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Jamie Johnson
2 November 2014

Does God keep us safe?

NOTE: This is a written version of a message I preached on November 2, 2014.

I look at the news and if left only to what I see or read, I am discouraged. The terrorist atrocities committed by ISIS, the Ebola virus and the ED-68 enterovirus have dominated the headlines recently. And some of those affected are Christians. That brings a question to mind: Does God keep Christians safe?

I read the following in Proverbs 29:25 (NIV):

Fear of man will prove to be a snare,
but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.

And I thought about other verses such as Proverbs 18:10 (NIV):

The name of the Lord is a fortified tower;
the righteous run to it and are safe.

I used to be guilty of just "spiritualizing" such verses and saying that God would have us safe in eternity, being delivered from hell; we are safe, spiritually speaking. While that is true for those in Christ, I think we can sometimes miss some things He has for us when we over-spiritualize verses. What about now? What about the journey before Heaven? Does God keep us safe? The answer is yes and no.

I was talking with my wife about this last month and shared with her that God does keep us safe this side of Heaven, but the safety consists of instances of safety, rather than an unchanging state of safety. That is to say that in Christ, an eternal state of safety is reached when we finish this journey; however, the journey here certainly lacks safety at times and for some, much of the time. My wife pointed out any time we are safe in the earthly life is from God. Did you hear that? Any time. And this is true for the believer and unbeliever alike this side of Heaven. There is a common grace. Even those who have suffered or even died have had moments of safety in their lives. Those moments of safety are from God. And we are to be thankful to Him for them. Safety comes in moments until we finish our earthly journey.

Does God keep us from experiencing trouble? Any who have taken the earthly journey for any significant amount of time know that trouble is part of the journey. Jesus even said in John 16:33 (NIV) the following:

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

We will have trouble in this world. And looking at the direction our world is taking, that is clear. Even if you are not personally experiencing trouble, others are, Christians among them. And if we are not experiencing trouble now, we will likely soon experience it.

Does this mean that the end is near? Trouble in general is part of every generation's experience. In USA Weekend, Nancy Mills wrote an October 23, 2014, article What really scares us? where she quoted film director Wes Craven and Worst-Case Scenario co-author David Borgenicht as she addressed fears from various generations:

1940s-1960s: "People were afraid of communism, and that continued through the Vietnam War," Craven says. "Communism was going to take over Asia, and (we thought) our goose is cooked. Now we go on vacation there."

1960s: "There was a lot of fear of government, lots of conspiracy theories after the John F. Kennedy assassination," Borgenicht says. "People distrusted their leaders."

1970s-1980s: "We feared the Cold War and the energy crisis," Borgenicht says. "Corporations, media and the government were pretty effective in keeping us in line with things we had no control over. There was a lot of cultural angst. Horror movies and zombie movies became popular."

1990s: "There was no outside enemy to fear," Borgenicht says, "so people began fearing each other."

2000s: "Our biggest fears are terrorism, Ebola and viruses," Borgenicht says, "but we're more likely to slip in the bathtub or eat too many french fries than die of the things most of us fear."

The future: "With technology and the convergence of the real world and the digital world, there are still plenty of new things to fear," Borgenicht says.

There is fear today just as there has been in prior generations. Yet, we are not to live in fear. In 2 Timothy 1:7 (NASB), the Scripture says the following:

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.

There are very significant troubles in this world these days just as there have been in prior generations. So, is the end near? With every day that passes, we can say the end is nearer, but we do not and cannot know exactly when the specific date is. Jesus said in Matthew 24:36 (NIV) the following:

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Only the Father knows. What are we to do in the meantime? We are to watch and be ready, but also to continue the work in that to which He has called us. In Luke 12:35-40 (NIV), Jesus said the following:

"Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."

How we are to live in the meantime is described further in 2 Peter 3:11-14 (NIV):

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.

