Bill encourages us to prepare for difficult times by remembering that God is in control, living righteously, and finding joy in the Lord rather than in earthly circumstances. Though the world seems frightening, we must wait patiently on the Lord, follow His will, and trust that He will deliver us whether in this life or the next. Despite hardship, we can rejoice knowing that Jesus will return to make all things right.
Ten months ago, I was here, and when I had that opportunity, I was part of a small group of people that had gotten together. And during that meeting, uh, Mike Penn looked at me with a, kind of a, a piercing gaze. I don't know if any of y'all have ever noticed that Mike's capable of a piercing gaze. But Mike looked at me with this piercing gaze and he said, I want to ask you something.
And he said, what are you going to do if everything just kind of falls apart? And he said, I want you to think about that. Well, not only have I thought about that, since Mike challenged me with that question, but I want to spend a few minutes talking about it this morning. I am not a conspiracy theorist. I am not someone who is a particularly pessimistic person.
But I am someone who is capable of looking at the world around me and knowing that things are a little bit scary. In fact, in my lifetime, I do not remember a scarier time in the history of the world around me. Now think about some of the things that I see, and maybe I'm a little closer to some of these things than you are.
But that make the world kind of a scary place and make you wonder what's going to happen next. I don't know how many of you keep up with what's gone on in, for example, what's gone on in the Ukraine. That's a little bit more in my neighborhood these days than it is in yours. But you think about what's happening there and the experience of so many people there and, and you wonder what might come next.
Not long ago I was talking to a young lady, a Ukrainian lady, uh, who lives near us and she had gone to her home in Kyiv for the holidays. And she got back and I said, well, Sonia, how was Christmas? How was New Year's? And she said, well, we had more fireworks than we expected, more fireworks than we wanted.
Uh, the city had been under attack. That had to go into, that had to go into a bomb shelter. And you wonder, you know, you wonder what's going to happen next. Some of you perhaps have been keeping up with what's going on in Israel. Again, this is something that's a little closer to me than it is for some people for a couple of reasons.
One is, I, I was almost killed in the West Bank in a terror attack about 16 months ago. And also, I have, uh, friends there. I've spent enough time in Israel. I have numerous friends there, including this fellow who is now in Gaza. He was a 40 year old restaurant owner who's now driving a tank. You think about these things and the wider ramifications of it, and you wonder, you wonder, What, what is going to happen next?
And if everything just turns, just turns really, really bad, if it gets worse than we can even imagine, what are we going to do? Well, I want to suggest some things from Scripture that I hope will be beneficial to us and challenging to us. In the first place, what I hope we will do is properly prepare for the battle.
You think about that, and, and, and, anybody in here besides me, and, well, and, and Brent because we were talking about it yesterday. Anybody remember the movie Red Dawn, either the first one or the second one? Okay, you know, we'll, we'll, yeah. It gets that crazy, what are we going to do? Let me suggest that part of preparing for that, properly preparing for the battle, is remembering the one who can truly protect us and give us the victory.
You know, if I'm thinking about what am I going to do, well, how much water am I going to gather up, and what are you going to, how am I going to protect myself? Folks, if that's the way we're thinking, we're thinking in the wrong way. Ephesians chapter 6 would talk about how we properly prepare ourselves.
It would talk about the fact that we are fighting a battle. And to fight that battle, we need to put on the whole armor of God. And it is the armor of God that can allow us to stand against the schemes of the devil. And remember, when things are going crazy in the world around us, Satan's behind that.
Satan is the one who is responsible for these things. And the only way I can possibly win the battle is with the armor of God on me. And I have to make the choice to put on that armor of God. That has to be the thing that I trust in. But another thing I'm going to have to do is learn how to wait on the Lord.
I think the, the little prophet Habakkuk has been more and more relevant in the last time. Remember what was going on in the life of Habakkuk? Habakkuk looked at all the evil around him. And he was frustrated by that. Anybody ever felt that? You look at the world around us and you say, God, why aren't you doing something about it?
That's exactly where Habakkuk found himself. He saw the evil that he was surrounded by and he said, God, why don't you do something about it? And God said, Oh, I am, I'm going to. And then he explained to Habakkuk what he was going to do. And Habakkuk was so shocked by that, Habakkuk said, No God, you can't do that!
