Taken from Mark Finley's 2021 Missionary Book "Hope for Troubled Times". This booklet is written to lead the reader from understanding the human need for personal protective gear for diseases such as Corona Virus. It then skillfully moves the reader to understand their need for the protection of the Word and how the scripture can help them thrive through trials.
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Hope for Troubled Times
Thriving in Life’s Toughest Times
Copyright © 2020 Middle East Publishers, Beirut, Lebanon
Hope for Troubled Times Series
4) Thriving in Life’s Toughest Times
Authored by Mark A. Finley
Manuscript edited by GC Publishing Department
Translation by Adventist Commons
Cover and Layout Design by Adventist Commons
Cover Image by GC Publishing Department
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Recently the world has experienced a life-threatening pandemic termed COVID-19. More than 2.5 million people were infected, with tens of thousands of deaths. During this time one of the greatest needs of medical professionals was personal protective equipment, or PPE.
PPE refers to protective clothing, helmets, gloves, face shields, goggles, face masks, respirators, and other equipment designed to protect medical professionals from exposure to infection or illness. Because COVID-19 is airborne, it was crucial for medical professionals to have the necessary protective equipment. During the crisis there was a shortage of personal protective equipment in some areas, so many health-care workers, physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and nurses contracted COVID-19. Although these medical personal were extremely busy serving others, they were not immune from the virus. They needed personal protective equipment to survive.
Another Deadly Pandemic
There is another deadly pandemic with a virus that is even more fatal than the coronavirus. Sin’s virus has infected the entire human family, and we are on the front lines of the battle. Each one of us during sin’s pandemic also need PPE—personal protective equipment. If in our busyness we neglect our personal protective equipment, we are likely to be infected with the virus of sin. If in our frantic rush through life we do not take time to care for the spiritual part of our nature, we may contract a spiritual disease that is deadly and fatal.
The Apostle Paul’s Counsel
The apostle Paul wrote, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:12, 13). The armor of God is our PPE—our personal protective equipment— against the virus of sin. When medical professionals entered a coronavirus patient’s room, they would not think of entering without some type of protective gear on. Every day we enter the evil one’s territory, where millions are being infected by the virus of sin, and we are not immune. To enter unprotected is spiritual disaster. With God’s armor on, we can thrive in life’s toughest times. It is His protective equipment in times of trial.
What is this protective equipment divinely given to us by God in this conflict between good and evil? The apostle Paul gives us a hint in 2 Corinthians 10:4: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.” What are these weapons of God? How can we be prepared spiritually for the crises we face in our personal lives? What is the source of our spiritual strength? What resources has God given us to fight the virus of sin? One of God’s choice weapons is His Word. Scripture reveals, “The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible is the living Word of God. Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit it becomes alive in our hearts and changes our lives. Other books may be inspiring, but God’s Word is inspired. Other books may enlighten the mind, but God’s Word not only enlightens us, it transforms us.
God’s Word: A Creative Word
The inspired Word of God contains life changing principles. The creative power of the Word of God illuminates our darkness. It changes us. When God spoke the word at Creation, our planet came into existence. He created this world by His all-powerful Word. The psalmist states, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. ... For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:6-9).
God’s word is a creative word. What He says is so, even if it were never so before, because His word is so powerful that it creates what it declares. The audible word proceeding out of God’s mouth creates tangible matter. You and I can declare what is, but God can declare what is not, and what is not appears when God speaks, because His word makes it so. Speaking about Abraham and Sarah’s conception in old age, Paul states this remarkable truth: “God ... calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (Romans 4:17). Before Sarah ever conceived a child, God’s word had declared that she would become pregnant in old age. This divine pronouncement became a reality, because God’s word has the power to accomplish what God declares.
Here is a marvelous, life-changing truth: the creative power of the spoken word is in the written Word. The power of the Word brings light into darkened minds. The power of the Word quenches thirsty souls and feeds hungry hearts. It re-creates the soul in the image of God. It strengthens us in the battle between good and evil. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He met Satan head-on with these words: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ ” (Matthew 4:4). The ancient Scriptures, the Holy Bible, nourishes our souls. Its teachings satisfy our deepest longings. Just as the body is sustained, satisfied, and strengthened by healthy, nourishing food, our souls are sustained, strengthened, and satisfied by the Word of God. But this leads us to another vital question: Is the Bible merely an inspiring book, like many other inspired books, or is it truly a divinely inspired book given to us by God? If the Bible is God’s divine revelation to all humanity, then we neglect its teachings at the peril of eternal loss. If the Bible is simply an inspiring human document, then it has little power to radically transform our lives. So the question of the Bible’s inspiration is critically important. In fact, it may be a matter of life and death. Let’s examine the evidence.
