From 1963 until 1997 people in the United States often had their favorite television and radio shows interrupted by the shrill sound of sine waves between 853 and 960 Hz signaling a test of the Emergency Broadcast system. Many of us will remember: “This is a test. For the next sixty seconds, this station will conduct a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is only a test.” To be reacquainted with that terrible shrill sound click here. As Christians, we too should have our spiritual emergency broadcast system in place and well tested.
The system was established to provide the President of the United States with an expeditious method of communicating with the American public in the event of war, threat of war, or grave national crisis. In later years, it was expanded for use during peacetime emergencies at the state and local levels. Weekly testing was necessary to have Americans prepared to listen to important communications in the event of a real emergency.
It is important for me to point out that there is a clear difference between planning for something and preparing for something. Preparing is what we are talking about here today. In Matthew 25:1-13 we have the story of the ten bridesmaids. We are told “Five of them were foolish, and five were wise“. The difference between wise and foolish was preparation. I read a quote once that said; “a surfer does not plan the wave he must simply be prepared for it when it comes.”
The reality is this, God does the planning; we do the preparing. Look at this reading from Jeremiah 29:11-13:
“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you-oracle of the LORD-plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you.When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me-oracle of the LORD-and I will change your lot”
In Genesis we read that God told Abraham to begin a journey but God did not tell him where he was going to go. Abraham did not get to make the plan; he just had to be prepared for wherever God was leading him. In our lives we don’t know where God’s plan might take us but we need to be prepared. It is also important to point out that preparation usually takes place long before it is needed.
Noah began building the Ark years before the rains came. For seven years, before the famine began in Egypt and during the years of plenty, Joseph instructed the Egyptians to store up grain. His preparation allowed the people of Egypt to have food when all those around them did not. Jesus too began his spiritual preparations long before he was tempted in the desert. It is said by some Bible scholars that Jesus quotes from 24 of the Old Testament books during his ministry. Long before his public ministry Jesus prepared by studying the sacred writings.
While being tempted in the desert Jesus drew from his study of those ancient Jewish writings. If we encounter sudden emergencies in our lives or strong temptations do we know the Bible well enough to call on scripture to fight off the temptation or to find comfort in the emergency? Let’s see how Jesus responded.
Here is Matthew’s account of Jesus’ time in the desert Matthew 4:1-11 followed by the verses that Jesus drew from for his rebuttal to Satan’s temptations:
Jesus’ First Temptation:
“The tempter approached and said to him
“If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.”
“One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”
Here is what was written in Deuteronomy 8:3
“He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your ancestors, so you might know that it is not by bread alone that people live, but by all that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD.”
Jesus’ Second Temptation:
“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you and with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.”
Jesus answered him
“Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
Here is what is written in Deuteronomy 6:16
“You shall not put the LORD, your God, to the test, as you did at Massah.”
Jesus’ Third Temptation:
“All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”
Jesus said to him
“Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”
Here is what is written in Deuteronomy 13:5
“The LORD, your God, shall you follow, and him shall you fear; his commandments shall you observe, and to his voice shall you listen; him you shall serve, and to him you shall hold fast”
Lent reminds us of the importance of preparation. Two important methods of preparation are daily prayer and daily scripture readings. I could not possibly give any better reason or explanation of the importance of daily scripture reading than what was demonstrated by Jesus above. We never know when tragedy or temptation will strike us so we must be prepared. If each day we set aside time to pray andstudy the word of God we willbe better equipped to react or respond to life’s challenges.
As to the importance of daily prayer,we see these verses in the Bible. James 4:8 tells us to “draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” Jeremiah 33:3 states, “Call to me, and I will answer you; I will tell you great things beyond the reach of your knowledge.” Our daily prayer should include prayers for the following things:
Prayers of Gratitude:
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
“I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders.”
Prayers of Confession:
“I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’- and you forgave the guilt of my sin”
Prayer of Worship:
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Prayers Acknowledging God’s Control:
“At the beginning I declare the outcome; from of old, things not yet done. I say that my plan shall stand, I accomplish my every desire.”
Preparation is key. Unfortunately sometimes we only use prayer and scripture study at the time of crisisor for specificneeds and too quickly abandon these when theurgency passes. It seemed to me that on the days following 9/11 everyone was turning back to God. The day of 9/11 was a tragedy beyond our ability to preconceive. It came out of nowhere. It brought America to its knees. Now with short memories, many people who turned back to God on September 11 of 2001 have gone back to their old ways and God has become less important again.
We often hear the quote that; “there are two things certain in life: death and taxes.” I would suggest that trials, tragedy and days spent in the desert are equally as certain. Difficulties will come our way. All of us will most likely experience our own personal day or days of 9/11. On 9/11 it seemed as if the world was ending in New York City. Have you ever experienced days in your personal life when everything was falling apart, days seemingly only filled with temptation or days with sudden unexpected tragedy? Sadly most of us have experienced or will experience these types of days.
We certainly will be forced to deal with the death of loved ones and friends. Many, if not most families, have had to deal will someone in the family being diagnosed with a serious medical concern ostensibly out of the blue. One day these people are healthy, and the next day they are fighting a battle against a deadly disease. Then there are the natural disasters; hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods, that suddenly appear, wreaking destruction and death and then they are just as suddenly gone.
Long before temptation or tragedy strikes, we need to have transported God’s word from the pages of scripture to our hearts and minds. We need to open the lines of communication with God through daily prayer. If we have adequately prepared in this way God’s word will be alive in us.
I love this quote from Abraham Lincoln:
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Let’s begin to sharpen our spiritual axe today with prayer and scripture reading so that when the day comes that we need to be prepared we will be. Until the system was superseded, radio and television stations were required to perform a weekly transmission test of The Attention Signal and test script on random days and times between 8:30 A.M. and local sunset. Each day we pray and read from scripture we are in fact, testing our own personal emergency broadcast system.
One final thought, while the government relied on the shrill sound to get its message out to millions, God relies on our spoken word to get his Good News out to the world.
Heavenly Father, please fill me with your Holy Spirit and through your Spirit keep me always close to you in my prayer and in your word so that I can always turn to you in my time of need, Amen.