Robert Jeffress - Don't Panic
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Over and over again in scripture we find these exhortations. Fear not, do not be afraid, and the many other variations of that bold statement. But with so much chaos around us, both on a global scale and within our own personal lives, how can we face every day with hope and courage? That's the topic we're going to explore together over the coming next weeks in my brand new series, "Courageous: 10 strategies for thriving in a hostile world". And we're starting today with "Survival Tip #1: Don't Panic" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
The flight from Columbus, Ohio, to Los Angeles, California was routine. Aboard USAir flight 1493, David Koch sat shoeless in the first class compartment's seat 2a. On their final approach Koch watched the sun sink below the horizon. Moments later he felt the familiar jolt and heard the screech of the tires as the 737 jet carrying 83 passengers and six crew members touched down on lax's runway 24 left. Then Koch says he heard a sudden sickening crunch. Sparks hurdled past his window followed by the bright flash of a fireball. Screams filled the aircraft as the flight attendants shouted, "Stay down"!
As the plane skidded along the runway, Koch unbuckled his seatbelt to prepare for a quick exit. The plane came to a violent stop and another explosion rocked the cabin, throwing Koch forward into the front row of first-class seats and then into the bulkhead. Trying to stay calm under the smoke, Koch crawled toward the back of the plane. In a panic, other passengers trampled him. "I encountered a fighting frenzied mob jamming the aisle," he later said. "Escape was probably impossible because I was last in line to get out the rear exist. I concluded that I was probably going to die. At that point I stood up and chocking heavily on the smoke walked back toward the first-class section. I was not panicked nor was I terrified", Koch remembered, "I was resigned and I knew with absolute certainty that I was going to die".
Then it came to him. If smoke was coming in from the front of the plane then there had to be an opening that might offer a way of escape. He worked his way toward the cockpit but seeing flames lick the passenger door he realized that was an impossible route. On the verge of passing out he guessed he maybe had 10 or 15 seconds before he would fall unconscious. He turned to the opposite wall and saw a crack in the fuselage. He wedged his fingers into it and pulled. It was the galley door and it opened to the outside. He thrust his head through and gulped a few breaths of air. "A tremendous sense of strength came over me and a wave of adrenaline shot through my body," he said.
Koch looked down and saw a fire burning under the airplane. To clear the flames, he jumped away from the wreckage and his the asphalt 10 feet below. Other survivors were scattered about. Some sobbed, some were silent, and some stared in disbelief at the burning aircraft. "I consider it a miracle that I escaped", Koch said, "And that I came through the ordeal as well as I did".
Today we're beginning a new series I've titled "Courageous: 10 Strategies For Thriving in a Hostile World". Survival experts tell us that there are 10 strategies that are essential for our survival whenever we find ourselves in a threatening situation, like an earthquake, an avalanche, or in this case a burning aircraft. In the same way, as Christians, we are living in a threatening environment. This is just as real as the ones I've mentioned. We have an adversary, the devil, who's intent on destroying everything important to us. And we have a culture that is increasingly hostile to the things of God. And if that were not enough, we all carry around us that fallen nature, the residuals of it anyway that are opposed to everything God wants for our life. How can we ever hope to survive that kind of environment?
Well, today we're going to look at the first of 10 survival tips, and it's the one that David Koch illustrated in that USAir flight. It's the most basic of all survival tips: don't panic. Don't panic. You know, the number one survival rule in any threatening situation is don't panic. And yet studies have shown when people face hostile environments, they respond in one of three ways. 10% of people engage in fight, F-I-G-H-T. That is, they're able to harness their emotions, think soundly, and attack the problem. Only 10% of people do that. The other 10% of people engage in flight. That is, they run away from the situation. Or more accurately, they run around like a headless chicken not knowing what to do. Many of the passengers in that aircraft did that. 10% fight, 10% flight, but 80% of people in a dangerous situation simply freeze. They panic, they don't know what else to do.
I want you to take your Bibles and turn to 1 Peter 1. 1 Peter 1. Peter was writing to a culture of Christians then, just like us today, who had been invaded by unbelievers. Unbelievers seemed to be winning, Christians seemed to be losing, and Peter said, don't worry about it. Even though you're starting to suffer very real persecution, keep calm and carry on, don't panic. How do you do that? I want you to notice in this first chapter of 1 Peter he gives us three commands to keep us from panicking. First of all, he says, "Be disciplined in your thinking". Be disciplined in your thinking. Look at verse 13, "Therefore, gird your minds for action".
Remember, the Roman soldier wore a free-flowing tunic which was very comfortable but it also could be very dangerous in battle. If an enemy grabbed hold of the end of that tunic he could gain an advantage over the soldier. So the first thing the Roman soldier did was to gird up his tunic. That is, take the free-flowing tunic and tuck it in the Roman belt. And what Peter is saying to us here is take hold of any loose undisciplined thinking in your life. Don't let it go unchallenged. Why is that? Because as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. Our mind, our thoughts are command central for everything that we do. Not only that, he says, to keep from panicking, to keep calm and carry on, be obedient in your conduct.
Look at verse 14. "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves in all of your behavior. Because it is written, 'you shall be holy, for I am holy'". That word holy literally means to be separate. God says if you wanna live successfully in this threatening world, be separate in your conduct. Now he's not saying separate yourself from other people. God doesn't call on us to separate ourself from other people. He's saying make sure you live in a way that is different from those around you.