Are you watching and waiting for Him and looking forward in light of the events of the day? Are you watching and looking to Him when you are safe? Are you watching when you experience trouble, trusting in Him instead of living in fear? Are you doing that to which He has called you in the meantime? Are you living a godly life for Him? Safety is not a guarantee during the earthly journey and we are to live for Him, watch and be ready in the meantime.

We need grace for every moment. Sometimes, God keeps us safe. God kept Christ safe as when He walked through those who wanted to harm Him in Mark 4:28-30 NIV:

All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

And sometimes there is trouble. Although God kept Him safe at times, Jesus still suffered crucifixion. God did not keep Him safe from the Crucifixion. We are not necessarily safe throughout this life. We need to be thankful for the times we are safe for they are from God. The Christian life is not characterized by safety, but there are instances of safety (and this is true of common grace for all mankind).

Whatever comes, consider Jesus' words in Luke 12:4 (NIV): "I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more."

This takes me back to the Proverb I mentioned at the beginning:

Proverbs 29:25 (NIV):

Fear of man will prove to be a snare,
but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.

At first we looked at the "safe" part of the verse. The first line of Proverbs 29:25 (NIV) says, "Fear of man will prove to be a snare." What does that mean? The fear of man is a trap. Are you fearing man? Or are you fearing God, that is, respecting God - trusting Him? If you are trusting God, this does not mean plan to take a vacation to Mosul, Iraq, with a stop in an infected village in West Africa without precautions. However, it means to not walk around in fear of man, what he can do and what he can spread. While not volunteering to be poor stewards of and in our lives, we are to trust that God is Sovereign.

Dr. Daniel Hinthorn models and exhorts this in his statements about Ebola:

So should you be concerned about Ebola? Any awareness of a problem that allows you to take positive steps with a clear-headed, measured approach is good.

But should you be alarmed?

No.

Rather than spending precious time worrying about something that will not likely be an issue for you or those you love, it would be much better to direct your energies toward positive action (like making sure your family members get a flu shot each year).

Additionally, if you have children (or grandchildren), remember that they're watching you. They're taking stock of how you talk about Ebola and how you respond to reports in the news. Are you modeling calmness for them or are you engendering fear? Do they sense and hear about your trust in God or are they simply learning to panic?

Ebola is an awful disease, and we should be praying for those in West Africa who have been impacted by it. We should also prudently - but not fearfully - monitor the situation here at home. *

And really, a similar response is what we need regardless of the trouble: clear-headed, measured, not worrying, calm, even modeling calmness and prayer.

Jesus said we would have trouble and it is in Him we find that God uses it for His purposes. The Crucifixion was of utmost importance in its purpose. Jesus is our model. We will suffer, but it is not in vain. Lysa Terkeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministries wrote the devotion The Crushing Times where she reflected on 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV), which says the following:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

She used an olive tree as an illustration of hard times. Yet, she encouraged with these words:

Crushing is the way of preservation for the olive. It's also the way to get what's most valuable, the oil, out of the olive. Keeping this perspective is how we can be troubled on every side yet not distressed ... pressed to the point of being crushed but not crushed and destroyed.

Look to Jesus in times of suffering and seek Him, trusting His purposes even if you don't understand. And if you are not suffering, be a comfort to one who is.

I conclude with the other proverb I mentioned earlier - Proverbs 18:10 (NIV):

The name of the Lord is a fortified tower;
the righteous run to it and are safe.

We need to run to the Lord in times of both safety and trouble.

Does God keep Christians safe? Yes and no. In eternity, it is a forever yes. You may be safe now, but will you safely be with Christ in eternity? Are you fearing man or God who is Sovereign? Are you caught up in earthly things or are you trusting Jesus Christ? Are you trusting that He alone has made the way to God, that His work on the cross, dying in your place for your sins, perfectly satisfied God, that He died, was buried and rose again? You may not be safe in the interim, but consider eternity. Is He calling on you to trust Him today? You are safe enough to take in these words. Thank God for this moment of safety. Maybe it is also an opportunity to trust Him for the first time. Or if you already know Him, to lay down your fears as I often repeatedly have to do and run to Jesus, my strong tower.


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