense of emergency is greatest over the destiny of eternal souls.
My prayer for 2021 is that we, the body of Christ, will not be worn down by false media reports and political and social turmoil to the extent that we are rendered ineffective for Christ. That is why I hold to His words, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things [i.e., all the things that we would worry about] shall be added unto you.” Let us remember that God is never taken by surprise where He cannot work all things together for good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that . . . they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away. But I would have you without carefulness [i.e., the cares of the world that would draw us away from Christ]. (1 Corinthians 7:29-32)
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