The Inspiration of the Bible
The blazing Palestinian sun beat mercilessly down on a young Arab boy herding his few sheep in a remote area by the Dead Sea. It was just another ordinary day in his life. Each morning he led the sheep in search of a few morsels of food across the burning desert sands. He had no idea that this day would change the world.
When one of his sheep wandered away into a cave, he attempted to scare it out by throwing a stone into the cave. To his surprise, he heard the breaking of pottery. Thinking he had discovered some valuable hidden treasure, he raced home to tell his father. What they discovered in the cave that day was far more valuable than some ancient noblemen’s riches. There on the shores of the Dead Sea in 1947 the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered. The clay jars in the cave held a valuable treasure. They contained the oldest Bible manuscripts in existence. These scrolls were written by the Qumran community approximately 150 years before Christ. These people were called the Essenes. They spent hours hand copying the Bible. To ensure accuracy, their copying laws were extremely strict. Some of the world’s most outstanding Bible scholars and specialists in ancient biblical languages have pored over these manuscripts for decades. These ancient scrolls eloquently testify to the accuracy and reliability of the Bible. In addition to the Dead Sea scrolls there are numerous other copies of the Old Testament from the early centuries and beyond. When all these manuscripts are compared, there is a remarkable harmony testifying to the accuracy of the transmission. In addition to the Old Testament manuscript copies there are more than 2,400 New Testament manuscripts from the first to fourth centuries. The Bible has been copied and recopied more than any single book in the world. The accuracy of these copies testifies to the Bible’s divine inspiration.
From Generation to Generation
Down through the millenniums God’s Word has been accurately passed from one generation to the next. From the Bible’s first book, Genesis, to its last, Revelation, it answers our deepest questions and speaks to our heart’s deepest needs. The Bible was written during a 1,500-year span by more than 40 authors. Many of these authors did not know one another. They lived in different places, spoke different languages, and were products of different cultures, yet each one writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit presents God’s eternal plan for the human race clearly. There is no contradiction on these main themes of Scripture. There is an amazing unity of thought and purpose throughout the Bible. The Scriptures reflect the thoughts of a divine mind. In 3,000 places the Bible writers declare “and God said,” “and the Lord spoke,” or phrases similar. The Bible writers believed they were inspired by God, and the internal evidence within Scripture reveals that the messages are of divine origin.
The fulfillment of numerous biblical prophecies reveals the truthfulness of Scripture. There are approximately 31,000 verses in the Bible, and a little more than 8,000 of these—more than 25 percent—contain prophecy. These prophecies are amazingly accurate, revealing the names of nations and world rulers. They reveal minute details of the life of Christ in advance. Here are just a few examples. Christ’s biography was written hundreds of years in advance. Jesus hometown, of course, was Nazareth, but 700 years in advance, the prophet Micah predicted the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (see Micah 5:2). A decree of Caesar Augustus brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem the exact night of Christ’s birth. This is remarkable. Nazareth is a city in Galilee, in the north of Israel. Bethlehem is about 90 miles to the south, in Judea. This is just one of the amazing prophecies relating to Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. The book of Numbers, written 1,500 years in advance, predicted that a star would rise in the east as a sign of the Messiah’s birth (see Numbers 24:17). Christ’s ministry is described in detail in Isaiah 61:1-3. His death, including His crucifixion, is outlined in Psalm 22 about 1,000 years before it happened. Remarkably enough, even the betrayal price of 30 pieces of silver is foretold by Zechariah centuries before it occurred (see Zechariah 11:11, 12).
The Old Testament prophecies reveal the rise and fall of nations, the destiny of kings and rulers, and the future of our world with minute accuracy. The prophet Daniel predicts the rise of the four great nations that would dominate the Middle East and rule the then-known world in Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome, including the breakup of the Roman Empire (see Daniel 2; 7; 8). In Matthew 24 Jesus gives startling predictions of the last days that are now being fulfilled. These are just a few of the prophecies that clearly demonstrate the reliability, truthfulness, and divine origin of the Holy Word of God.
The Bible’s Main Purpose
The main purpose of the Bible is to unfold God’s eternal plan of salvation. The Bible contains history, but it is not primarily a history book. The Bible touches on science, but it is not a scientific textbook. The Bible provides insights into the human mind, but it is not a treatise on psychology. Although God’s Word touches on a variety of disciplines, it is first and foremost a revelation of God’s will, revealing God’s eternal truths to humanity. The Bible answers the three great questions of life: “Why am I here?” “Where did I come from?” and “What does the future hold?” It provides hope and courage for each one of us.
