Survivor!
S u r v i v o r !


Recipe for Surviving

These ingredients are necessary in order to be a survivor: a hungry heart, an inquiring mind, an obedient spirit, a generous measure of allotted time, an open Bible, the Holy Spirit, and an intense desire to be satisfied with nothing less than fulfilling God's call upon one's life during one's pilgrimage here on earth, bringing honor and glory to Jesus Christ as Savior, Lord, and soon returning King!


Lots of hype and publicity about this one from the beginning with a large number of people becoming faithful devotees! You mean you don't know what it is? Why it's that TV series named Survivor! Week by week information was released on the latest happenings and who didn't make it -- that is, those who failed in their survivor efforts! The speculative question has been on the subject of who will be the final one to survive the hardships and challenges, outlast all competitors, and claim the prize of a big hunk of money.

Some negative publicity happened along the way as one contestant in a state of exhaustion fell into a fire and the TV cameraman just hung on to his camera and continued taping the event rather than rush over and rescue the guy as he was being barbecued! A question of ethics and taste was raised, but soon forgotten -- after all, seeing a guy actually get burned helps to satisfy a bunch of morbid appetites, not to mention the boost in ratings which translates into increased revenue and bigger bank accounts for the TV moguls! The victim in the episode ended up with serious burns about the body -- in a sense, he was a survivor in a situation where TV tape was more important than his life! No report that he was rewarded in this incident!

I admit I have not seen even one program of the series and couldn't care less as to whether it continues or is given the axe! My TV exposure has been practically nil for some time, being limited to an occasional weather report and a few minutes of local news, maximum total being about 15 minutes -- and then the weather report is usually more miss than hit, but I view it to see if I'll be surprised when they hit it!

Anyway, back to the subject of that TV series, Survivor -- I find the title and the theme of the series interesting. Have you ever thought about the issue of how it is in a world such as this and like it or not, it comes down to an actual battle for survival?

Consider what it means to be a real survivor in real life in this present world:

Challenge #1 - Your Focus of Confidence

Depending on ourselves and our own resources will lead to ultimate defeat and disaster. But this is the very spirit which is dominant in our culture and throughout the whole world. This spirit urges each of us to be independent, develop a high sense of self-esteem, think positive, visualize our goals, conquer our fears, and experience the elation of lasting success in our endeavors! And the best part of all is that we did it all by ourselves!

The prophet Jeremiah made a statement that is extremely out of step with the spirit of the times in which we live. He said, "O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps."[1]

Jesus made it extremely clear that unless our faith and confidence are centered in Him, we are doomed to failure when it comes to our efforts in accomplishing anything truly satisfying, significant, and of lasting duration. In the vivid vine/branch illustration He reminded us, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing."[2]

But Jesus also made a number of other exclusive claims regarding Himself as well as issuing absolute demands upon us humans which allow for no other options when it comes to survival as we journey through this world![3] It quickly becomes obvious that if one is going to truly survive, then one cannot attempt to go it alone. Rather, there must be a point in human experience where there is honest confession of self centered focusing in life, pride, defiant acts of sinfulness committed against God and our fellow humans, and unholy desires which have prevented us from experiencing peace, joy, and fulfillment in pursuing God's purpose for our lives here on earth!

After genuine repentance has taken place and Jesus Christ has been received as Savior and Lord into one's personal life, there comes the assurance that we are never alone as we face the pressures, troubles, temptations, and uncertainties of every day life in this present world.

David had a keen sense of what was necessary in order to be a survivor when he declared, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…" A bit later he indicates that even as he walks through the valley of the shadow of death, he will fear no evil. The reason for the lack of fear is simple as he confirms that his God will be faithfully present with him during that moment when no family member or close friend is able to accompany him. [4]

The shepherd to whom David refers was revealed in a most spectacular way 2,000 years ago -- God elected to become human and this happened when He was born of a virgin in a most humble setting. He was named Jesus. The name has significant meaning, for it indicated that He would save His people from their sins! Unfortunately, there are those who struggle with the fact that God at the right moment stepped out of eternity into time and became human in reaching out to us sinners![5] And this same Jesus Who is alive forever has promised His presence with us even to the end of the age![6]

Paul captured the sense of that promise given by Jesus shortly before His ascension back to the heavenly Father when he said, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" and "I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me."[7]

Challenge #2 - The Focus of the Conflict

The war in which Christians engage and survive is a war involving truth and falsehood. One does not survive by believing that which is false and deceptive. You only become a pathetic victim by traveling that route down the highway of life!

Is it possible to know what is really true? Is it possible to know also what is false and deceptive? The answer is a solid "yes" to both questions, but there is a condition which must be met if one is discern the difference between the true and the false.

The condition is to establish a personal acquaintaince with Jesus Christ Who unequivocally stated that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.[8] The issue of repentance and receiving Jesus has already been mentioned under the subject of "Your Focus of Confidence."

