A Christian's Response to Impending Crisis
Robert J. Scott
The classic children's tale The Horse and His Boy, by C. S. Lewis, is about crisis. It's a powerful story of the Christfigure Aslan's protecting and promoting the welfare of his people. In his master plan, a baby is kidnapped and raised by a stranger in a foreign land, knowing only misery and suffering. Why? So that he might be in the right place at the right time to discover a terrible plot to attack and destroy his homeland, Archenland. The book is the exciting story of the discovery of this impending crisis and Shasta's response to itracing across the desert to warn and deliver his people.
One incident in particular merits a closer look. As Shasta and friends cross into Archenland, they look back across the desert and see something far off in the distance. "It looks like smoke. Is it a fire?" asks Shasta. "Sandstorm, I should say," replies Bree (his horse). "Not much wind to raise it," says Aravis (his companion). "Oh!" exclaims Hwin (her horse). "Look! There are things flashing in it. Look! They're helmetsand armour. And it's moving: moving this way." Indeed, it is an invading army, and there isn't a minute to lose.
A Dust Cloud in the Distance
The Y2K computer problem is like that dust cloud in the distance. It is very real. As I write in late December 1998, the popular media has finally caught on, which means that nearly everyone in America is vaguely aware that something is on the horizon. But what exactly is that something? Is it smoke that will harmlessly blow away? Is it a sandstorm that will require us to hide inside for a few days until it blows over? Or are there things flashing in itdangerous, lifethreatening things, swords and armor? Well, the conclusion very much depends upon the eyesight, the concern, and the prejudice of the observer.
From where I stand, I see a real danger coming our way. Space precludes me from describing what I see in detail. Unlike most people, I have been studying the progress of Y2K since late 1995. At first I dismissed it as so much smoke. After all, how much trouble can two little digits cause? But the more I watched and followed it with binoculars, the more concerned I became.
But how good is my eyesight? Well, I have been writing computer programs for twentyfive years; I understand why the programmers are the most concerned. I know the 90 percent rule from personal experiencethat 90 percent of the time you think you're 90 percent finished. I have degrees from two of the top business schools in the country; I understand the allpervasive, systemic, interconnected nature of today's global economy. Like Charlotte's web, a strand or two can snap and be repaired. But if enough strands are hit at once, the whole web collapses. I left fulltime programming ten years ago to attend seminary, and then planted and pastored a PCA church in California. As a student of Scripture, I understand God's program for the churchhow he engineers crises to purify his people, how the rise and fall of civilizations are but sidelights to the onward march of the Church Triumphant.
With this eyesight that God has given me, I look at the Y2K dust cloud on the horizon and see in it a serious crisis coming our way. Too little has been done, and much of what is being done will not be finished in time. Don't believe the confident assurances of Y2Kreadiness on everyone's lips. Gallup and Barna polls have shown for years that we are a nation of liars and spin doctors. It is a rare company or government agency that dares to admit that it will not be ready. Yet even if every line of mainline and PC code is found, fixed, and fully tested, embedded systems will prove to be our Achilles' heel.
So What's a Christian to Do?
Only God knows for certain how severe the impending crisis will be. How should a Christian respond? Well, how should a Christian respond to any crisis? With worship!
Praise God that he has not left us orphans. Rather, we are the adopted children of the King of kings! We are his royal ambassadors! We are empowered by the Spirit of holiness and given the treasure of his Word as our infallible guide. What does it say?
"God is light; in him there is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5); everything he does and has foreordained is perfect. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose," which is "to be conformed to the likeness of his Son" (Rom. 8:28-29)who, we tend to forget, "learned obedience from what he suffered" (Heb. 5:8).
Even if the stock market does not go up forever, we know that God is in control and that everything he does is for our good. How can a Christian not respond with awe and worship?and with optimism!
We also know God's plan: the rock, the cornerstone cut out without hands in Nebuchadnezzar's vision, will indeed grow to be a mountain that fills the whole earth (Dan. 2:44-45). In the power of the Spirit of Christ, the church will continue God's program of victory, of evangelism and disciplemaking, and surely one day "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Hab. 2:14).
Shasta endured suffering, so that much good would come of it. So also did Jesus and Joseph, and so have untold numbers of other saints. Y2K may bring much suffering, but only as a part of God's glorious program for the good of his people. The true church is purified through suffering; it will increase in size and strength. I believe that Y2K will bring muchneeded reformation to the church and, through it, to our culture.
God is in control. What then is our responsibility? The requirement of the covenant is always the same: "Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15).
2. Repent and Believe the Good News
Job was a righteous man. Yet, when afflicted, he repented in dust and ashes (Job 42:1-6). We in the West have abandoned our Christian heritage and produced a culture which exalts unrighteousness. How much greater is our need for repentance!
Technology is morally neutral. We have enjoyed its unprecedented temporal blessing. But the technologybased society we have built is flawed. Everywhere humanistic selfsufficiency and autonomy are exalted. Like the Tower of Babel, our society has not been built to glorify God, but to glorify man. And, with cosmic irony, our society, built in the image of flawed man, is also found to have an allpervasive flawY2K.
And so the people of God are called to repent, personally and corporately. We need to drop our preoccupation with sensational, escapist books about the second half of Daniel 9, and pick up our Bibles and take to heart the first half of that chapter. We need to weep and plead with God in prayer, to humble ourselves and turn from our wicked ways.
We know that God has promised restoration, in his own (best) way, in his own (perfect) timing. With that assurance, we are free to fully trust in him to care for us no matter what Y2K brings. To repent and believe the good news is the recipe for contentment, no matter what the circumstances may be. It's the heart attitude that we need to face any crisis, for it produces godly obedience. "If you love me," says our Lord, "you will obey what I command" (John 14:15).
I spoke with a man last week who told me that storing food, water, and other basic necessities demonstrates lack of faith. That sounds pious, but it is not scriptural. Are we not commanded to "go to the ant, ... observe her ways and be wise" (Prov. 6:6 NASB)? What is she doing? Preparing for the future (vs. 8). And not once, but twice, we read: "The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it" (Prov. 27:12; 22:3).
The application of these biblical passages to Y2K should be obvious. There is a very real probability that the supply of basic necessities will be disrupted. Thus, it is incumbent upon godly men to take the steps necessary to provide for their families (1 Tim. 5:8), their church family, and their community. The oftquoted principles are these: "Hope for the best, while preparing for the worst," and, "The best way to avoid panic later is to prepare now."
There are many excellent Web sites and books available which give good counsel on basic, commonsense preparation. Unfortunately, it is already late in the game. The question is whether you will take action now, while supplies are still plentiful and cheap, or wait until the cry becomes "a quart of wheat for a day's wages"?
The Y2K crisis is giving the church an unprecedented opportunity to provide leadership through the crisis and to reshape the world in Christ's image on the other side of it. But for maximum impact, the church should be providing leadership now in community awareness and preparationa golden opportunity for witness in word and deed! When are people more open to the gospel than when facing crisisespecially if, like Jesus, we are also prepared to help them meet their physical needs.
D. James Kennedy once delivered a sermon entitled "It Is Not Convenient Now." The same point may be made about Y2K. Preparation is never convenient, but it is essential. Shasta's warning arrived in time. King Lune believed him and returned to his castle in time to prepare for the enemy's onslaught.
What will you do?
Mr. Scott is a PCA minister living in Oregon. Reprinted from New Horizons, March 1999.