The central theme of the Bible is Jesus. The prophets of the Old Testament testified of Him. Each book of the Bible is a revelation of His love. Speaking to the Pharisees, Jesus declared, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39). The Old Testament speaks of the Christ who will come, and the New Testament reveals the Christ who has come. All the Bible “testifies” of Jesus. In Scripture Jesus is the dying lamb, the living priest, and the coming king. He is the one who justifies us, sanctifies us, and one day will glorify us. Jesus is our forgiving, merciful, compassionate, life-changing Savior and Lord.
Jesus is the great miracle worker. He is the life changer. Jesus added, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). The Holy Spirit takes the principles of God’s Word, impresses them in receptive minds, and makes us new. Christ is at the center of all scriptural teaching, and so, as the apostle Paul states so clearly, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The Bible is not merely a to-do manual on how to construct a Christian life. Consider some of the scriptural symbols of the Word, including light, fire, a hammer, seed, and bread. These varied images have one thing in common: they reveal the power of God’s Word to change our lives. The Word of God is like a light that guides us through the dark valleys of our lives. It is like a fire that burns within our souls. It is like a hammer that breaks our hard hearts. It is like seed that silently grows and produces the fruits of the Spirit in our lives. It is like bread that nourishes our spiritual hunger.
Symbols of God’s Word
The psalmist David declares, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). He also adds, “The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (verse 130). Light always involves the removal of darkness. If you were on a dark path at night without a light, you may easily get off the path. It would not be uncommon to stumble and fall into a deep ravine without a light. A powerful flashlight would make all the difference. The Word of God lights the pathway of the followers of Christ. It guides us home. Jesus is the “light of the world” who lights up our darkness through His Word (John 8:12). When we share the Word of God with others, it dispels the darkness that Satan has enshrouded their lives with, and lightens their pathway to the kingdom of God. My wife and I live about a mile from our Living Hope Seventh-day Adventist Church. Often after an evening program we will walk home. Our journey home takes us through a tree-lined path through the woods that is not lighted. We have walked that path in almost total darkness at times, and it is difficult to keep on the path and find our way. We have learned by experience that having a flashlight makes all the difference. When the light illumines the path, the walk home is quite pleasant. Without the light, we are groping in the darkness. Jesus longs to get us home, so He has provided His Word as a lamp to light the way.
In Jeremiah 23:29 God’s Word is compared to both a fire and a hammer. It is compared to a fire because it consumes. When we read the Word of God, the fire of God’s Word burns within us, consuming error. Like gold refined in the fire, the dross is consumed. The refining process is not always pleasant, but it is necessary to remove the dross in our characters. God’s Word is also like a hammer. The term hammer may seem to be a rare term to use to describe the Bible. Hammers nail things together. They also smash things. The hammer of God’s Word smashes hard hearts to pieces. Think of the dramatic changes that took place in the lives of the demoniacs, the Roman centurion, the thief on the cross, and a host of others throughout the New Testament. The Word of God pounded away at their hard hearts until they were broken by the hammer of love.
In one of the more common symbols in Scripture, the Bible is compared to “seed.” In Luke 8:11 Jesus states, “The seed is the word of God.” There is life in a tiny seed. When the seed of God’s Word is planted in the soil of the mind, it produces an abundant harvest in the life. Jesus often used the symbolism of seed to describe the growth of His kingdom. The Word of God scattered like seed throughout the world will produce a bountiful harvest. Jesus expands on this theme in one of His farming parables. “And He said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how’ ” (Mark 4:26, 27). The Word of God may seem buried someplace within the mind. It may seem to be covered under the clods of sin, but if it is cherished, it will spring forth into new life. It will radically change our attitudes, our conversation, our habits, and our lifestyle. Seed is life-giving. We may not see the seed growing, but it is growing in our minds to produce its life-giving results.
The Bible also uses the term bread to describe the Word of God. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35). He adds, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Bread is the staff of life throughout the ancient world and one of our planet’s basic foods. It is an essential dietary item. An individual can survive a long time on only bread and water. By using the illustration of bread, Jesus is declaring that He is essential for life.
