Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—the Lord, who remains faithful forever.(Psalm 146:4-6)
Most independent observers don’t expect the economy to improve any time soon, and the average American doesn’t believe either of the presumed candidates for president will be able to change that. Regardless of the reported swings in the unemployment figures, the percentage of working age Americans who have a job has remained steady for over two years, and Labor Department sources say it’s the lowest level of work force participation in 28 years.
The fact that many Americans don’t think either presidential candidate will be able to fix our economy means they’re no longer hoping for improvement on that front. In other words, they’re losing hope in the government’s ability to provide a good life for its people. It seems the so-called Protestant Work Ethic that encouraged our parents and grandparents to live right and work hard as the best way to achieve prosperity is no longer reliable. There are untold numbers of right living, hard working middle class Americans who are finding it increasingly difficult stay even, and as for getting ahead, forget about it.
You can’t blame them. For several years now the truth about the state of our economy has been strangely missing from the national discourse. We’re so used to being told things are better than they actually are, we no longer know what to believe.
The first time I heard the prediction that this generation of Americans would be the first who could no longer hope for a better standard of living than that of their parents, I remember thinking how great an influence a positive expectation has had on our national way of life, and I wondered how the loss of that expectation would affect us. I guess we’re finding out.
The problem is too many of us have let our past experience shape our expectation for the future. Because of that we’ve come to believe that our standard of living would always continue on its upward trend. While for Christians this is true in the spiritual sense, it contradicts the Bible’s teaching where our physical lives are concerned. In fact we’re warned to expect just the opposite. I’ll show you.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:6-9)
Paul said that everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Romans 15:4) and Peter’s comments above contain a powerful lesson for us. We might have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials but we can be filled with an inexpressible joy because we’re receiving the goal of our faith, the salvation of our soul.
Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). He said He knows we don’t have much strength but we’ve kept His word and haven’t denied His name. And since we’ve kept His command to endure patiently, He will keep us from the hour of trial that’s coming upon the whole world (Rev. 3:8-10).
There’s that word “endure” again. It’s the same one Paul used in Romans 15:4 and it means to bear our situation bravely and calmly. We can do this because we can see the future through the lens of Scripture and it says our destiny will exceed our wildest expectations.
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven (Hebrews 12:22-23).
This is what lies ahead for us, and it doesn’t matter if things get tough for a little while here because there’s no power in Heaven or on Earth that can take that from us. Besides, the Lord has promised that because we’ve sought His Kingdom and His righteousness, He’ll see to all our needs in the mean time (Matt. 6:31-33). Therefore, Paul was justified in saying,
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7).
The reason many Christians are anxious about the next little while is that they don’t have that clear picture of our destiny the Bible paints for us fixed in their minds. For the most part we’re not nearly as fearful of what we know as we are of what we don’t know and that’s why I’ve been preaching for years about the absolute necessity of understanding what the Bible says about the End Times. When the final outcome is clear in our minds, things that happen along the way are not as scary.
Make no mistake about it. Life on Earth is not going to get better, it’s going to get worse. Even if we see signs that appear to indicate improvement we’re not to be fooled by them like the rest of the world will be. Remember Paul’s warning, “The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (1 Thes. 5:2-3).
Then he said that we who are believers should not be taken by surprise as this day approaches. That means we should not be fooled by the appearance of improvement. We should remain alert and self-controlled, putting on faith as a breastplate and the hope of salvation as a helmet. God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we should encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thes 5:4-11).
The Greek word Paul used for self-controlled means to be calm and collected in spirit. We can only do that when we know for certain that the things Satan intends for this world cannot pre-empt the things God intends for us. For greater is the One who is in us than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
A breastplate protects the heart, and a helmet protects the head. A soldier who went into battle without either one was vulnerable. It took both to fully protect him. Our heart is the seat of our faith, and our head is the seat of our knowledge. Both must be protected because both are essential to our well being.
We live by faith not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7), but faith comes from hearing the Word of the Lord (Romans 10:17). God gave us the faith to be saved and then gave us His word to nurture and strengthen our faith.
Without knowledge our faith can be shaken, and without faith our knowledge can be discredited. False teachers prey on our lack of Biblical knowledge with clever attempts to shake our faith, claiming the Lord’s promises of escape from judgment are conditional or even non-existent. Unbelievers take advantage of our weak faith by trying to undermine the authority of God’s Word, calling it a counterfeit work of man rather than the inspired Word of God.
It takes both faith and knowledge to fully protect us, to keep us calm and collected in spirit. Our faith in God’s promises and the knowledge that He really made them combine to give us the protection we need to stand against our enemies.
This combination is essential to allow us to take the Lord at His word when He said, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near”(Luke 21:28). While the rest of the world is ducking for cover, we’re to stand tall with our eye on the sky, our arms lifted in praise, and our heart filled with joy because this is the time of fulfillment, the time of receiving the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls! Blessed is he whose hope is in the Lord.