I'm not ready for this
My father suffered a major stroke in June of 2012. He survived, but faced 12 weeks in multiple hospitals, endured a corrective operation to a punctured colon that occurred when they inserted a PEG tube for feeding, and had to learn to walk again – which one doctor proclaimed he’d never do. One of the most heart-wrenching consequences of the stroke is the fact that he has been unable to speak since that fateful day ten years ago.
My mom, who became his primary care-giver, fell in December 2018, and had to move to a nursing care facility for rehabilitation after hip surgery. She never left. In October of 2020 she passed away. It was a long, difficult road – a road my father still walks. One that he longs to end.
But at the start of this journey, there is one particular exchange that has stayed with me. It was either the day of the stroke or the following. My mom and I were waiting for the elevator at the hospital, having just been with my dad in the ICU. She lowered her head in despair, sighed and softly said to me, “I’m not ready for this.” I gently placed my hand on her back and replied, “None of us are.”
How will I respond?
There are days when I look at the state of the world and my heart echoes those words – “Lord, I’m not sure I am ready for what’s coming.” And while I have not been pushed “far beyond [my] ability to endure, so that [I despair] even of life” (2 Cor 1:8), I am, like my mom that day in front of the hospital elevator, very aware of the hardships to come. But also like her in that moment, I cannot fully comprehend nor truly appreciate just how difficult the road will be.
It’s during such times when some pray for strength to endure. Others pray for deliverance from the situation. Both are valid prayers, but it’s important to understand that it is during times of extreme testing when our faith gets verified or proven as well as refined. That may sound simplistic, or even trite to some. I used to tell my kids (who are acquainted with LOTR) that the only way through Mirkwood is through Mirkwood. You cannot go around.
And while there are times when it’s impossible to go around Mirkwood – the dark forest – it isn’t necessarily the journey before us, rather it is our response that is key. Will we fold? Become bitter? Muster all our strength, grit our teeth and endure? Or will we view the difficulty as an opportunity to experience Jesus in a deeper, more profound way – a means that God can use to strengthen our faith and produce lasting endurance?
I wrote about this very topic from James 1 in the article “Responding to Life’s Trials,” which you can read here. More recently, I began going through Dr. Mikel Cary’s teaching on Revelation and in one video, he touched on this idea of enduring life’s trials. I love what he says, because I think it’s an accurate understanding of the strength and endurance that can be ours.
Here’s a portion of how Dr. Cary characterizes it.
Now what hits me about this is that John is essentially saying that his circumstances, his distress, his imprisonment have only served to strengthen the kingdom of God within him. And that regardless of the outward problems that he’s facing, there is a spiritual endurance that has been revealed in his life, because he refused to allow his immediate distress or persecution to stop him from seeing Christ.
Now I say that because I believe that there’s been a tremendous amount of one-sided teaching on the subject of faith in the body of Christ today. And this one-sided teaching has led a lot of people to believe that if they have enough faith, that somehow they become exempt from the problems of life and the circumstances that come our way through this fallen world.
Well, according to Hebrews 11, the Bible tells us that faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen, and that through faith, the elders obtained a good report. In fact, chapter 11 goes on to tell us that by faith people like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob and Moses all found favor with God and that by faith the walls of Jericho fell. By faith Gideon, Sampson, David, Samuel and the prophet’s subdued kingdoms. They obtained promises; they shut the mouths of lions; they quenched the fire; they became strong; and they even received their dead raised to life.
The problem is that most people never finish the chapter, which tells us that others were tortured, beaten, imprisoned, stoned, sawn in to, killed with the sword, and some were even forced to wander around – hiding in deserts, mountains and in caves. Yet the bible tells us that all these people were of one faith, and that all of them were approved by God because of that faith – regardless of whether they subdued kingdoms or endured persecution.
The problem is that a lot of modern Christians allow adversity to affect their spirituality in a negative way. What I’m saying is that we need to get a clear picture of the risen Christ in our heart, and like the apostle John, we have to recognize that there is nothing that can stop us from seeing the glory of God and hearing his voice.”
Evil on the rise
One hardly needs to be especially discerning or even paying much attention to understand that not only is the world growing darker, but it is doing so at an increasingly more rapid rate. For those who are paying attention, it’s as clear as a spring morning – evil is unmasked and those aligned with dark forces have grown so bold in their open displays of nefarious activity that they see no need to hide in the shadows. They openly mock God and any who worship him, hiding in plain sight through symbolism and mass rituals at concerts and sporting events. Their Luciferian devotion is on full display, and they believe that they can harness the power of spiritual entities for their own benefit.
Indeed, now more than ever, we need a clear picture of the risen Christ in our heart.
I firmly believe that the coming “great deception” spoken of in Matthew 24 is upon us. And while these are very troubled times, it’s not just going to get more intense; it’s going to get more openly evil.
Are you a spiritual prepper? You need to be one
If you are not a disciple of Jesus, I urge you to trust him alone with your life. Seek him while there is still time. If you are a follower but have grown complacent in your walk, as Paul urged Timothy, stir the coals of your faith. Fan into flame the spiritual gift of God.
Be alert and clear thinking because the subtlety and craftiness of the Evil One’s deceptions can snare any of us. We must acknowledge that we are no match for these entities. But we have an advocate who makes intercession for us. If we trust Jesus and seek him daily, he will give us discernment and we will be able to spot spiritual forgeries and have the strength to avoid them.
Remember the old illustration about knowing how to tell whether money is genuine or counterfeit? They would be able to spot a counterfeit bill, not by studying every example of “funny money”, but rather by intently studying and recognizing genuine currency. Once you know what the real thing looks like, it’s easier to call out the fake stuff. It’s the same with spiritual matters.
You must first have the Spirit of God in you.
The unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1Co 2:14 NET
If the Spirit dwells in you, John admonishes us,
Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here. But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. – 1John 4:1-4 NLT
The reality is that we live in exciting yet perilous times. The ruler of this world, Satan, has come out of the shadows in ways most of us have never known. The fires will only get hotter. It may seem overwhelming and you may not feel ready to face the hard road ahead. But if you are a disciple of Jesus, be encouraged because he is referred to as the morning star and he promises to give us himself.
But I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira who have not followed this false teaching (‘deeper truths,’ as they call them–depths of Satan, actually). I will ask nothing more of you except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come. To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end, To them I will give authority over all the nations. They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots. They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star! – Rev 2:24-28 NLT
Remember, though the road ahead may be difficult and you may grow so weary you feel you cannot endure, Jesus has already won the war. So whether you are delivered from the perils ahead or whether you must endure trials as never before, “hold fast to what you have so that no one takes your crown.” Rev 3:10.