Jesus promised that those who follow Him are His disciples and these shall know the truth and the truth shall make them free.[9] He also promised that the Holy Spirit would come, that He would teach us, and that He would guide us into the truth.[10]

John in his letter challenged Christians not to believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether or not they are really of God and thus determine what is true and what is error.[11]

Necessary in this experience of discerning truth and rejecting falsehood is constant exposure to the Scriptures. It is most appropriate to refer to the Scriptures as a weapon which is absolutely essential in our battle for survival! In Ephesians 6 the Scriptures are referred to as the "sword of the Spirit" as Paul lists the spiritual armor that the Christian must wear as he or she engages in a mortal conflict which determines one's eternal destiny. Even though we did not live in the times of Roman military occupation from which Paul draws an illustration in describing the spiritual equipment for the Christian combatant, many of us are familiar enough with a sword to know it can be used both offensively as well as defensively when dealing with the enemy. The benefits provided by the Scriptures (our spiritual sword for waging war) in our quest to be survivors are best summarized in two primary locations.[12] Anyone who gives a bit of thought to the subject can quickly conclude that a Roman soldier who was not familiar with his sword when he got into a deadly fight with an enemy didn't stand too great of a chance of surviving that encounter! How in the world can a Christian expect to survive if there isn't significant time spent in becoming familiar with our spiritual "sword," the holy Scriptures, and how they are to be used in the war in which we are engaged?

It is most critical that we need to be aware of the identities of our "opponents" in the battle for truth.

At the top of the list is the archenemy of God known as Satan and formerly known as Lucifer. This perverted personality is discussed in detail throughout the Scriptures. Perhaps one of his greatest accomplishments has been convincing a number of persons that he doesn't even exist! Among the list of casualties in this regard are some who by profession are ministers, seminary professors, and theologians!

Jesus described Satan as a murderer and a liar while accusing a group of people of being in alignment with this deadly enemy.[13] Peter issued a warning to the followers of Christ concerning the need to be sober and vigilant due to the adversary going about as a roaring lion seeking its prey![14] Paul appealed to Christians to "put on the whole armor of God" in order to stand against the "wiles of the devil. He underscores the severity of the conflict noting that it is not a mere physical battle and if one is going to survive it will require rigid discipline as well as adequate protection.[15] Paul also refers to the fact that some have become victims and been taken captive by the devil to do his will -- obviously these have failed in the battle for survival![16]

Second on the list is a host of vicious spirits (demons) who are resolved to defeat us in our efforts to survive and lead us on a path to destruction. These are the rebel angels who sided with Lucifer (Satan) in the initial rebellion against God.[17] Their present activity involves the intentional deception of humans -- an ever present threat to those who would be survivors by the grace of Almighty God.[18] There is a fascinating drama given in the Old Testament featuring a "spirit" which volunteers to be a "lying spirit" in the mouths of a number of prophets who are encouraging Ahab to go to battle. Ahab goes ahead as the prophets suggest (at the prompting of the deceptive spirit) and does not survive the conflict.[19]

Third on the list is the great company of unregenerate humans who also pose a threat to the Christian's survival. They may be under the influence of satanic forces or simply pressing an ego centered humanistic agenda which defiantly rejects the sovereignty, call, and claims of Almighty God.

Examples of satanic powers at work in deception are seen in Paul's encounter with Elymas[20], and the slave girl who was controlled by a demon spirit. The slave girl's masters were using her in a money making fortune telling operation until Paul in the power of the Holy Spirit broke up that venture by casting out the demon.[21]

However, the bulk of historical records and warnings indicate that false teaching spawned by perverted human imagination was often a major influence in the past and will intensify in the latter times as the return of Jesus Christ to earth approaches. Jeremiah and Ezekiel both provide shocking descriptions of numbers of individuals identified as false prophets whose influence was quite extensive.[22] It would be impossible to calculate the number of victims who failed to survive because they chose to listen to the purveyors of falsehood which appeared to be the popular things to believe. So deadly and widespread was the "seed" sown by the false prophets that eventually the kingdom of ancient Judah collapsed in tragic defeat![23]

Information on how it will be in the times prior to Jesus' return as King of kings and Lord of lords is potent with warnings of a juggernaut of deception and false teachings resulting in a major "casualty list" consisting of those who were victimized and not able to survive!

Jesus gave specific details regarding false teachers appearing as conditions take on more and more the likeness of times as they were in Noah's generation and Lot's time in the city of Sodom![24]

Peter spoke of those who revealed truth under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit, but at the same time there were false teachers promoting heresies and more will be coming on the scene influencing large numbers of people as the truth comes increasingly under malicious attack.[25]

Paul raises the issue of false teachings being promoted and warns his listeners to be careful -- the implication being that one can be caught off guard, accept some moral, ethical, or spiritual garbage which in turn will bring disaster and failure to survive in fulfillment of God's intended purposes![26]

Jude warns of the infiltration of false teachers masquerading as religious leaders who "turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ." [27]

John also warns of many false prophets going out into the world who deny the reality of Jesus Christ becoming human.[28] Even within the ranks of professing Christianity today there are denials related to the person of Jesus Christ. These involve such issues as His supernatural birth, His sinless life, His performance of a wide variety of miracles, His absolute claims, His substitutionary atonement for the sins of each member of the human race, His literal resurrection from the dead, His promised return to earth as King of kings and Lord of lords, and His exercise of final judgment upon all persons. Let one of those rogue wolves in sheep's clothing get to you and persuade you to accept the twisted and distorted theological junk they are peddling, and your survival prospects have just gone wholesale down the drain!

