In times of great crisis, there are certain human tendencies, or weaknesses, that must be guarded against. Perhaps the two most dangerous are panic and paralysis.
Many, when they find themselves confronted with serious danger, are suddenly seized with feelings of panic. They lose their composure and their self-control. They may become very active, but their efforts are wild and misdirected. As a result, their frantic labors accomplish no good. On the contrary, they usually lead to confusion, sorrow, and irreparable loss.
A few years ago a large ocean liner was steaming down the Atlantic coast of North America, filled to capacity with vacationists and pleasure seekers. Suddenly the alarming cry of "Fire!" rang through the ship. Immediately officers and crew were seized with panic. Loud and contradictory orders were shouted. Frantic men ran about in wild confusion. They toiled and perspired, but accomplished nothing. Every passing minute the fire was spreading rapidly through the proud ship, turning it into a roaring furnace. Before a rescue ship could reach the place, hundreds of men, women, and children perished in the flames, and scores of others, who had leaped across the railing of the deck, drownel in the sea.
All this loss of life could have been avoided if all, and especially those in charge, had kept their heads cool and their nerves steady. There were sufficient lifeboats on the ship for all on board. With proper order and wise direction, every man, woman, and child could have been taken off the ship before it was destroyed by the flames.
Today Europe is on fire. The whole continent is in the midst of a terrible crisis. It is a time of trouble and anguish for men and for nations. It is also a time of trouble and anxiety for the church of God. In a time such as this, there is danger that many will lose their equilibrium and become panic-stricken.
This, however, is no time for excitement and confusion. It is no time for fear and discouragement. Now, as never before, we need to keep calm, steady, fearless, and strong. The exigencies of the hour demand courageous and intelligent action. This is true for the nations, for the business world, and also for the church.
In the forty-sixth psalm there is a remarkable picture that we do well to study. On the one hand is a terrible earthquake, whole mountains being uprooted and hurled into the depths of a tempestuous sea. On the other hand, a fearful war is raging, great armies slaughtering and destroying one another. In the midst of this terrifying scene stands the servant of God, calm and serene. From heaven he hears a voice saying, "Be still, and know that I am God," and from his own lips come the words, "The Lord of hosts is with us ; the God of Jacob is our refuge." "Therefore will not we fear."
The spirit expressed here by the psalmist is the spirit that should characterize the child of God in this time of storm and upheaval. We must not allow ourselves to become panicky. With quiet trust in God, we must remain calm and courageous.
As already mentioned, the second danger to be guarded against in a time of crisis is paralysis. Not all become panicky in a crisis. Many are paralyzed with fear. This is true physically, and it is also true mentally and morally. In the history of the children of Israel, we find recorded several experiences which make this evident.
When the spies came back from Canaan with their report of walled cities and mighty giants, nearly the whole congregation was paralyzed with fear. Everything looked dark and impossible to them. They saw no way of advance. They lost all their hope and all their energy. Because of this, the children of Israel had to wander about in the wilderness for nearly forty years until these faithless paralytics were laid in their graves and a new generation grew up that dared to brave the dangers of Canaan.
Another forceful example is found in the experience of the Jews who returned from the Babylonian captivity with both permission and instruction from the king to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. At first all worked with a will, and good progress was made. But after a while troubles arose. Their enemies created all kinds of difficulties for them, finally threatening them with destruction if they did not stop building. The climax of the crisis was reached when the enemies brought orders from the new king to cease their work. This was too much for those poor, struggling Jews. They lost their, nerve. Paralyzed with fear, they dropped their tools and ceased their labors.
This shows what can happen even to the people of God in a time of crisis if they look at the forbidding conditions about them and fail to keep their eyes fixed upon their divine Leader. If the temple builders had gone forward with firm trust in the God who had brought them back from their captivity, and who had commanded them to rebuild the temple, they would have succeeded in spite of all the efforts of the enemy to stop them. When a few years later the prophet Haggai came with a stirring message from God to arise and build, they finished the work in a few weeks' time, notwithstanding the fact that conditions were fully as difficult and unfavorable as when the work was abandoned.
Today the people of God have a great task to accomplish. This work must go forward in times of crisis as well as under more favorable circumstances. Just now, when Europe is passing through a time of danger and distress, we must guard ourselves lest we be stricken with either panic or paralysis. There must be neither excitement nor inactivity in our ranks. With a calm trust in God, workers and members must courageously press forward in a strong, orderly way. Pastors, evangelists, and Bible workers must not slacken their efforts to win souls. If they cannot employ old plans and methods, they must find new ones. The important thing is that souls be saved.
Instead of allowing present trying circumstances to hinder or defeat us in the accomplishment of our God-given task, we must calmly and courageously press forward in the spirit and power of the Lord. As never before, workers and members must seek to warn and to win the lost. If by faith we go forward in obedience to God's command, He will faithfully perform His part.