Robert Jeffress - Gain Situational Awareness
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Have you ever passed a driver on the road who drove as if he were blindfolded? Swerving around with no regard to the other cars around him? We all have, haven't we? We've all encountered careless drivers. Well, whether we're merging onto the highway, walking into a room full of people or just going about our daily life, it's important to stay alert to the activity around us. The same is true for our spiritual life. Awareness to danger is vital to thriving in our walk with God. My message is titled, "Survival Tip #2: Gaining Situational Awareness" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
In the early hours of June 30, 2013, 43-year-old Eric Marsh, superintendent of the Granite Mountain Hotshots emerged from his sleeping bag at Prescott, Arizona's fire station number seven. He brewed a pot of coffee, which he drank black. There's no milk or sugar on the fire line, so why get used to any other kind he would often say. Carrying his steaming mug, Marsh walked into the ready room where his tight knit team of wild land firefighters met every morning. Tacked on the wall behind him was a poster that featured devastating pictures of wildfire fatalities, in which skilled firefighters had been caught off guard while battling small wildfires that escalated unexpectedly. In ominously large letters, the poster asked how is your situational awareness today?
By 5:40 Marsh and his crew of 19 firefighters, his kids as he referred to them, loaded their two fire trucks and headed toward the small down to Yarnell, about an hour south of Prescott. Once on the fire line, Marsh set his team to work while he scouted out the fire. Noticing a shift in the weather, he sent one of his firefighters back down the mountain to serve as a lookout in case the fire pivoted. It did. The fire break his men had been cutting was suddenly compromised. So they had to retreat. The radio crackled asking if the Granite Mountain Hotshots were okay. They were. Then the fire pivoted again and raced downhill toward Yarnell, threatening homes and ranches.
Eric Marsh decided to leave the safety of the black in hopes of saving some of the homes. He couldn't have imagined that by heading for town, he was leading his crew toward a series of increasingly compromised circumstances, each one more desperate than the last, a reporter later wrote. Just then the worst happened. They heard the roar of flames that had been obscured by the ridge line. Through the smoke, Marsh saw the fire ripping up the hill toward them. They were trapped. Eric Marsh and 18 of the firefighters with them died in that basin. The most wild line firefighters ever killed in a single incident. Their bodies were found under fire shelters, small aluminum tents meant to protect firefighters from extreme heat, but not from direct flames.
The fire had burned over them so quickly and with such intensity that the massive granite walls of the basin cracked like eggshells. After the fire, Marty Cole, a friend of Marsh and the safety officer on duty stood among the charred bodies of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. What were they doing here he wondered? Eric was too good of a wildland firefighter to have led his men to this situation, but he did. You and I will probably never face a fiery inferno of a wildland brush fire of 300 acres coming toward us like Eric Marsh and his men did that day. But nevertheless, you and I are surrounded it seems like on every side by fires that are racing toward us, threatening to destroy us.
Well, in our series titled, "Courageous," we're looking at 10 survival tips, if you will, to not just survive, but thrive in the hostile environment in which we live right now. And last time we began looking at the first of those survival tips. Remember what it is? Don't panic. Every first responder knows that if you're in a threatened situation, you cannot panic. You've got to gain control of your emotions. As God told Joshua in Joshua 1, be strong and courageous. The second tip is the one that we're going to look at today, to survive and thrive in threatening situations and that is gain situational awareness.
The question that hung over Eric Marsh's shoulder in that ready room every day is a haunting question. How is your situational awareness? That's not only a question for first responders, it's a question that all of us need to ask. How aware are you of the testing situations you find yourself in? How aware are you of what is really happening around you? You say, well, pastor that's a stupid question. I know what's happening around me? Do you? Do you really understand the situation you're in?
You know the single greatest enemy of situational awareness is denial and we all engage in it, when we substitute what we wish were happening for what is actually happening. And the Bible says in Romans 1, if you reject the knowledge of the true God, God will send you into darkness. You become deluded in your thinking. That's the culture in which we live. Well, how do we gain situational awareness and know exactly what is happening around us? We do it, first of all, the first step to situational awareness, it beings with knowing what time it is. Knowing what time it is. You say, well, it's about time for lunch pastor. No, that's not what I'm talking about.
