April 27, 2011

Staying Sane Amid Instability

The international and national upheavals currently occurring are stunning. Sweeping political transitions are happening in multiple nations in rapid unprecedented succession. People are tense, stressed, and searching. To some it seems as if the world is falling apart; to others, that the world is spinning out of control!
Sterile spiritual bromides or simple explanations can’t explain these phenomena. The international upsets resist such solutions. There is a temptation to make cursory references to the biblical books of Daniel and Revelation and to explain events by saying we are living in the end-time. Some glibly say, “These events are prophesied to take place before the second advent of Christ,” and that’s that. True enough. But these occurrences deserve more.
So what can we garner from God’s Word that provides a handle with which to mentally process the fast-moving events around us? What is a spiritual, responsible approach; an approach that is proactive versus reactive?
2011 1512 page17The apostle Paul said it succinctly: “The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber” (Rom. 13:11). To be awake is not a solution but a mind-set that leads to sober thinking and constructive action. Here are five simple attitudes we can assume:
1. Deliberately affirm your faith, not your fears. Jesus said that when you hear of wars and commotions, don’t be “terrified” or fearful, but be confident that events are progressing as foretold (Luke 21:9). If pervasive fear is your default emotion, it’s imperative to examine from where that fear is originating. We are assured that a genuine love for Christ results in a love that conquers fear (1 John 4:18).
2. Carefully watch world events (Matt. 24:42) and allow the signs that validate Christ’s words to affirm the sovereignty of God over the affairs of nations. Daniel reminds us that it is God who “sets up kings and deposes them” (Dan. 2:21). Ellen White wrote, “In the annals of human history, the growth of nations, the rise and fall of empires, appear as if dependent on the will and prowess of man; the shaping of events seems, to a great degree, to be determined by his power, ambition, or caprice. But in the Word of God the curtain is drawn aside, and we behold, above, behind, and through all the play and counterplay of human interest and power and passions, the agencies of the All-merciful One, silently, patiently working out the counsels of His own will” (Prophets and Kings, pp. 499, 500).
3. Responsibly ask why these events are taking place. Is there something we can discern about human nature, society, or God’s providence in these upheavals? H.M.S. Richards used to say we should read the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. Don’t let the moment pass without asking, “Is there a lesson to be learned?” (2 Tim. 2:15).
4. Know for yourself what Bible prophecies say about end-time events. Don’t depend on someone else’s interpretation. Study the books of Daniel and Revelation regarding the times in which we are living (Rev. 1:3). Add to your study some reading from Ellen White’s book The Great Controversy, an excellent resource to aid in the illumination of the Word of God in reference to this point in history. Read or reread it in 2011 and join the world church in distributing large numbers of copies in 2012-2013.
5. Embrace the empowering promise of the Holy Spirit’s presence to bring about revival and reformation in your life, and in the life of the worldwide church family (John 14:12-14). Determine that nothing hinders you from daily experiencing the converting power of Christ and His saving grace. Let it be your desire to experience the earth made new, when justice and righteousness will pervade the universe.
Cause your faith to control your fears, not the other way around. Don’t allow international unrest, or any other disturbance, rob you of your peace and confidence. Instead, wake up to the spiritual and social context that put external events in perspective. Experience the peace and confidence in God’s providence that is the reward of a trusting response.
Delbert W. Baker is a general vice president of the General Conference. This article was published April 28, 2011.