One or more crises are coming upon us. We know about the great tribulation. It will be the worst time of trouble for the nations of Israel and for most of the Church of God (Jeremiah 30:4-7). Though a few faithful Church members will be accounted worthy to be protected, probably most of us will have to go through it (Luke 21:36, Revelation 3:7-22, 12:13-17). How we face the trials of the tribulation may determine if we are ultimately saved or lost. Perhaps half of those of us who go through the tribulation will not make it into the kingdom of God (Matthew 25:1-13). Those who go through the tribulation and survive spiritually will probably have to endure martyrdom, and maybe torture, and thus prove themselves to be faithful.
Even before the tribulation, I think there will probably be at least one more major upheaval in the Church of God, comparable perhaps to that which occurred in Worldwide. Members of many fellowships may have to face difficult choices. While it is likely the tribulation will not begin for about ten or more years yet, a crisis in the Church of God can come at any time.
Besides all that, we individually can face severe trials, even trials that test our faith and trust in God and His word, the Bible. We can be going along peacefully, then WHAM, something hits us that throws our life into turmoil.
Each of us needs to be preparing now, spiritually, for times of trial ahead.
It is dangerous to think we can prepare at the last minute. The parable of the ten virgins reminds us of this. The five foolish virgins did not prepare ahead of time, and they lost out. They could not prepare "last minute", and neither can we.
God is training us, but He is also testing us. As merciful as He is towards us individually, He cannot afford to let someone into His kingdom who is not wholly committed to His way of life. He needs to find out if we really believe in His way of life, or if we only want the rewards of eternal life but only kid ourselves that we believe God's way of life is best. If we tell ourselves and God that we want to be in His kingdom, but our hearts are not really with God, then His mercy towards His whole family will override His mercy towards us individually, and He will not let a potential rebel into His kingdom.
This is serious business.
So God has to test us throughout our lives. He gives us a variety of circumstances, sometimes peacefulness, sometimes trials and turmoil, to see how we react.
How well we pass these tests depends on how well we prepare, and the preparation comes before the trial if we are to get through the trial the best possible way. It is during times of relative peacefulness that we need to be "redeeming the time" (Colossians 4:5) to draw close to God.
A key is how we spend our time, for our time is our life. We need to be spending time in Bible study, prayer, fasting, and meditation about God's way of life. And of these four things, I think the most important is Bible study.
With any trial, Satan seeks to deceive us, and God's word, the Bible, is our greatest protection against deception, if we use it properly.
We need to regularly read or study the Bible, all of it, so that we can live by every word of God (Matthew 4:4). We need to read it in an attitude of faith and respect, believing what God tells us. " 'For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,' says the Lord. 'But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word' " (Isaiah 66:2).
We are to feed on Christ, and we can do this by feeding on the Bible, because the Bible is the word of God in writing as Christ is the word of God in person. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). "As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me" (John 6:57).
God's Holy Spirit can bring to our minds the scriptures we have read when we need them. "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" (John 14:26). But we have to do our part to study and read the Bible. God does not remind us of scriptures we have never read.
God tests us by seeing how we spend our time. How much time do we spend with TV, movies, games, recreation, entertainment, and friends? How much time do we spend with Bible study? When we spend time with the Bible, we are taking into our minds God's thoughts and teachings. When we spend time with TV and movies, we are usually taking into our minds Satan's way of thinking and teaching.
God gives us free moral agency to choose life or death. But we do not make this choice just at baptism. We make the choice our whole life, and part of the way we make that choice is where we we invest our time over our entire lifetime since God calls us.
There is a great, worldwide deception coming upon the world and upon those in the Church of God who are not spiritually prepared (Revelation 13:4-8, 11-15, Matthew 24:23-24, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, 2 Timothy 3:13, and Matthew 24:4-5).
There can also be deceptions now in the Church of God. We need to prepare ourselves to resist those deceptions also, if they come.
We can protect ourselves from all deceptions by reading the Bible in an attitude of faith and repentance, showing God that we are willing to believe and obey Him in everything.
One method of Bible study I find effective and simple to apply is to start reading in Genesis 1:1 and read the Bible straight through to the end of Revelation, reading a little each day, slowly, pausing when there is something to think about, and moving a bookmark as I go. Then when I am done, I start over again. I read the New King James Version because it is a literal translation, more accurate than most, and it is easy to read. Then, when a circumstance comes up when I need a scripture or group of scriptures to guide a decision I have to make, those scriptures come to mind, and I believe that God, through the Holy Spirit, reminds me of the scriptures I have read, as Christ promised (John 14:26).