Thirdly, be reliant on God's grace. Be reliant on God's grace. C.S. Lewis has one of the best descriptions of this world. He said, "Enemy-occupied territory", that's what this world is. How can we survive survive much less thrive in enemy-occupied territory? Look at what Peter says in 1 Peter 5:12. "This is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it". Stand firm in the grace of God. Now what in the world does that mean? You know, whenever we think of grace, we think of God's underserved favor that resulted in our salvation, and that's certainly one aspect of grace. God's undeserved favor. Somebody said it's God's undeserved burst of generosity.
The Bible says for no other reason than the great love with which God loved you he sent Christ to die for you and me. It's nothing we deserved. It's his grace, his undeserved favor. Ephesians 2:8 and 9, "For by," what? "Grace you have been saved through faith, that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast". But grace also refers to in the Bible God's supernatural help. You know, I look in the Bible and find one man who was certainly a profile of the kind of courage we're talking about. His name was Joshua. Joshua was somebody who faced a daunting task but he refused to panic in that situation.
And you remember in the opening part of Joshua 1:2, "The Lord said to Joshua, 'Moses my servant is dead. 'now therefore arise'". He was saying, "Joshua, Moses is home with me, and now it's your turn to carry on the great assignment and great plan I have for Israel". I can imagine how Joshua must have felt. "You want me to follow Moses? The guy who led the Israelites out of Egypt? The guy who parted the Red Sea? The guy who had that famous movie made about him? You want me to follow him? How in the world am I going to pull that off"?
How did Joshua keep from panicking in that impossible task he had been given to do? I want you to notice that God gave Joshua two limitless resources. The same limitless resources he gives to you and me to face impossible situations. First of all, he gave Joshua courage from God's promises. Courage from God's promises. In this passage, Joshua 1, I want you to notice the three promises that God gave to Joshua. First of all, God promised that the Israelites would enter the land. Look at verses three and four. "Every place in which the sole of your feet treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, and all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the great sea," that is the Mediterranean, "Toward the setting of the sun, this will be your territory".
Never forget this land that is being battled over right now in the Middle East, God gave that land to Israel. God gave that land to Israel. Secondly, God promised that the Israelites would be victorious over their enemies. Look at verse five. "No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you. I will not fail you nor will I forsake you". He said, "I'm gonna give you victory over your enemies". But you know, when you and I think about our enemies, we think about Godless unbelievers, we think about the devil. Those are all real enemies, but the greatest enemies we face are within. Our own fallen nature, the remnant of it that still loves to sin and is naturally disposed to oppose God.
We've gotta realize we still got that draw inside of us that we have to overcome. The good news is 1 John 5:4 promises, "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world, and this is the victory that has overcome the world, our faith". The Bible has given us a promise. That just the Israelites would be victorious over their enemies we can be victorious over sin in our life. Romans 6:7 says we have been freed from sin and therefore we should act like it. As Paul said in Romans 8:31, "If God is for us, who can be against us"? Thirdly, God promised the Israelites that they would divide the land as an inheritance. Verse six, God said to Joshua, "Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their father to give them".
Now look, God gave the Israelites a piece of real estate. He said, "This is gonna belong to you forever". But God has given you, he's given me something even more valuable than a plot of land. Peter describes it 1 Peter 1:4. He says we are "To obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you". Did you know God has inheritance for you? It is on deposit in heaven right now and there is nothing that can ever cause that inheritance to be lost. It is the promise of eternal life. Romans 11:29 says, "For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable". God has promised you that inheritance. He said with that truth, why should you ever be discouraged?
Joshua promised his people when he was about to die in Joshua 23:14, "Not one word of all the good words the Lord your God has spoken to you has failed. All have been fulfilled for you, not one of them has failed". Joshua received courage from God's promises, but there's a second limitless resource he gives us all, and that is courage from God's presence. Look at verse nine. "The Lord your God is with you wherever you go". Now folks, think about that. God has promised no matter what situation you're facing in your work, in your family, any other venue of life, God says, "I am with you wherever you go". Jesus promised that in Matthew 28:20, he said, "And lo, I am with you always. Always, even until the end of the age".
I want you to notice something here in Joshua 1:6-9. Again, I didn't really see this until this week. I want you to notice how he repeats a certain phrase three times. Verse six, "Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land". Verse seven, "Only be strong and very courageous. Be careful to do all according to the law which Moses my servant commanded you". And then verse nine, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous". See, three times he says be strong and courageous. We are not alone, if we are in Christ. And Christ is capable of doing everything. I love the words of Peter kreeft who said, "God has more power in one breath of his spirit than all the wins of war, all the nuclear bombs, all the energy of all the suns and all the galaxies, all the fury of hell itself".
How many of you believe in a God like that? A God who can do anything. He can do anything. Therefore, as he said to Joshua, why should you tremble or be dismayed? Jesus said, "Do not fear the things you're about to suffer. Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life". And secondly, he relied on God's presence. He believed the promise of Jesus who said in Hebrews 13:5, "I will never leave you and I will never forsake you". That's why Paul could say with confidence God has not given us the spirit of fear but of power, of love, and of a sound mind. Don't panic.