And God said, Watch and see. Wait and see what happens, how I am going to handle this. And so in the process of this, as chapter 2 of Habakkuk begins, and let me, I've known from the outset that the Hebrew text here is challenging. But in Habakkuk chapter 2, verse 1, Habakkuk said, I will take my stand at my watch post and station myself on the tower.
And look out to see what He will say to me and what I will answer concerning my complaint. So essentially what Habakkuk is saying is, okay, I've said my piece. God is talking to me. God is planning things. I'm going to watch. I'm going to wait and see what God is going to do. What else God has to say about this?
As we see the evil around us, we have to learn to wait on the Lord. The psalmist would talk about that in Psalms 27. Psalms 27, beginning in verse 12, the text says, Give me not up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence. So he realizes that God is the one to whom he should appeal for help.
He makes that request to God. But then he expresses his confidence in the next verse. I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. He said, I'm optimistic that God is going to, God is going to protect me. That God is there, that things will end well. But now here's the challenge.
Verse 14 he says, Wait for the Lord. Be strong and let your heart take courage. Wait for the Lord.
That's hard to do sometimes, isn't it? I'm a, I'm a solver. I'm a fixer. When, when, you know, when something's just not like it needs to be, I just want to grab a hold of it and do something about it. Well sometimes I can't. Sometimes the thing that shows that I am truly strong, and that I am truly courageous, is when I am waiting on the Lord.
To let the Lord work it out in His time, to let the Lord solve it in His way. And that can be one of the most challenging things we are ever called on to do, is to wait on the Lord. He's got this. You know, in my fear, or anger, or frustration, I may call out to God, as others have before me, and say, Lord, don't you know what's going on?
Don't you see it? But we know the answer to that, don't we? He does. Does He care? He absolutely cares. Is He in control? He is surely in control. He's gonna do something about it, but He's gonna do something about it, not only in the right way, but He's gonna do something about it in the right time. And my time's not necessarily His time.
I have to wait on the Lord. But what do I do while I'm waiting on the Lord? Does that mean that I just, you know, here's a comfortable looking chair right here, I'm gonna, okay, Lord, I'm gonna sit down and I'm gonna cross my legs and I wish somebody would give me a, a glass of sweet tea. And I'm just not gonna do anything until God does something.
That's not what it means to wait on the Lord. In fact, in the process of this, I need to take a lesson from the days of Jeremiah. In the days of Jeremiah, the people had gone into captivity. And God had told them the captivity was going to last for 70 years. And yet there were still false prophets that were going out and saying, Oh no, that's not what's going to go on.
It's not going to be 70 years. We can do this to avoid it. We can do that to change the situation. And God sends a message to the people again, No, it's going to be 70, you know, you're going to be there 70 years. Now, what do you need to do during that 70 years? Well, in Jeremiah chapter 29, beginning in verse 5, the message was, build houses and live in them.
Plant gardens and eat their produce. He says, go ahead, go ahead and live your life. Build things and plant things. Anybody in here ever built a house? I don't mean you got a contractor, you know, a professional contractor that, that started with the, the empty lot and then handed you the key shortly. Anybody near ever actually built a house that, that can, that can take a while.
In fact, we started when I was, when I was, uh, eight years old, we started building our house and, uh, we, we finished it, uh, when, when, when my dad died in the year 2000. You know, so, so, so sometimes it, it can take a, it can take a while. That's an investment of time. Anybody ever plant a tree? Planting trees is not something I've done much of in my life.
Because I've never stayed anywhere long enough to see, you know, to watch a tree grow. If you're going to do stuff like that, you're accepting the fact, I'm going to be there for a while, and I want to do something, and I want to be productive while I'm there. In fact, that text in Jeremiah continues, Take wives and have sons and daughters.
Take wives to your sons and give your daughters in marriage. that they may bear sons and daughters. Multiply there and do not decrease. Live your lives. Have your families. Be optimistic about the future. Do all of these things. And in the process of that, verse 7, he explains the why. He says, but seek the welfare of the city, for I have sent you into exile.
And pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare, you will find your welfare. He said, you're going to be there. You're going to be there for a while. So don't try to, you know, go off into the desert and hide somewhere. Don't just say, oh, this is too scary and too terrible and too far from home to try to build a life and have a life.
