We suddenly find ourselves (to quote Aldous Huxley) in a “brave new world” that few, if any, of us could have imagined as recently as three months ago. Abruptly and without warning our lives have been altered, our expectations thwarted, our liberty crushed. It seems to many of us as if we have been captured and carted off to a country run by tyrannical dictators. God’s people, under worse circumstance and facing actual captivity, asked a pertinent question: “How then can we survive?” (Ezek. 33:10b).
1. Repent of sin. Every circumstance in our lives involves a call from God to examine our spiritual state. When our natural state becomes a little uncomfortable, the first thing our natural minds seek is relief and release from the unpleasant circumstance. But God is at work reminding us to seek the reason for the difficulty and His purpose in it. To the question posed in Ezekiel, God responded: “Turn back, turn back from your evil ways!” (v. 11b). Trying times are always a call for self-examination. It is always God’s purpose for believers to recognize their sin, confess it, and turn from it. Until our hearts are right with God, any and every other issue is of secondary importance. Have you spent your time trying to maintain a normal existence, trying to live as freely and easily as before, or have you devoted time to self-examination, to ministering to your children, to encouraging them to examine their hearts and will? Are they “in the faith?” Are they living for the Lord? Do they have any ambitions beyond obtaining the good things of this life—to live for the Lord and to serve Him?
Having examined our spiritual state (a continual process, by the way), and having dealt with any sin that has been revealed, the Word offers three other essentials for survival during times of “captivity.”
Thus says the Lord of hosts . . .to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile . . . , “Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters . . . . Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.” For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them,” declares the Lord. (Jer. 29:4-9)
2. Reject a bunker mentality. Pray for deliverance, of course. But don’t fight against God’s will. Whether present circumstances prove to be of brief duration or the status quo for the remainder of our lives, we should live as normally and naturally as we are permitted. Nothing will be gained by raging and banging our heads against the bars on our cage. If we find ourselves in a cage, God, not men or other circumstances, has placed us there. Festoon the prison window with curtains, so to speak; fill the stone walls with praise to God. Paul and Silas did (sing that is; I’m pretty sure they didn’t hang any curtains).
3. Be a blessing to those around you. Not only to fellow believers, but to the lost, even to “those who mistreat you” (Lk. 6:28). Are you wishing and praying judgment upon the wicked? Vengeance belongs to the Lord; He will surely judge all sin. Can you pray for the salvation of sinners and seek opportunities to be an effective witness to the lost? Will the lost notice fear, anger, or resentment in you, or will they sense a peace that passes understanding? Do you have a desire for God to save the ungodly? After all, he saved me—and you.
4. Don’t be spiritually gullible. During these times, we tend to seek more spiritual solace than otherwise. The internet, television, and radio offer multiple opportunities to be fed spiritually. We should examine every message we hear carefully in the light of God’s Word and not fall prey to a message that merely makes us feel good or offers a temporary emotional high. The truth alone anchors and strengthens. Cling to the truth of God’s Word; listen to and trust only those who adhere faithfully to it.
And remember God’s promise: “For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11).
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