Turn over to 2 Timothy 3:1. Paul warned his protege Timothy about the coming moral and spiritual decline in the world and the single insight is like a flashing caution sign for all of us. Look at 2 Timothy 3:1. "But realize this. That in the last days, difficult times will come". Now I want you to notice two phrases in this verse that are key to gaining situation awareness, to knowing what time we're living in. First of all, the phrase the last days. In the last days. Now, you may be thinking well, people have been claiming it's the last days since the time of Christ. Pastor, are you saying we are living in the last days? Most definitely. And guess what? We are 2.000 years closer to the coming of Christ today than we were back then. Every second that passes moves us closer and closer to that greatest event in human history.
So we are living most definitely in the last days. It's the period of time between the first and second comings of Christ. The second phrase to notice here is the word difficult. He says know this, that in the last days, difficult time will come. That word difficult literally means without restraint. Without moral restraint. What Paul is saying is in these last days, before the Lord returns, it's going to be a time without any moral restraints. Isn't that a great description of the age in which we're living right now? We need to gain situational awareness. Turn over to 1 Chronicles 12:32 where we find a model of situational awareness.
1 Chronicles 12:32. As you turn there, I can see some dust poofing up from your Bibles as you go back to 1 Chronicles. I stole that line from somebody, but it's a good one. 1 Chronicles 12:32. Now look at this verse. "And of the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do, their chiefs were 200 and all their kinsmen were at their command". Now a little history here will help you understand why this verse is so relevant to us today. The sons of Issachar. Who was Issachar? Remember Jacob had 12 sons. His ninth son was Issachar. And before Jacob died, the patriarch of Israel pronounced a blessing on his sons and predicted their future. And when it came to the ninth son, Issachar, Jacob said, "You will be a strong donkey".
Now if your dad said that about you, what would you think about that? Probably not take is as a compliment. But in Jacob's day, that was a compliment. But he went on to predict, not only that, you would find rest in a pleasant land and that's exactly what happened. Years later, when the Israelites actually conquered the Promised Land, they divided the land according to the sons of Jacob. And the sons of Issachar were given a small fertile tract of land between the kishon and the Jordan rivers. It was fertile land that was perfect for farming. The sons of Issachar became farmers.
You see the sons of Issachar were also keen observers of their culture. And the Bible says they sensed unrest in the nation of Israel and they sensed that this was a time for David to expand his kingdom. They discerned there was such unrest in Israel, this was the time to anoint David as king over all Israel and they were instrumental in helping him do just that. They understood not just the soil, they understood the culture. They understood their times and the Bible says they knew what they should do. And God says if we're gonna be effective for him in this world, we've got to be like the sons of Issachar. We've got to understand our time so we can know what we should do. God wants us to be aware of the world in which we live so that we can know what we should do.
Well, you say how do I gain that situational awareness? One word. Wisdom. Wisdom is necessary for situational awareness. Wisdom and I'm gonna give you two definitions of wisdom today. The first definition of wisdom is the ability to see life from God's point of view. Wisdom is looking at life. Your life and the world from God's perspective. How do you gain that kind of wisdom? First of all it begins by having the proper attitude. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived wrote in Proverbs 9:10, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And the knowledge of the holy one is understanding". Secondly, actively search for wisdom. If you're gonna gain the wisdom necessary for situational awareness, you have to actively search for wisdom.
Proverbs 2:4-5. Again, Solomon wrote, "If you seek her," that is wisdom, "As silver and search for her as for hidden treasures, then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God". You say well, pastor, how do you actually go about searching for wisdom? Well, first of all you have to look for it. Look for wisdom. There's a lot of places to look for wisdom. In the book of Proverbs, you have not only examples of wise people, what wise people do, but Solomon talks about what the fool does. That's the biggest contrast in the book of Proverbs. The wise and the fool. God's word is the depository of wisdom.
Secondly, listen to those who are wise. If you want to be wise, listen, surround yourself by people who are wise. Solomon said "Son, listen to the instructions of your father and the teaching of your mother". If we want to be wise, we have to listen to wise people. You know I think about Psalm 1. I think in the King James, it says how blessed, how happy are those who do not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. I like the way the living Bible says it better. Oh, the joys of those who do not follow evil men's advice. Who do not hang around with sinners, scoffing at the things of God. You know I don't know about you, but I have a hard enough time keeping the right attitude without surrounding myself with people like that.
