Have you noticed the revivals going on all over the world right now? After I spent about a year repeatedly singing a song that says, "Spirit, lead me," last fall the Spirit of God stirred up a revival in my heart like I've never felt before. I've always loved God and often been disciplined to spend time with Him, but this time it's different. Discipline isn't really necessary. I just want more and more.
Since then, God has shown me that persecution is likely to come to the church in the United States in a way we've never experienced. We've been living lives of numb distraction, seeing the signs, but assuming it'll all be okay. Our world has entered a new era, and it may not be okay. The good news is that because we serve the Lord, WE will be okay. However, we need to be prepared.
Scripture tells us clearly to be prepared. It says Jesus is coming back soon. The church around the globe is suffering persecution (and always has) and God hasn't miraculously rescued them. Those of us who live in the USA aren't so special that we should expect to be saved from something He isn't saving others from. In fact, we know that when the church faces persecution, it grows and gets stronger.
Even if Jesus doesn't return for 1000 years, Scripture tells us to be prepared. So, how can we get prepared? We can strengthen ourselves for spiritual battles through reducing and eliminating distractions. What distracts us? In our culture, it's likely things we do so we don't have to feel the pain of our circumstances, like any of the following things in excess: shopping, alcohol, rich foods, social media, or television. It may be more blatantly sinful things like sexual immorality, illegal drugs, pornography, or gambling. And what if it's good things that we just don't know how to step away from so we can focus on the Lord, like work or our relationships?
We want to be comfortable at all times, free from pain and sadness. God hasn't promised us a life of ease though. He hasn't saved us from eternal damnation so we can never feel sad. There are things in this world that are hard and sad, and living numb and disconnected lives isn't doing us any favors. It's not really LIVING, but unless you shake off the distractions and open your eyes to the world around you, it's hard to explain that. Has there ever been a more true movie than The Incredibles 2? Screen-Slayer is quite an ironic villain, don't you think?
I've recently removed my goggles - woken up from the numb and distracted life I'd slipped into. Was it the pandemic? Was it the ability to be so comfortable? I'm not sure what caused it, but somehow I was there. I sought comfort and freedom from pain like it was my right as a child of God. And then God opened my eyes to see that it isn't.
To get prepared to withstand persecution, here are a few things we can do:
Most importantly, sharpen our spiritual senses and welcome the Holy Spirit to stir up revival in all of our hearts
Embrace discomfort and set aside the things that have distracted us from truly living
Devote time in our schedules to pray, study Scripture, and return to the spiritual disciplines like fasting, stewardship, and simplicity
Find ways to serve in our churches and communities, rather than just being consumers
Make corporate worship a high priority and confess our sins to one another.
We can prepare for an emergency. Several US government agencies have pages on their websites that urge citizens to be prepared for a time when the power goes out, communication is down, and transportation is unavailable. Here's one: https://www.ready.gov/plan. If our government agencies suggest we plan for a big weather event or an act of terrorism that takes down our power grid, wouldn't it be wise for our homes and churches to have similar plans in place? Our government, which should have the highest security available, just experienced a cyber attack this week.
Could your church become an emergency shelter? What if our homes become small storehouses where we can serve our neighbors if there's a need?
We don't have to become doomsday preppers. We can take measured, actionable steps to make sure if there's an emergency, we can take care of our family and neighbors until order is restored or we figure out another way to manage the situation. We can stock up on essentials like sanitation products, toiletries, food, water, and medicine. We can think through how we'll do things if we need to return to the basics.
I've recently taken some substantial steps to reduce our spending so we don't have to owe the bank anything. Banks aren't doing well right now, anyway, and I feel the Holy Spirit urging me to find ways to disentangle myself from them. I understand that's difficult, especially in business. I'm specifically referring to personal debt that we, as a country, have gotten into in our efforts to be as comfortable as possible and to keep up with our neighbors. We don't need to go into debt just because what we have isn't the latest style. Our homes don't have to look like the houses we see on home improvement shows. I have a great love for beauty and home design in particular, and there's nothing wrong with having nice things we can afford. But many have so over-spent that just making minimum credit card payments is a struggle.
The Holy Spirit is calling us to shake off the excesses and reconnect with life. What if you go outside and put your toes in the dirt? Plant a little garden? Turn off the screens and invite your neighbors over for a cook out? Go back to church and find an area to serve?
What will it take for you to let yourself feel again? The best way I know to suggest beginning this change is to invite the Holy Spirit to come and guide you. If what I've been through recently is any indication of how you'll feel if you give it a try, I believe you'll thank me. My mental health has improved, my physical health has improved, and as I stopped numbing myself to the pain of the world, I ironically got a lot happier.
Isn't that just like God? Sneaky, sneaky... Come, Holy Spirit. Please, come.
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