John further mentions in his second letter about many deceivers going out into the world and adds a statement that those who transgress and do not abide (remain) in the doctrine of Christ do not have God.[29]

There is a temptation to vastly underestimate the nature of the war in which Christians are presently engaged, the identity of the enemies involved, and what survival failure really means!

Constantly those who seek to be always obedient to God's will in serving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord need to remember the concentrated areas of attack as a "smoke and mirrors" strategy is implemented. The integrity and authority of God's inspired word will be under full scale assault. The reality of the living God as revealed in the persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will be attacked both in subtle and not so subtle ways. This includes efforts to foster a female deity on those who profess to be Christian in faith with some congregations employing the use of new hymns that speak of God as Mother, etc. The person, accomplished work, resurrection, and future plans of Jesus Christ will come under major attack as well.

It behooves the obedient Christian to avail him/her self of all the provisions God offers to His people in order to insure a triumphant survival!

Challenge #3 - The Focus of Survival Aftermath

Does this survival stuff really matter at all? In the TV series the lone survivor is to be handsomely rewarded. All would agree that surviving does indeed make a big difference!

The Bible uses the word "overcome" which in a sense is another way of addressing the subject of surviving. It sort of boils down to the same thing -- to survive is to overcome all the forces that are opposed to you and threaten to defeat and destroy you in your journey of faith in this present world.

John discusses the fact that those who believe that Jesus is the Christ are born of God. In light of the New Testament revelation it is very obvious that John is using the word "believe" in more than a head belief/acceptance of a mere historical bit of information. Belief in Christian experience always results in miraculous transformed life, with old things passing away and all things becoming new.[30]

It is further noted by John that such persons by virtue of their "belief" in Jesus Christ love God and the children of God. They seek to be an obedient people and this matter of being obedient to God is not a burdensome thing to them, and by faith they overcome the world -- put simply, they are real survivors![31]

There is a series of promises given to those who have "overcome" the world and all those forces that threatened their survival. They did battle with the satanic and human instruments of evil and emerged victoriously from the conflicts -- they are the survivors who will be rewarded. These will be given exalted positions, adorned with apparel appropriate in keeping with such positions to which they have been elevated, eat of delicacies and dwell in an environment the human mind is incapable of comprehending![32]

Significant in the special prepared place[33] for the survivors who have overcome this world is the mention of the absence of "negatives" which are routinely encountered in this present world. It is revealed that God will wipe away all tears from their eyes and there will be no more death, sorrow, etc.[34]

Absolute perfection certainly is the term to be applied to the setting in which the survivors will live and serve in fellowship with one another. It is impossible at this point in time to even begin to fathom the inexpressible joy they will know in the presence of the Lord Jesus Who made it all possible by His sacrificial death on their behalf. To the living unchanging God Who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be praise, honor, and glory forever and ever!

Before leaving, review again the Recipe for Surviving, and for a related subject to help you see how God has great things in store for His people in the future, go to Reminders When Mansion Shopping! Enjoy!

References:

1. Jeremiah 10:23 2. John 15:5 3. Jesus' exclusive claims - John 6:35,41,48,51; John 8:12,58; John 9:5; John 10:9,11,14; John 11:25; John 14:6; John 15:1,5; Rev. 1:8,11,17,18; Rev. 2:23; Rev. 21:6 Jesus' absolute demands - Matthew 18:3; Luke 13:3; John 3:3; John 6:53 4. Psalm 23 5. John 1:1-14 6. Matthew 28:18-20 7. Romans 8:31-39; Philippians 4:13 8. John 14:6 9. John 8:30-36 10. John 14:16,17,26; John 15:26; John 16:13,14 11. 1 John 4:1-6 12. 2 Timothy 3:16,17; Psalm 119 13. John 8:44 14. 1 Peter 5:8 15. Ephesians 6:10-18 16. 2 Timothy 2:26 17. Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-19; Revelation 12:3,4 18. 1 Timothy 4:1 19. 1 Kings 22 20. Acts 13:8-11 21. Acts 16:16-19 22. Jeremiah 23; Ezekiel 22 23. 2 Chronicles 36:11-21 24. Matthew 24:4,5,11,24: Luke 17:26-30 25. 2 Peter 1:19-2:1,2 26. Romans 16:17,18; 2 Corinthians 4:3,4; 11:3,4; Galatians 1:6-9; Philippians 3:18,19; Colossians 2:8; 2 Thessalonians 2; 2 Timothy 3:12,13; 4:3,4 27. Jude 4 28. 1 John 4:1-6 29. 2 John 7-9 30. 2 Corinthians 5:17 31. 1 John 5:1-5 32. Revelation 2:7,10,11,17,26; Revelation 3:5,12,21 33. John 14:1-3 34. Revelation 21:1-7

May 9, 2001
by Clayton D. Harriger
Elder in Full Connection
Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference
The United Methodist Church
and presently pastor of
Gipsy Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Gipsy, Pennsylvania

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