IX YEARS AGO MY WIFE, AUGUSTA, AND I experienced an attack by armed robbers on the highway. They made away with our valuables, but the Lord spared our lives. Most recently, armed gunmen invaded our campus at Babcock University in Nigeria in a bank robbery bid. The presence of the Lord was felt strongly when they tried to shoot one of the university security guards with an AK-47 assault rifle. The gunman pulled the trigger, but the gun refused to fire; yet when shot into the air it sent out a spray of bullets. The robbers made away with some money, but no one was injured.
Under the influence of the forces of evil, violence will increase as we near the return of Christ. Acts of inhumanity will increase. How should we deal with the times of trouble that come our way from time to time? Where should we run to when faced with the possibility of physical harm or psychological abuse? How did Jesus handle the times of trouble in His life?
On one occasion, Jesus was in a boat with His disciples (Mark 4:35-41). The Savior was fast asleep when the crisis struck through a turbulent thunderstorm at sea. The disciples, busy bailing out water from the sinking boat, wondered where the Master was. “Suddenly a flash of lightning pierces the darkness, and they see Jesus lying asleep, undisturbed by the tumult. In amazement and despair they exclaim, ‘Master, carest Thou not that we perish?’ How can He rest so peacefully while they are in danger and battling with death?” (The Desire of Ages, p. 334). Sometimes we too feel like the Master has abandoned us and that we are all alone in our “storm.”
What made it possible for the Master to go to sleep in the midst of a storm? The answer lies in Jesus’ confidence in the power of His word. “On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, ‘Let us go over to the other side’” (Mark 4:35, NKJV).* Those were words sufficient to sleep on. Whenever the Creator speaks, events transpire just as He says. “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host. . . . For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Ps. 33:6, 9, NASB).† “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Num. 23:19, NASB).
Violence manifests itself in many different forms in societies around the world. Tribal conflicts leading to death and serious injury, and sectarian or religious wars are increasing on a daily basis. Terrorist attacks on innocent citizens, with militants kidnapping children and other loved ones in exchange for ransom money, often occur in the oil-producing areas of various countries. Ellen White accurately described our age: “Everything in the world is in agitation. The signs of the times are ominous. Coming events cast their shadows before. The Spirit of God is withdrawing from the earth, and calamity follows calamity by sea and by land. There are tempests, earthquakes, fires, floods, murders of every grade. Who can read the future? Where is security? There is assurance in nothing that is human or earthly” (The Desire of Ages, p. 636).
The Power of the Word
The first place to turn to for strength in times of trouble is the power of the Word of God. What has God said in the Bible on the matter in question? How did the Word work for others? I put my confidence in the Word of God. Since the Word worked for Jesus and the disciples, it will work for me. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10, NKJV). All the troubles we deal with today qualify for divine intervention and resolution. We should apply the message of Isaiah to situations we may face in the future, particularly as violence increases in the world. It assures us: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (NASB).
Once Satan came to tempt Jesus to take a plunge from the pinnacle of the Temple, telling Him that the angels of the Lord would rescue Him from a violent death. But Jesus reminded the devil of the Word of God on such matters: “You shall not tempt the Lord your God” (Luke 4:12, NKJV). Faith in God’s Word is a virtue, but presumption is a sin.
Later Jesus went into the synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath day to worship. Handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, He read from Isaiah 61:1, 2 the passage relating to His messianic role. The congregation became very angry at Jesus’ interpretation of the Scriptures and decided to kill Him by throwing Him down a cliff at the edge of the town. But angels intervened, and Jesus walked right through the crowd and went His way to His next assignment. The word from God that gave Him confidence for that encounter was the same one that the devil quoted when he took Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple: “He shall give His angels charge over you. . . . In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone” (Ps. 91:11, 12, NKJV). The Word of God works at the right time in every situation. Even though the intervention of God may seem to tarry, we must wait for it. “If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed” (Hab. 2:3, NLT).‡
Are you currently living in a war zone? God Himself has promised to be a bomb shelter for you and all your family members. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust!’” (Ps. 91:1, 2, NASB). What about when you find yourself under attack from armed robbers, as I have been several times? “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways” (verse 11, NASB). The whole of Psalm 91 is God’s gift for us, His children, as we deal with violence and trouble here on earth.
Do you have to face an angry husband, wife, parent, or boss who batters, bruises, or threatens you again and again? Here is the Lord’s promise to you: “Now, this is what the Lord says, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze’” (Isa. 43:1, 2). Even though your circumstances may not change, the Lord promises His presence in the midst of fire or water. Ask Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who stood on these words in loyalty to God and in defiance of King Nebuchadnezzar’s order to worship the golden image.
My absolute trust is in the power and presence of the Almighty. He is Jehovah Shammah, the Lord who is present (Eze. 48:35). As I remember the great things He has done for me in the past, I choose to believe His leading in the future will be for my good and for His glory.
*Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
†Scripture quotations marked NASB are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
‡Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND SHARING
1. Will violence increase or decrease as we near the Second Coming? Why?
2. Does the Lord promise to change our circumstances, or to give us power to cope regardless of circumstances?
Israel Bamidele Olaore serves as the senior university pastor and head of the Division of Spiritual Life at Babcock University in Nigeria, West Africa.