Build a life, have a life, build houses, plant trees. Have children, have grandchildren. And in the process of doing that, you are seeking the welfare of the city. And as you seek the welfare of the city, you improve your own situation.
Jesus would talk about it in a different way. He would talk about being salt and light where we are. Let's make wherever we are in the meantime the best place we can possibly make it. And as we make it the best place we can possibly make it, we're not only, we're not only doing what we should do, but we're making for, for ourselves better lives.
And you see that, you can look at some of the people that did that. I want to talk about that in two different ways briefly. I want to show, uh, something here that looks like it probably ought to be on a platter to eat. Uh, but that's not what it is. If, if you go to, uh, one of the museums in Jerusalem, you can see these little, these tiny little tablets they've written on.
And they're interesting because these are from one of the cities that the Jews settled in during these 70 years. And what these are, are, are, are financial records. They're deeds of property that, that, that they're buying or leasing. They're discussions of, of, of the planting that they're doing. This one in particular.
It's talking about, uh, a business deal that involves joint ownership of Oxen. Now, having Oxen in those, you know, probably anybody here plow with Oxen? Oxen? Probably not. It was a big investment in those days. You know, think about this not as we're investing in Oxen, but we're, you know, we're investing in some really, really big John Deere tractors.
Ten year lease is what this text talks about. These people were going to be there, and they were going to be there for a while, and they were going to Go ahead and really try to live their lives and build something. And even if we don't recognize these inscriptions, we know something about the people that were there.
What did Daniel do while he was in the land? Did he just kind of sit down and do nothing? Or did he build a life and make everything around him better by what he did? What about his buddies that we remember as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? What did they do? Did they just do nothing? Or did they become involved in the world where they were and they made it a better place?
That's what we need to do. I read the news, which is probably about the dumbest thing I could do to start my day. And I can get depressed. So, well, I'm just not going to do anything today. I'm just going to sit around and moan and, you know, just wait for the roof to fall in, wait for the building to collapse.
That's not what we do. I may be discouraged and depressed and maybe even frightened by what I see. But I still need to go out and make the world a better place wherever I am. to build and be productive, to be salt and to be light. Speaking of those guys from the book of Daniel, I also need to, as I trust in the Lord for deliverance, I need to accept the deliverance that He will bring.
Remember what happened to Daniel's buddies. They are put in a position of being called on to compromise their faith. And the consequences for not compromising their faith are pretty terrible. And the orders come directly from Nebuchadnezzar himself, the king. And if they are unwilling to, uh, and by the way, this is one of the funniest chapters in the entire Bible in its own way.
Uh, for a lot of different reasons, including all the pomp and circumstance going around, what's going on there. But Nebuchadnezzar is going to give them another chance to, to fall down and worship, and the alternative is to be thrown into a, a, a,
And folks, that's an absolutely terrifying thought, to be thrown into a burning, fiery furnace. And their response to that is, well, it's kind of complex. In Daniel chapter 3, verse 16, they say, Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer to you in this matter. Nebuchadnezzar, you're not the one that we answer to ultimately.
And we need to remember that as well. Ultimately, there's no government or any person on this earth that I ultimately answer to or that I am ultimately responsible to. The one that I am ultimately responsible to and the one that I will answer to is God. So He's the one who decides what my behavior should be and He's the one I need to focus on pleasing.
These three men know that. But as they continue their conversation, there's something that's absolutely beautiful and amazing, they say. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.
There is one God, and that's the God we're going to worship, and He is able to deliver us. Now, whether He keeps us out of this fiery furnace or not, we don't know. But we're going to do what's right, regardless of the consequences. We're not going to be unfaithful to our God. How is God going to deliver us?
God may deliver us the way He did Shadrach, God may deliver us the way he did King Josiah. Do you remember how he delivered King Josiah? He promised Josiah, You are not going to see the evil that I am bringing on this nation. And Josiah didn't. Josiah, though dressed in disguise, was killed by an arrow in battle.
God delivered Josiah from seeing the evil that was about to fall on the nation. He delivered Josiah by taking him home. I don't know how God will choose to deliver us, but if we are His people, God will deliver us. And I need to accept whatever deliverance that is, be thankful for whatever deliverance that is, and not let the outward circumstances frighten me.
