Have you noticed how nature is preparing for winter? The change in light and temperature during the fall season gives signals to plants and animals. Deciduous trees and shrubs drop their leaves and go dormant. Some of the animals are shedding their summer coats and growing heavier or toned-down coats that will keep them warm in the cold and blend them into the winter landscape. Many are maximizing their food consumption to increase their body masses. Hibernating animals are preparing their dens. And squirrels, mice, and beavers are stocking up on supplies such as nuts, berries, and tree bark so that they will have snacks when food becomes scarce.
What about Christians? Are we preparing for the day when we will no longer have the freedom to "eat" the Word of God. The people in China, the Middle East, North Korea, and multiple African countries could tell us about the persecution that takes place when one makes a commitment to the Lord. They know when they are introduced to Christ that they and their families could be persecuted and imprisoned for their faith. Thus, they must feed themselves while they are able to get prepared for the "winter season."
Here in the United States, we have been permitted to practice our faith without interference. However, change is in the wind. A liberal society is offended by the truths expressed in the Bible. Increasingly, individuals are more concerned about their selfish desires than truth and righteousness. Because of this, they plot the destruction of the Christian community. Parents are being arrested for raising their children in the knowledge of the truth. Some educators are exploiting young people by teaching them lies that deny their gender. Pastors are being put into jail for daring to assemble with their congregations during government shutdowns.
The importance of preparation for a coming season of hardship cannot be overemphasized! The children of Israel were instructed to prepare for one day of the week when manna would not fall from heaven. They needed to collect twice as much of the "bread of heaven" on the day before the Sabbath. (Exodus 16:5) It is said of the prophet Ezra that the gracious hand of God was upon him when he traveled from Babylon to Jerusalem. "For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel. (Ezra 7:10 - NKJ) The disciples prepared for the Passover on the day before it was celebrated. (Matthew 26:10, Mark 14:16) Believers in Jesus, during the time of the disciples, prepared themselves for the Sabbath. That day was even called "Preparation Day." (Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54, John 19:31)
A modern-day pastor from Romania named Richard Wurmbrand knew the importance of preparation for the young Believers in his charge. Right before the Communist takeover, he took his students to the lions' den at the zoo. He reminded them that persecution was coming and that now was the time to decide as to how they would respond when faced with torture and death. Christians in Biblical days were thrown into the lions' den when they would not recount their faith. They were prepared for whatever would happen to them and determine to be faithful to the Lord.
How is our preparation for the winter day of persecution? Are we consuming the Word of God so that we know the truth? Have we decided what faithfulness looks like and how we can walk it out when "winter" arrives? Preparation is the key!
Joan E. Mathias