SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT IN A SEASON OF DECEPTION
by Andrew Richards of The Institute for Strategic Foresight (ISF)
Fear, the unpleasant feeling triggered by the perception of danger, real or imagined.
Even when fear is warranted – whether it is fear of the unknown, mostly imagined, or fear of the known, based on facts that relay the perception of danger -it is the facts that will supply context to a situation that makes the difference. Because facts are static in nature, they allow the perceiver (the one being affected by the facts) to mold scenarios around it. These scenarios are the real culprits because they encourage our imagination, and if you live in a country that just put down violent rioting, your imagination could be your worst enemy.
Imagine receiving a black outlined picture, together with a bunch of coloured crayons, of a shopping center going up in flames. The black outline of the burning shopping center is the one fact you have been given concerning the rioting and looting taking place. You know that the colour of a flame is red and yellow, so you take those colour crayons and start colouring. Smoke is black and grey, and it’s all against a pale blue sky. The picture only shows the burning shopping center and nothing else. But after finishing colouring in, it does not look like a good enough representation of what you are hearing from others through social media and those ever-encouraging WhatsApp groups. So, you add angry looters with crude weapons, perhaps some with blood dripping from their hands, together with one or two frightened police officers and a caption reading; what we always feared would happen, has started…time to leave SA. The caption is what makes the picture and the fear come alive. Someone else might take the same picture, and after colouring in, would add community members standing with the police, helping to secure nearby shopping centers. Their caption would read; South Africans stand together…hope remains.
Paralysis of faith
We have all seen the burning buildings, the looters running around with television sets, and the outnumbered police who stand by unable to act. These are all facts. It’s the scenarios we create around those facts that unleash the waves of fear that eventually paralyse South Africans. Especially the paralysis of their faith. I have met countless professing Christians who praise an almighty God one day, and the next condemn the government for not living up to their expectations. The problem here is that the more the government gets it wrong, the less God is praised. Simply said, if you pray to an almighty God to help rout our government corruption, and the next day more corruption takes place, then little by little you lose faith in God. Of course this argument is oversimplified and most reading this article will vehemently disagree with me, but what would you say then of every Christian who leaves the country in search of peace elsewhere? If God can’t bring peace to South Africa, then I’ll go look for it in Canada. You might say it has nothing to do with faith in Christ, when in fact it has everything to do with it.
We all know what is intended by the separation of church and state – in essence the separation in relationship between a state (government) and religion. It’s basically the creation of a secular state that is not influenced by religious governing. The same kind of separation happens inside the minds of believers when prayer fails to solve worldly problems. We start to separate our religion from the world we live in. Religion becomes private. Religion becomes a means to an end e.g., faith in Christ assures salvation in the future. That is the only value to faith in Christ; that when I die, I’ll go to heaven. The problem with this separation between what a Christian believes and the world they live in is that the one they believe in is limited in acting for the benefit of the believer, in the world they live in. There is no better way to purify gold than by fire. Faith works the same way. Great men and women of God all have one thing in common: going through a regular fire. When things get tough and the government is not helping, it’s time for the real Christians to stand up.
Ever heard the statement “be the answer to your own prayers”? In a nutshell that is living faith. Most of the time the solutions to our problems can be found out and acted upon by our own selves. Government corruption – after praying for your government, why not become an active member in the community and help solve the problems. Or you could sit back doing nothing other than pray and criticise those who are trying. Okay, once again oversimplified, but worth a try.
Back to fear. In the world we live in today, especially concerning a particular pandemic we all share, fear is overpowering faith and common sense. Is COVID-19 a deadly weapon designed by the New (one) World Order in an attempt to kill off the poor third world? Perhaps as a way of getting to all the natural resources owned by the third world? Then why is the United States, the world’s only superpower, the country with the highest infection numbers and deaths? The UK and France are both in the top 10 countries with the most infections and deaths worldwide. Beware of the vaccine, because Bill Gates wants to implant you with a microchip that will be used to track your every movement? Basically, the mark of the beast, where those who have the chip will be able to buy and sell, and those without will simply be rounded up, either forced to take the vaccine or be killed in a New World Order sanctioned mass murder – Christians be warned?