When you get around a scoffer, somebody who makes fun, makes light of holy things, run as far from that person as you possibly can. That's what Psalm 1 is saying. If you want to be wise and be successful, don't hang around with scoffers. Surround yourself with godly people. Thirdly, to search for wisdom, ask for wisdom. James 1:5 says, "If any one of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives generously to all and it will be given to him". If you want to gain situational awareness, you have to search for wisdom. That means looking for wisdom, listening to those who are wise and asking for wisdom.
Third, take action. Take action. If you're going to gain situational awareness, you need to take action once you find wisdom. Remember I said there are two definitions for wisdom. One is the seeing life from God's point of view. But here's the second definition of wisdom. A skill to live your life according to God's plan. Did you know that's exactly what the word wisdom, chokmah, in the Old Testament means? It's the ability to know and follow God's plan for your marriage, for your finances, for your friendships, for every area of your life. If we're going to live wisely in this world, we've got to have situational awareness. And that comes from the gift of wisdom. Because you know what? Wisdom isn't something we just gain once for all and then never have to worry about it.
We never completely arrive in our gaining of situational awareness. We have to keep gaining awareness because we are in a never ending struggle with the enemy. So how do we maintain every day a situational awareness of what's happening to us and in the world around us? Paul gives us a real simple formula in 1 Thessalonians 5. 1 Thessalonians 5:6. He says, "So then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober". In this simple verse, we find three short commands about how to maintain situational awareness in this challenging world in which we live. First of all, he says, "Stay awake. Stay awake," literally let us not sleep.
Now he's not saying, you know, don't ever go to bed. He's saying don't sleepwalk through life. Go through life awake, alert, stay awake as to what is happening around you. Don't sleep, say awake. I remember when I was in high school, my good friend David Dunlap, who's probably back there somewhere today, when we were in high school, David took me to a magic shop that used to be right across the street from the church here. Remember Jeffrey's Magic Shop right across the street? David took me over there and introduced me to the greatest little invention. It was a little vial of perfume called "Stink Perfume". It looked like real perfume, but you opened it up and it was the most foul smelling stuff you could imagine.
Well, one night I had come home from a date with Amy and Tim and I shared a bathroom. And he just annoyed the heck out of me by always leaving my door locked, forgetting to unlock my door, so I'd have to walk around the other way and so forth and one night I jiggled the door, it was locked again. And I was so ticked off. I'm gonna admit it to you, I lost it. And I got my vial of "Stink Perfume", and I crept around to his bedroom and he was sound asleep and I opened up that jar of "Stink Perfume" and I poured it out on his pillow completely. He was asleep, but he bolted out of bed immediately. Though he was asleep, he was now awake. And he stayed awake the rest of the night, ready for me to come back in with another vial of it. In fact, I think he stayed awake several nights after that.
Well, that's kind of what Paul was talking about here, not "Stink Perfume", but he's saying stay awake. Be on guard, not from the attacks from your brother or sister, but from the enemy. Don't sleepwalk through life. If we're gonna be effective, we've got to stay awake. Secondly, stay hopeful. If you're gonna maintain situational awareness, stay hopeful. He says it this way in verse 6, be alert. You say well, what does that have to do with being hopeful. Be alert has to do with not only being awake, but understanding that if bad times, difficult times are coming, even better times are to come after that.
You know in Luke 21:28, Jesus has just described all of the events of the tribulation that will lead up to the return of Jesus Christ. You remember what he said in Luke 21:28? He said, "When you see these horrible things begin to take place," panic, no. Throw a pity party for yourself, no. Bury your head in the sand, no. He said, "When you see these things begin to take place, straighten up, lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near".
When we're alert to what is really happening, we can be excited because we know the return of Christ is just around the corner. Paul is saying if we want to maintain situational awareness, stay awake, stay hopeful and finally he says, stay serious. Verse 6, "Be of sober spirit". What does he mean by be of sober spirit? He doesn't mean walk around with an expression on your face while you've been sucking on a dill pickle. He's not talking about that. He simply means be serious. Don't be frivolous. Be serious as you understand what is happening and what is about to happen. That's how you maintain situational awareness.