If you were going on an African safari in the summer you would need to understand the environment in which you would be living. You would want to know the conditions so you could prepare and make sure you packed the supplies you would need to survive the various elements you were to encounter. You would not pack the same supplies if you were traveling to Alaska because the conditions are much different in the more northerly regions than around the equator. Knowing the environment would be critical to survival.
It is interesting that many Christians find themselves struggling to survive, and many times failing to survive, in their spiritual walk because they have failed to analyze their environment. When they encounter trials and hardships they don’t understand the changing tides of their spiritual journey and they become confused, disoriented and lost in the jungle of the world around them. The Christian life is not always filled with sunny skies and flowering gardens. Believers often encounter hardships and trials they feel are unfair and undeserved. This leads to the feeling that God is unfair and that he doesn’t really love them or care about them. Eventually many drop out of the safari with God and resort to their own plan and desires.
If we assess our spiritual surroundings we realize that we live in a hostile environment. As children of righteousness we cannot peacefully coexist with unrighteousness. God’s word tells us that we are enemies. Righteousness is far too powerful for the ungodly, the unrighteous, and the wicked to stand up against. In order for wickedness to prevail it must do all it can do to remove the influences of righteousness. Why has the Bible been evicted from the educational process of a nation that has as its motto “One nation under God?” Why has everything possible been done to remove prayer from our public activities and praying in the name of Jesus is considered villainous? Why can only one theory of man’s beginnings be taught and promoted in the federal education system? Because the reasoning and arguments of human wisdom crumbles when confronted by the eternal wisdom of God and his righteousness. So, the wicked become angry and hostile toward those who endorse righteousness. Even the promotion of someone who is ethical and moral is met with the most venomous hostilities. The Psalmist in Psalm 120:6, 7 says, My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace. I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war. When the righteous seek to promote peace and reconciliation through Christ and the cross the wicked shriek with fear and terror and oppose it with every fiber of their condemned souls.
We see the Nation of Israel confronted with this same dilemma when they were in Egypt. Exodus 1:8-14 describes the environment of God’s chosen people. Years earlier they had been directed into Egypt by God through Joseph. At that time they were only a small family of seventy people struggling to survive a world-wide famine. Joseph, a disenfranchised family member, had become the top advisor to the King of Egypt and was responsible for rationing out the food. Reunited by the famine Joseph persuaded his family to move to Egypt so he could provide for them. Gradually the good will of their host changed and instead of welcome guests they found themselves in bondage and slavery. The Pharaoh first afflicted the Israelites physically with hard labor, but when that failed he attacked them personally and mandated that all the male children born to the Hebrews be put to death. The pharaoh mandated the first late-term abortions to try to bring them under his tyranny.
When in a hostile environment there are a few things the spiritual traveler needs to understand.
First the redeemed needs to understand that God has a purpose. In Genesis 12:1-3 God explained to Abraham his long-range plan and revealed his purpose for Israel. He he would make his family a great nation. In order to accomplish this purpose he had to take them through some hardships to unite them into a cohesive civilization. Had God not taken them through this period of bondage they would have scattered and become lost in the culture of the godless living about them. Like Lot, they would have found the pleasures and conveniences of the unrighteous too tempting and become caught up in the worship of false gods. Knowing the certainty of this course God would later instruct them not to inner mary with the ungodly cultures around them. Not because of genetic differences, but because of spiritual darkness and the natural tendency of man to succumb to the environment around them.
In Genesis 15:13 God told Abraham that his family would spend four hundred years, in bondage, in a strange land, but he would deliver them and give them great substance. God had a purpose for this chosen lineage of Abraham, but many of this Hebrew family had forgotten about God’s purpose. Others had not been taught about God’s purpose and how they fit into his master plan. So, when the hardships came they were discouraged by the hostile environment in which they resided.
Just like Israel, God has a purpose for our lives. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that God has a purpose for our lives in the midst of adversity. If we will fail to analyze our environment we won’t understand that we live in an environment hostile to righteousness and we will lose sight of God’s purpose.
The believer must also understand that God has given us promises. God’s purpose for Israel was revealed in his promise to them. He promised to make them a great nation. God’s purpose for the believer’s life is reinforced with promises. He has promised to provide and protect us as we labor to glorify him and accomplish his purpose. When the hardships of the environment press us and try to beat us into surrender we need to seek the face of God and rest upon his promises. Paul states with great assurance that, my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches, in glory, by Christ Jesus. Forgetting God’s promises at the front door of the church after weekly worship can be fatal in our spiritual journey through life.
The great thing about God is that even when hardships and tribulation blinds us to his purpose and we forget about his promises, he never forgets. He is there like the father of the prodigal son waiting for us to return so he can nourish and nurture us again.
We are in the enemies domain. We are members of God’s family moving into Satan’s neighborhood. There is going to be conflict. We need to understand the environment and realize that God has a purpose and we can overcome through the power of his promises.