If we study the Bible we will notice several scriptures that, when applied, can further protect us from deception. "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" (Exodus 20:16). "Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds" (Colossians 3:9). "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap" (Galatians 6:7). If we deceive other people, God may let us reap what we sow. If we sow deception, we may reap deception. See Genesis 27:1-35, Genesis 29:15-25, and Genesis 37:12-35 for a lesson in how Jacob reaped what he sowed - he lied to his father, then he suffered as a victim of lies for much of his future life.
If we lie to others, God may say, "Ok, you think it's ok to lie, you believe in lying, I'll let you become a victim of lies, and see how you like it. Others will lie to you and you'll believe their lies and suffer as a result, till you see what it is like, till you learn your lesson to stop lying."
So if we want God to give us wisdom and spiritual discernment to protect us from Satan's lies and the lies of men, do not lie to others. Speak the truth, or do not answer, but don't lie.
If we immerse ourselves in the Bible and believe and obey what we read, we will find scriptures to protect us from deceivers who teach that the Sabbath and holy days do not need to be kept.
If we live by every word of God, we will find scriptures to protect us from the deception of those who teach that this is not the time to preach the gospel to the world. We will find scriptures to protect us from the deception of making an idol out of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, a deception promoted by those who say that his doctrines should never be changed. We will find scriptures to protect us from the teachings of false prophets and false apostles. We will find scriptures to protect us from any false doctrines.
If we study the whole Bible and live by it, we will find scriptures to protect us from the deception of those who are overly critical of God's appointed servants and who are against all organization.
But we won't find those scriptures if we don't take the time to internalize the whole Bible and learn to live by it.
There is no shortcut, no substitute for regular, believing Bible study all our lives as a way of life.
To respect the Bible as we should and tremble before its authority over our lives (for the Bible will judge us - see John 5:45-47, 12:48, Revelation 20:11-15, Isaiah 66:2), we need to prove the Bible is inspired by God, and we can do that by using fulfilled prophecy. See chapter one of Preaching the Gospel to learn how to do this (see links at the end of this post).
Once we have proved that the Bible is inspired by God, that it is God speaking, we can then choose to believe and trust God, that His world is true. We can reinforce our faith by building the habit of proving all doctrine by the Bible.
Here is a list of related posts in this blog.
On when the tribulation may start, see:
"When Might the Great Tribulation Start?", published July 1, 2012, link:
"The Groundwork for the Great Tribulation Is Being Laid", published December 28, 2012, link:
On the dangers of future deceptions, see:
"The Falling Away in 2 Thessalonians 2:3", published September 13, 2012, link:
"Is the Falling Away Doctrine a Critical Issue?", published February 10, 2013, link:
"Is the Great Deception to Come a 'Falling Away?' ", published February 18, 2013, link:
"How Should We Prepare to Resist Satan's Deceptions?", published May 5, 2013, link:
On basing our beliefs on the Bible, see:
"Should We Trust God's Ministers?", published December 24, 2010, link:
"A Key to Faith", published December 19, 2011, link:
"How Should We Listen to Ministers?", published May 24, 2012, link:
"Why Should We Believe?", published June 13, 2012, link:
"The Lesson of 1 Kings 13", published July 8, 2012, link:
"Faith Is More than Believing God's Promises", published August 21, 2012, link:
"Renewing an Atmosphere of Faith in the Church of God", published August 27, 2012, link:
"Let's Not Focus on Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong - Part 1", published December 12, 2012, link:
"Let's Not Focus on Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong - Part 2", published February 24, 2013, link:
"What Are the Characteristics of Philadelphian Christians?", published March 3, 2013, link:
"Let's Not Focus on Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong - Part 3", published March 7, 2013, link:
"Let's Not Focus on Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong - Part 4", published March 11, 2013, link:
"Why Philadelphia Must Be Willing to Change Doctrine", published April 13, 2013, link:
On reading the Bible to prepare for future trials, see:
"Preparing for Trials", published August 19, 2010, link:
"Will United Church of God Liberalize Doctrine? - How to Prepare", published September 14, 2011, link:
On why we should not lie to others, see:
"Preaching the Gospel - We Reap what we Sow", published March 6, 2010, link:
"Will United Church of God Liberalize Doctrine? - How to Prepare", published September 14, 2011, link:
"Lying to God", published February 10, 2012, link:
Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:
Chapter 1 - The United States and Britain in Prophecy
CHAPTER 3 - THE EZEKIEL WARNING
We Need to Repent, Chapter 9