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Winston Churchill

Prepping is all in your head. Well, not all in your head, but more so than you may think. There are still issues of having clean water to drink, food to eat, and so forth. But I’ve seen these maxims repeated many times in my reading about preparedness:

  • Survival isn’t so much about what you carry in your backpack as it is what you carry in your head (not to mention that the stuff you carry in your head tends to be a bit lighter and easier to lug around)
  • Survival isn’t so much about the supplies that you’ve accumulated as it is about the skills that you’ve learned
  • Survival oftentimes comes down to a mindset and determination that you will go on, regardless of the obstacles that you are facing

Training your mind by learning and practicing new skills, and developing new attitudes or perspectives may get you through more tough times than a sack of rice and a can of beans.

Interestingly, the Bible teaches the same thing.

Sandy and I lead a weekly Bible study at a nursing home. We’re currently going through the book of 1st Peter. The author of this short epistle is the same Peter who was one of Jesus’ apostles and first disciples. He wrote this letter about 30 years after Jesus’ resurrection to address a serious concern that had arisen in the Christian community. The Roman emperor at that time was a fellow named Nero. Nero didn’t like Christians. He forced Christian men to become gladiators and fight to the death in the Coliseum. He had Christian women and children thrown to starving lions to be mauled to death and eaten, also as a public spectacle for the entertainment of the masses. When he hosted garden parties, he had Christians covered in hot tar, then lashed to stakes and set ablaze (while alive) to serve as torches to light the patio.

Nero didn’t like Christians. To Nero, “Christian” = “criminal”. Anything and everything that went wrong, from litter in the streets to the burning of Rome, was blamed on Christians. Persecution of Christian believers was harsh and it was spreading. Peter wrote his first epistle to address this issue. How should a believer respond to these attacks?

Peter’s first prescription for dealing with the coming persecution was, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action” (1 Pet. 1:13, NIV). He skips over stockpiling food, water, guns and ammo, and goes straight to mindset. Prepare your minds for action.

The translation of this passage found in the old King James Bible is more picturesque: “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind.” In biblical times, men wore long robes. That was fine for walking into town or sitting around telling stories, but when you had to spring into action, those long robes could get in the way. They needed to grab the excess fabric and tuck it into their waistband to shorten the robe and get it out of the way. This is how men prepared themselves to run or go into battle.

Peter tells us that the first step toward surviving persecution is to prepare our minds for action. So what mental preparations do we need to make?

  • “Be self-controlled” (1 Pet. 1:13, NIV). No further commentary or direction is given to this command. It’s assumed to be self-explanatory. Our thoughts and the actions that spring from them are to be deliberate and planned. We shouldn’t be operating out of knee-jerk reactions, but from pre-determined resolve.
  • “Come to a final decision to place your hope on the grace which is going to be brought to you at the revealing of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13, Wm. Barclay’s translation). Two issues here.
    • The first is to stop straddling the fence when it comes to our faith in Jesus Christ. We can’t successfully “gird up the loins of our mind” if we’re wishy-washy on this core tenet of faith. I’ve bet it all on Jesus Christ as being my Savior. I’ve gone “all in.” I’m not counting on Jesus some of the time, or hoping for Jesus plus something else. When I meet Saint Peter (Yes! The same guy who wrote this letter!) at the pearly gates and he asks me why I should be let into Heaven, my only answer will be because of what Jesus Christ did for me.
    • The second point of this passage is that we aren’t supposed to place our hope in this world and this life, but in the one to come, when Jesus Christ returns. Persecution was coming to believers and was already well underway. People were losing their jobs because of being unwilling to renounce their Christian faith or to worship the emperor as a god by making a token sacrifice to him. Homes and property were being confiscated by the government. Families were being separated and believers were being hauled off to prison for their faith. The proper mindset in that set of circumstances is to not place our hope in this world and this life, but in the life that is promised to us when Christ returns.
  • “Be holy in all that you do” (1 Pet. 1:15, NIV). The best definition of “holy” is “different from” or “other than.” The Holy Bible is different from all other books. God is “holy” because He is not like anything thing or anyone else. We, too, as believers, are supposed to be distinct from the world around us. We’re not supposed to be just like everyone else. A key principle of prepper OPSEC (operational security) is to become “gray” – to blend into the background and not be noticed by the world. There is a degree of wisdom there, and undoubtedly at time when that is called for. But a Christian should still be distinct and different from the world around him through his beliefs, attitudes, and actions – all these things spring from mindset.
  • “Love one another deeply” (1 Pet. 1:22, NIV). Love is a verb. It’s an “action” word. Love isn’t a sentiment. It’s a commitment, a purpose, and a sacrifice. You offer and risk something of value to yourself to love another. Love doesn’t always pay off. Your act of love may be rejected, misunderstood, or taken advantage of. But don’t give up. Don’t stop loving. Love one another deeply. Profoundly. Lastingly.

Mindset is the key to survival. In 1941, during the devastating air raids of the Second World War, Winston Churchill addressed the student body of a school that he had attended and shared these words with them:

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy…These are not dark days; these are great days—the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race.”

Arm yourself with the right mindset. Prepare your mind for what may come and you’ll be miles ahead when it arrives.