And of course the first thing that must be mentioned is that many terrible things are coming, most of which are not going to happen. Worry agonizes over a thousand things, most of which do not materialize, and all that expended energy doesn’t do anything much except tighten up all the muscles in your shoulders and neck, and give you problems with sleeping. So each day has enough trouble without you bringing in your imaginary supplements (Matt. 6:34).
But at the same time, sharply distinct from sinful worry, we do find in Scripture the virtue of prudence. A prudent man sees possible trouble and prepares accordingly. The first proverb below commends the wisdom of preparation, and the second one condemns the practice of reading every hysterical thing on the web you can find, and getting yourself into all of a doodah.
“A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: But the simple pass on, and are punished.”
Proverbs 22:3 (KJV)
“The simple believeth every word: But the prudent man looketh well to his going.”
Proverbs 14:15 (KJV)
As you work through this list below, it should become quickly apparent that these are things that all of us ought to be doing anyway, all the time, regardless of what’s coming. These would be good to do in themselves, even if you were personally assured by the archangel Gabriel that all your future circumstances were going to be a pleasant and sunny 72 degrees, and with a slight breeze off the lake.
What pending trouble does is remind us of our duties, but these are not just our duties in times of pending trouble, but rather are our constant duties, as pending trouble so kindly reminds us.
That said, these exhortations assume looming trouble, because that’s how the twenties have been promising to be. These are not the roaring twenties, and neither are they going to be the boring twenties. And neither yet, unless I miss my guess, are they going to be the soaring twenties. So let’s hope for the best and prepare for the worst, and tag them for the present as the goring twenties. Let’s just assume that if the approaching twenties were an ox under the Mosaic law, we would have to put it down at some point (Ex. 21:28).
Here are seven key things to remember as you seek to get you and your family into fighting trim. You could call these pastoral exhortations, or perhaps pastoral exhortations from a Dutch uncle.
Deal With Personal Sin
Learn to confess your sins to God, honestly and forthrightly. He sees down to the sludge layers at the bottom of your heart anyway, so there is no sense trying to blow sunshine at Him. Simply acknowledge it. Ask Him to deal with it as only He can deal with it. You know He wants to.
Confess your sins (1 John 1:9). Forsake them (Prov. 28:13). Just as Achan was for all intents and purposes fighting for the Canaanites, so you also are on the other side if you are nurturing and hiding some misbegotten sin in your life. You cannot prepare to withstand the enemy when you have made your secret alliances with the enemy.
And this means that, to take one common example, if you have a secret porn stash, regardless of your ostensible politics, you are cheering Biden and his minions on. Stop rationalizing, and just deal with it. All of the lunacy that we are currently dealing with is downstream from the sexual revolution, and could not have happened apart from the sexual revolution. Reformation in the church—which is most necessary—is not going to happen apart from full and complete repentance on this issue.
When we are told to run the race in Hebrews, we are told to prepare ourselves to do so by setting aside the weight that so easily entangles us. We are beset by sin, the passage tells us, which was my firs point, but there are also weights that get in the way.
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”
Hebrews 12:1 (KJV)
In ordinary times, it is good and proper to use up all your available bandwidth with various projects, challenges, commitments, and so on. But now may be the time to streamline. This is not because the coming crisis is a time to be lazy, but rather because you are freeing up available bandwidth so that you can protect your family more effectively. Those of you who have a lot of projects going are doing it so that you might provide for your family, which is a good thing. But your other central duty is that of protecting your family, and we may be moving into an era where protection takes priority over provision.
Streamline your affairs, wherever possible. The riches of this world and the cares of this world are not sinful in themselves (Matt. 13:22), but they have the capacity to choke out the Word.
Stock Up On the Word
Now is the time to become serious about storing up the Scriptures in your heart and mind.
“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”
Psalm 119:11 (KJV)
Worship God in a church that is logocentric. You shouldn’t be able to turn around in the liturgy without bumping into Scripture. You want a liturgy that has been marinating in the Word. You want the kind of service that enables you to memorize multiple passages of Scripture simply because you have heard them read or declared so often.
In addition, you should be a regular, diligent, focused Bible reader. If you have your own program and are already doing it, then carry on. But if you don’t have such a program, then jump into the Bible Reading Challenge. Now.
Sing the Word. Learn the psalms. Sing the psalms. Listen to the psalms sung every clean chance to you get. Speak to the other members of your church in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Teach and admonish them, and let them teach and admonish you (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19).
Meet Regularly With God’s Umasked People to Worship Him
The longer this debacle of a crisis goes, the more and more obvious it is becoming that the Christian church has been played. And as Chris Wiley recently mentioned to me, this has been an apocalypse, which means an unveiling. Ironically, the willingness of countless pastors and elders to shut down worship, restrict numbers coming to worship, require masks (and/or vaccinations) in order to worship, has been a true unveiling. The irony is that the veiling has revealed something. The veiling has been an unveiling. Countless Christian parishioners have discovered that they were not being led by the men they thought they were being led by. Not all was as it appeared, and this has been a time of unhappy revelation.
One of the early fathers said lex orandi lex credendi, the law of prayer is the law of faith. Liturgy shapes us. The way we worship shapes us.
I would be willing to place a little gentlemanly wager on this. You could take an average evangelical Reformed congregation that decided to mask up because of Romans 13. They all agreed that the governmental decrees were nonsense, and that they weren’t scared of the virus, and that they were going to submit to it simply because of 1 Pet. 2. I would be willing to wager that at the end of a year of that kind of submission, there would be a lot more fear running through that congregation than there was at the beginning.
“Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ”
1 Peter 1:13 (KJV)
“Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.”
1 Corinthians 14:20 (KJV)
When the Midianite CDC requires you hum all your worship songs, instead of singing them, it is to be hoped that somebody in your church understands what is going on. It is further to be hoped that he says something about it, and is not backhanded by the session.
When John MacArthur took his heroic stand against the state of California, how many of the evangelical cool kids lectured him about Romans 13, about how he was not honoring Caesar the way he ought to have been doing. But then there was a court case, and Caesar admitted that Caesar was wrong, said he was sorry, determined that MacArthur wasn’t disobeying Romans 13, not even a little bit, and would 800K demonstrate sufficient sorrow and contrition?
Since that time, how many of these evangelicals have apologized to MacArthur? I am speaking of those who were falling all over themselves in urging JMac to kowtow to Caesar. They want to submit to Caesar, why don’t they submit to Caesar in this? This is because they don’t want to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, which would be biblical, but rather they want to abdicate to Caesar, which flatly isn’t.
Do Nothing That Feeds Your Fears
It would be better to go into a time of trouble with a true evangelical confidence, and no freeze dried food, than to have a basement full of freeze dried food that represented, in a rather tangible way, the sum total of all your fears.
Do not prepare for trouble in any way that paralyzes you. Hoarders and preppers are often susceptible to the temptation that says, “There is no conceivable way that we will ever be on the offense.” But you can’t score points unless you have the ball.
We need a new brand of preppers—postmill preppers, prepping for victory, which leads to the last point.
Assume the Posture of Victors
We should be preparing in our hearts for that glorious moment—after fierce fighting—when we raise our flag on the top of a spiritual Iwo Jima. As Chesterton once put it, there is one taste of paradise on earth, which is to fight in a losing battle, and then not lose.
Or as Aragorn put it, “Men are better than gates.” This last point requires further development.