Things are tough right now. No matter who you are, things are difficult. You may be someone who sees better days on the horizon or someone who sees dark days, but for now, things just aren’t right, and they haven’t been for quite some time.
2020 brought us COVID, lockdowns, protests, riots, looting, a contended election and now the Capitol being temporarily overtaken. Images and moments from the last year will be stained in our collective conscience for decades to come. We have seen an ever-increasing amount of turmoil, censorship, violence and hatred towards those we disagree with in our nation, and so many now ask the question, “Where do we go from here?”
How can we respond? Should we engage more in the culture wars we see ourselves in or should we step back? Should we become louder or quieter; or even silent? What is our place in this as Christians?
A Consistent Response
The Lord has spoken to me many times, very clearly, over the years about coming judgment to our nation. He has spoken equally as much about revival, salvation and an outpouring of signs and wonders. I do not know when they will come or under what circumstances they will arrive, but I am convinced they are both coming to our nation. That means, as Charles Dickens so eloquently once said, that we are headed for “the best of times, and the worst of times.”
That brings us back to the question of how we engage with our culture, if we believe these things are coming. Do we fight for our rights, or do we lay them down in reverence to God?
The answer is yes.
Because of some of the more profound words the Lord has given me about judgment, many people through the years have asked me how they should prepare for difficult times. They normally ask about what to do with their 401k, savings, homes and living situations. Should they buy gold? Guns? A house in Montana? My answer almost always disappoints them.
I give them the answer that I believe is the most consistent response Christians have had for 2,000 years.
Prepare your heart.
Maybe in your situation buying gold and guns is the right answer. Maybe it’s the completely wrong answer. My gut feeling is that house in Montana is probably a bad idea. Far more importantly than any of these things is how you prepare your heart for difficult times.
When I’m asked, I always say that to prepare for what’s coming, get it set in your mind that you may lose all your savings, your house and all your stuff, your livelihood and your friends; and after you’ve lost all that, be prepared for the Lord to ask you to give what little you have left to those in greater need than you.
That’s a terrible answer, I know, but I can’t think of any wiser attitude to have in the midst of troubled times. There is coming a day where you may not be able to control any of those things in your life, but you can always control your response to it. The Lord allowed Satan to take far more than that from Job, and in the midst of losing everything, he still maintained that God was good.
God is Good
When trouble comes, our Temptor always uses those circumstances to try and get us to believe that God is not good. That He has forgotten. That He has left. That He doesn’t care. We are very apt to believe that lie, and it’s why it’s so important that while it is still day, as Jesus said in John 9:4, we must do the work of the Father, because night is coming when no one can work.
Part of the work of the Father, on our part, is to cultivate a relationship where we know for certain that God is good and He’s always on our side, no matter the situation. Our work is to cultivate that relationship of closest intimacy where, by the grace of God, we are unshakable.
That doesn’t mean that we don’t engage in our culture. If the Lord has called you to warn those in our culture of the evils around us, to call attention to the dangers of sinful laws, censorship or dangerous political ideas, then do so with vigor and love. But know that, in the end, the results of your efforts are ultimately not in your hands.
On a practical level, what do we do about the increasing amount of censorship against people who hold to Christian or conservative points of view? As the tech companies seem to continue to exert more control over what people say, and we begin to see laws following suit, how do we respond? It can feel like our world is being stripped away from us when we are silenced online. It seems as though the handwriting is on the wall.
These are important issues, but remember that five minutes ago social media didn’t exist. The ability to communicate with the world about whatever you thought in this moment is a completely foreign concept to most of history. If your ability to speak freely online is taken away, what cost is that to you? If you make your living doing that, it may be very high, but for most, it is probably not.
But what about when it goes a step further, and Christians are no longer legally allowed to espouse their biblical viewpoints online or in “real life?” What do we do then? What do we do when it could cost us our livelihoods, our freedom and our things?
Paul told us in Romans 13 to submit to governing authorities, because they were put there for our good. The apostles, in Acts 4, also rebelled against their governing authorities when they were commanded not to speak about Jesus anymore. So where is the line?
For American Christians, that line gets very blurry to us. Many times we conflate what we believe are biblical values with our Constitutional rights. When what we see as our American rights being taken away, we often feel like it is our Christian duty to fight for them. I consider myself a patriot, and I do my best to separate in my mind the difference between my American rights and virtues, and those that are purely Christian. Sometimes they overlap, but less often than I’d like them to.
Christians and Patriots
As an American, I believe that it is my right to free speech without punishment or retribution, even when what I say may be interpreted as controversial or hurtful to others. But as a Christian, I find no such right in the Bible. As in our Acts 4 example, I know that there may come a day when I am called to speak the eternal truth of Scripture, and it may cost me dearly. I forgot to mention that the apostles in Acts 4 were whipped for their speech and rebellion. Eventually, they all were martyred (except John).
I love the rights I enjoy as an American, but I’m afraid they may soon be taken away. As a patriot, that saddens me and causes me to want to fight to keep them. As a Christian, I know that nothing changes about my assignment or reality if every one of my rights are removed.
As we navigate these difficult times, we must be aware of where the lines are between our American and Christian lives. If we conflate the two, I fear we will be lost in a swirl of pain, deception and anger that will cause us to shake our fists at God, as many have before us when what we have is taken away.
This is a time to double-down in prayer. Triple the amount of your Bible you are reading. Disengage from useless heated arguments and focus on the relationships the Lord has actually put in your life—the one you live with people you actually know.
I have found in these times when I take a step back and ask God to bring people in my path that need Him, and I ask on a daily basis, He amazes me with how often He sets up those divine encounters. Those moments, more than almost anything else, put in perspective just who I really am as a Christian. If you feel so called, stay engaged in the culture war, but do everything in your power to seek God for those powerful God encounters with others in real life.