But, you know, as we think about the people in the land, the people who were taken into captivity, the people who lived in Babylon, and the people who continued to be there during the rule of the Persians, It would be inaccurate and unfortunate for us to imagine them as just living these terrible, oppressive lives that constantly made them, you know, long for home and look to God.
In fact, many of them faced a challenge that was quite different. The challenge that they faced was life, life was pretty good, life was pretty comfortable for a lot of them. Uh, you can see that from the archaeological evidence, the historical evidence, and hints in the Bible that they were not just these, you know, constantly starved, beaten down, oppressed people.
In fact, their lives were, for a lot of them, their lives were pretty comfortable. And so as you come to, for example, one of my favorite psalms, though that might sound a little strange if you're familiar with all of Psalms 137. One of my favorite psalms, it talks about their experience there, and, uh, it begins, By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung our lyres, for there are captors required of us songs. And our tormentors, mirth saying, sing us one of the songs of Zion. Well, this is an unpleasant situation, and this is a situation that we can, we can perhaps relate to. We recognize we're not home, and folks, I hope and pray there's nobody here this morning that is as wonderful as Texas is, and I love Texas.
As nice of a town as Lufkin is. I hope there's nobody here this morning that thinks this is really, really home. Because if we're Christians, it's not.
These are people who, who, who are not home. And those who are their captors, the dominating powers are mocking them. Tell, tell, tell us how great that, tell us how great that Zion is. And implicit in that is, tell us more about your God. You know, this great God that's the one true God, the all powerful God, and your special people.
Tell us more about Him. As your captives far from home. How difficult and unpleasant that would be. But there's something else to it as well. Their response to how, you know, to sing us a song is, How can we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land? But here's a part that's very often missed in this psalm.
Beginning in verse 5 he says, If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill. Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you. If I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy. It's as frightening as the world is around us. Our lives are pretty good, aren't they? It's raining outside and we're dry.
Anybody, anybody had breakfast this morning? Everybody had something in the closet to put on to wear. Most of us had vehicles that would go out and we'd, you know, we'd turn the key and they started and Life's pretty good. Most of us are going to eat lunch. The danger that he's warning about there is, that we can, we can become, or that they could become, and by extension us, so comfortable where they were that they forgot that this, that wasn't home.
If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill. Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth. As things are pretty good around me, and life is pretty comfortable, and life is pretty safe, I must never allow myself to forget that this is not home. While I'm here, I've got to remember that I am a citizen of a heavenly kingdom.
I got a buddy back in Prague that we, uh, we get together and we get each other all depressed, and his blood pressure shoots through the roof. Because we start talking about politics. But fortunately, what we figured out is, the conversation always needs to end in the same place. We're talking about how terrible this government is, and all this stuff going on.
And one of us always brings it up at the end of the conversation. But we have a perfect king. We serve a perfect king. Our king is Jesus. And whatever's going on around me, whatever is going on with the Czech government, or whatever's going on here, whatever, we're part of something different. Our citizenship is somewhere different.
And I need to not only remember that when I'm frightened by things around me, But I need to remember that when life is comfortable and life is good, never lose sight of that.
But when things are difficult, and if things become even much more frightening and difficult, what are we going to do? I would suggest by looking at a couple of the little prophets, that we need to be sure that we are living our lives in such a way that we are the remnant. In the book of Amos, Amos chapter 5, verse 3, For thus says the Lord God, The city that went out of a thousand shall have a hundred left.
And that which went out of a hundred shall have ten left to the house of Israel. I recognize the symbolism with the numbers there, but it is still describing something that is absolutely horrific. And it is a kind of thing that does have historical precedent. He's not talking about something where, and, you know, I don't know what the, I don't know what the population of Lufkin is.
But, uh, let's, let's, God forbid, let's, you know, imagine there's a tragedy where a thousand people were killed in Lufkin in one day. That would be awful. But what percentage of the population of Lufkin would that be? Not very high, would it? Now let's imagine a situation where you flip that. So there's a town that has, there's a town that has a thousand people.
And 90 percent of them are gone. There's a house that has 10 people and 90 percent of them are gone. There's a remnant.
If it all falls apart, we need to be sure that we're the remnant. And how do we do that? How do I be sure that I'm the remnant? Do I be sure that I'm the remnant because I have 47 cans of bean in my closet? I'd be sure that I am the remnant by verse 4. For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel, Seek me and live.