Revelation can be a fearful book in the Bible, but only because it’s misunderstood. In fact, it’s a very practical book that describes certain events that must take place, including the mark of the beast. Forehead or right hand. So, for the vaccine to be the mark of the beast you will have to receive it either by a needle going through your forehead or right hand, and it needs to leave a clear mark reading 666. (Revelation 13) The last time I checked vaccines are administered on either upper arm, with no 666 left behind.
Fear of something that does not even make rational sense, like what I just described, is not a Christian characteristic. Fear is not listed with the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5. Christians should not be known by the fear they spread, but by love, and faith, and hope. As Christians we have the ultimate power, through Christ Jesus, to help a fearful world see the light and experience the hope that is manifest in Christ Jesus. Even if the COVID vaccine is the mark of the beast, why then are Christians so afraid? Praise God the end is near, and eternity in heaven with God is imminent. If the COVID vaccine is the mark of the beast, (which it is obviously not) and the end of the world is near, then more than 6 billion people will go to hell (a fact you can count on). Should Christians not say to each other that because the end is near, we need to share the life-saving gospel of Jesus Christ with as many people as we can? This is the kind of response you would expect from a Christian. The only effect on some Christians that I have witnessed, is fear. Paralysing fear. Fear that suffocates the gospel.
The deceiver, the devil, has one goal, and that is to deceive the world into believing his narrative. A narrative that proclaims that you can work out your own salvation by enjoying the flesh of your desires. When it comes to Christians, the deceiver has only to focus on one thing, division. If you can divide Christians, you can confuse them, and a confused Christian is less effective in sharing the gospel. Should Christians take the COVID vaccine or not…is the vaccine the mark of the beast…some will say beware, other will say have faith…confusion that leads to division.. The deceiver uses the uncertainty of a pandemic to sow deception that eventually leads to division.
Replicas of originals
With so many fake news articles, hoaxes, and conspiracy theories that find their way into our inboxes, WhatsApp, and social media accounts, it becomes almost impossible to verify every single detail of a suspicious message. So, we trust the ones who sent it to us, because we want to believe they did their homework. Here’s a quick fact, they didn’t! The world we live in today is saturated with replicas of originals, and if we do not take the time to look closer and ask some questions, even a poor replica will fool us. The great deceiver, Lucifer, knows that he cannot deceive the Spirit of God, but he can deceive the flesh of man. It, therefore, becomes critical that believers exercise discernment, through the Holy Spirit, when they are faced with deception. Problems arise when believers are not aware of the deception. In a world where fake news controls the outcome of elections and pandemics open up theories of forced microchip implants and the end of the world, we need to ask ourselves two questions:
- Why do we fall for hoaxes, fake news, and conspiracy theories?
- Why do we sometimes continue to believe them, even after we have been proven wrong?
The answer, surprisingly enough, is not that some people are just dumb enough to fall for hoaxes, while others, more educated, are able to discern what is true and what is not. On the contrary, it is often the smart ones who protest the most. From confirmation bias, functional illiteracy, and perceived knowledge through to herd mentality and belief perseverance, it is surprising to see how many of us fall for hoaxes and fake news and will continue to do so, even when proof to the contrary stares us right in the face. The age of social media has made it increasingly easier for deceivers to deceive, and with mainstream media often falling prey to false information, that they then publish as truth, it becomes essential that all of us learn the truth, or at the very least be able to notice the lie.
Deception is indeed all around us, I pray however that you will not be afraid of the cheap tricks employed by the devil. I pray that you will choose to be an instrument of sowing hope, because that is your calling as a child of God. Ultimately all deception must be held up against the person of Jesus Christ, who is The Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6) and in Whom no deceit is found (Isaiah 53:9). Always measure truth against its ultimate source: Christ.
Andrew Richards is the founder and director of the Institute for Strategic Foresight (ISF)
You can reach Andrew at or visit the website at www.isforesight.wixsite.com/home
Andrew is also the author of DECEPTION: A Christian Perspective that provides the reader with the right tools to help separate the news from the noise and the facts from the fiction.
Available at R150 a copy, R250 including courier.