In His well-known bread-of-life sermon (following the miracle of the feeding of 5,000) Jesus declares, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life” (John 6:54). This seems to be a very strange statement. What could Jesus possibly be talking about? Obviously He was not talking about literally eating His flesh and drinking His blood. By feasting on His Word, His teachings become a very part of our lives. This is what Jeremiah meant when he joyfully declared, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts” (Jeremiah 15:16). The Word of God, like a good piece of whole-wheat bread, satisfies our hidden hunger. Have you ever noticed that highly refined products are neither satisfying nor filling? The Word of God is the staff of life. It nourishes our souls. And of course, the Scriptures are like a cool draft of refreshing pure water. They completely satisfy. There is nothing as rewarding as the discovery of the truth about Jesus in every teaching of Scripture. When we discover these wonderful truths about Jesus, we are blessed beyond measure.
The Indestructibility of the Bible
Infidels have tried to destroy credibility in the Bible for centuries. Their goal is to use sophisticated arguments to erode faith in God’s Word, yet the Bible remains the best seller of all time. Each year more than 100 million copies of the Bible are sold or given away free. Guinness World Records estimates that more than 5 billion copies of the Bible have been printed in hundreds of languages. The French philosopher Voltaire, born in 1694, was a fierce critic of Christianity. He believed that the Bible was filled with “absurdities” and that society was living in the “twilight of Christianity.” As a prolific writer he wrote 20,000 letters and 2,000 books. A significant portion of his writings were an attack on the Christian faith and the Bible. It is reported that near the end of his life he declared that his writings would displace the Bible. He believed that within 100 years the Scriptures would be a relic of the past and soon forgotten. Within 25 years of Voltaire’s death (on May 30, 1778), the printing presses that had published his works were used for printing Bibles in the common language of the people.
There is another interesting aspect of this story. Daniel Merritt, Ph.D., Th.D., has done extensive research on Voltaire and reports that Henri Tronchin, who served as president of the Geneva Bible Society from 1834 to 1839, lived in Voltaire’s former residence. When the Bibles were printed on the press that previously printed Voltaire’s books, many of them were stored in Voltaire’s home, then occupied by the president of the Geneva Bible Society less than 100 years later. What an amazing twist to the story. This reminds us of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 24:35: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” Isaiah the prophet adds, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). The Bible has been maligned, criticized, ridiculed, torn apart, and burned, yet it stands as a testimony to its divine authorship. It speaks of grace, mercy, forgiveness, and new life to every generation.
The Bible’s Life-changing Power
The greatest testimony of the inspiration of the Bible is its ability through the power of the Holy Spirit to transform lives completely. Let me share with you Mr. Chen’s story. Mr. Chen, as an ardent Communist, was an atheist. As far as he was concerned, all Christians were nothing more than ignorant, mindless, uneducated peasants.
One day in 1992 Mr. Chen returned home on leave from his military service and discovered that his wife had become a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. From 1991 to1993 there was a Holy Spirit revival in northeastern China, and in one city, between 2,000 and 3,000 people were baptized each year. When Mr. Chen discovered that his wife was a Bible-believing Christian, he became furious. His anger boiled over. He yelled, threatened, and intimidated her.
Then his wife developed a serious eye infection that required surgery. He sat by her bed in the hospital for hours each day. As she began to recover, she started reading the Bible with her one good eye and a patch over the other eye. Her doctor suggested she rest both eyes, but she felt she needed strength from the Word of God. In desperation her husband said, “It’s bad enough that I have a wife who is a Christian. I don’t want a wife who is blind as well. Give me that book, and I will read to you.”
She requested that he read the book of Job. The more he read, the more interested he became. He was amazed at Job’s faith. He could not understand how someone going through such difficulties and facing such trials could trust God. When he came to the end of Job, he was further amazed when he read that God turned Job’s tragedy into triumph:
“And the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before... . Now the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning” (Job 42:10-12).
Mr. Chen continued to secretly read the Bible when his wife was out of the room for her treatments. Soon he could resist no longer, and there in that hospital room he surrendered to the claims of Christ. Today he is a Christian pastor, powerfully preaching the Word of God and cherishing the Bible he once despised. The life-changing truths of God’s Word made all the difference for Mr. Chen.
The Bible speaks to people of all cultures, backgrounds, and languages. It presents hope in troubled times for all peoples. Heaven’s call is to spend time with God’s Word. Let the beauty of Scripture bathe your soul. Find that quiet spot and allow the Holy Spirit to move in your life. Sense anew the power of the Word of God. It changed Mr. Chen’s life, and it can change yours, too.
What are you wresting against? What are your daily battles that keep you from thriving? Do you have the personal protective gear you need to help you through pandemics and more?
Read about the scrolls that were discovered by a young Arab boy. These scrolls prove the validity of the Word of God. This Word, the Bible, is your personal protective gear and is designed to help you thrive though the hardest trials.
4. Thriving in Life’s Toughest Times
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