That's how I can be the remnant. If when everything is falling apart all around us, I still remember to seek the Lord, because His promise is that if I seek Him, that that deliverance, that protection is there. Zechariah would talk about the same things in Zechariah chapter 13. Zechariah chapter 13, beginning in verse 8, the text says, And the whole land declares the Lord, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive.
And I will put this third into the fire and refine them as one refined silver and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name and I will answer them. I will say, they are my people. And they will say, the Lord is my God. If it is a situation where everything just gets terrible beyond what we can imagine, we can choose to be part of the remnant.
We can choose to be a part of that and recognize that what we're experiencing is not going to destroy us, but it's going to cause us to rely on the Lord even more.
It's going to be that, that, that, that, that cleansing, that purifying experience. And as we come through that,
we call on God's name. And God promises when we call on His name, when we are faithful to Him, when we do not forget Him, that He will say these words, They are my people. What do we do if it all falls apart? Let's be part of the remnant. And then finally, let's rejoice in the Lord. We're going to go back where we started.
We're going to go back to Habakkuk again. Habakkuk has it figured out. He understands it now. And what he understands is that he's about to see death, destruction, and devastation beyond what his mind can even begin to wrap itself around. It's going to be absolutely horrible. It's going to be the kind of thing that none of us can really imagine, at least from our own experience.
And he describes that. Verse 17 of chapter 3, he says, Though the fig tree should not blossom. Nor fruit beyond the vines. The produce of the olives fail and the field yields no food. The flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls. What's he describing? He's describing the destitution that accompanies war he's describing in time when people don't even have food to eat.
You know? See that's one of the great things about being in a place like this is y'all know where food comes from. Y'all know food doesn't come from the grocery store. It comes from somewhere before that. What Habakkuk is describing is a time when there's nothing. There is deprivation and suffering. He said, Though this happens,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God the Lord is my strength. He makes my feet like the deer's. He makes me tread on high places. He said, that's what I'm gonna do. He said, if everything falls apart, I'm gonna rejoice in the Lord. I'm gonna trust in the Lord. And I'm gonna have the victory that comes from realizing that I belong to God and God is in control and I know the end of the story.
And the end of the story is that God is victorious because God is all powerful.
And that as His people, we have part of that victory as well, regardless of what nations rise and fall. We have part of that victory. What happens? How does the story end? A lot of different passages talk about that. 2 Thessalonians chapter 1, verse 10, talking about the return of Jesus. It says, When He comes on that day to be glorified in His saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, Because our testimony to you was believed.
Paul, writing to those people, said the gospel was preached. The victory of Jesus over death. His power that he has. That's the message. His message that he's coming back someday. And when He comes back someday, everything's going to be set right, and that includes Him being glorified and His people being recognized.
So we look at the world around us and say, how do we feel? I had an older person say this to me not long ago, said, I just wish the Lord would go ahead and come back. I'm tired of this. That's all right. Revelation 22, 20, He who testifies to these things says, surely I am coming soon. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
But in the meantime,
I need to fight the battle.
I need to recognize where deliverance comes from. and accept that deliverance that comes. I need to remember who I belong to. I need to make the choices that will allow me to be part of the remnant. And I need to be making the world around me a better place every day with the opportunities that I have and doing that with hope and confidence because I know the Lord's coming back.
Folks, if we can, if we can internalize this way of thinking, it's going to give us a totally different perspective on what's going on around us. We'll still see it and we'll still care. And we will not be dismayed. We will not be, be, be filled with, filled with fear.
We'll be trusting in God. And that's a wonderful way to be able to live. This morning, it may be, there's somebody here that can't look at life in that way. Because you haven't chosen to be part of God's family. But you can change that today. If you're not a child of God, if you have not had your sins forgiven through the blood of Jesus, you can change that this morning.
You know who Jesus is and what He did for you? You're willing to turn away from your sins. Acknowledge Him as your Lord and be baptized to have your sins washed away. You become a child of God and become filled with joy and hope today. I guarantee you the folks here would love to help you do that.
There's somebody here in the audience this morning that has a spiritual need that that you would like to see addressed. Won't you let that be known as we sing a song of invitation.