Along Came a Spider, Part 1

Shortly after Angela, Madeline and I moved to Omaha, we experienced a season of horror in our new house. The otherwise pleasant parsonage housing our new little pastoral family took a turn for the worse one morning when I came down the basement stairs. A wolf spider the size of my hand sat there in the middle of the floor, staring at me with its multiple shiny orbs, waiting for me to make the first move.

“Honey!”

“Yes?”

“Take the baby outside.”

"Why?”

“I need to burn the house down.”

Slowly, I backed up the stairs, went into the entryway closet and grabbed BOTH of my hiking boots in case I only got half of it and the other half tried to rip my face off.

Now, you would think that finding a hand-sized spider on the floor would be as bad as a story could get, but it gets worse. What’s worse than finding a hand-sized spider on the floor of your house? No, it’s not finding two. It’s coming back and finding none at all.

That creature vanished, and for the next several months I was a prisoner in my own home. Every corner, closet and crawl space housed a hairy horror waiting to tear into my flesh. Every breeze was a brush with death. The arachnid was omnipresent; I felt it — in my shoe, in the back of the silverware drawer, in my pillowcase just waiting for me to fall asleep.

Now, some basic questions. Was there a spider? Yes. Was there a spider everywhere? No. When we are terrified, often with very real things, we can develop a sense of paranoia that sees those horrible things everywhere. Life becomes characterized by suspicion, hypersensitivity, looking for hidden realities in everything. It’s not a pleasant way to live. Eventually I had to move past a life of paranoid spider hunting and embrace peace … which is why we took a call to Washington Conference.

Only kidding.

Isaiah 8 records a time when God’s people lived in fear and paranoia. They had lost sight of their divine calling and had built a culture that specialized in the miscarriage of justice, general corruption and idolatry. As a result, God withdrew His protection and allowed the northern kingdom of Israel to fall to the Assyrians. The southern kingdom of Judah freaked out even though God has promised to protect them during this time of judgment. Judeans began to whisper, surmise and suspect there were games afoot. Faith was replaced by fear, and they decided to form an alliance with Egypt — the very nation where their ancestors had been enslaved.

Ellen White, echoing the principles of Isaiah 8, warns Christians, “Suspicion demoralizes, producing the very evils it seeks to prevent.”[1] She knew we don’t make our best decisions when we are afraid of what might happen. Instead of trusting God to fulfill His prophecies, we create our own prophetic scenarios — and too often fulfill them. Sudden yells from nervous back-seat drivers can cause even the best front-seat drivers to lose focus and crash.

So, through the prophet Isaiah, God speaks a word of truth to His paranoid, fearful followers: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” (Isa. 8:12–13).  

Rather than focusing your fear on man, focus your faith on God. Don’t automatically jump into the conspiracy crowd. Have you heard the pope is visiting America to introduce Sunday law legislation? Has someone shared a YouTube video with you made in someone’s basement that unveils new information supposedly suppressed for years? Guard your eyes and ears from the latest conspiracy theories. True gospel messengers take Paul’s words to heart — they only have time for those things which are true and of good report.

In Matt. 24:5–6, Jesus tells his end-times-minded disciples, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.”

Jesus was warning them about a messiah complex. The word "messiah" doesn’t just refer to those claiming to be Jesus; messiah means someone specially chosen to lead people to salvation or safety. They could be any person perceived to have a teaching only they can share with you. In times of waiting for God, whether it is for the Second Coming or seeking answers about the direction and purpose of our life, we are vulnerable. When we start to feel discouraged and a little scared, we can be tempted to latch on to anything that feels helpful, to anyone who can deliver us with some exclusive new truth.

It’s how false teachers and messiahs thrive — a topic we will explore next month.

 

[1] Education, p. 289

September 26, 2017 / Perspective
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