We are in the last days of this present world. God's Church has not been ready for Christ's coming. Here's the way to become ready.
OUR TIME FOR finishing the Work of God may now be very short. The new GIANT WORLD POWER of the United States of Europe — the revived "HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE" of 554 to 1814 could conceivably now emerge to stun the whole world in WONDER within a year or two — and very possibly in five years or less. World conditions are in upheaval as never before. The Iranian crisis, as I write, Nov. 20, could trigger a nuclear WORLD WAR III. It won't — for no such war with the U.S.S.R. is prophesied. But the Kremlin has warned Washington that any military action by the United States against Iran would be answered by Russia. So a little nation, Iran, blackmails the mighty United States, burns in angry ridicule the Stars and Stripes and effigies of President Jimmy Carter — while the most powerful nation on earth stands HELPLESS! The character, personality and actions of the Polish pope, John Paul II, indicate more than possibly that he may be the pope to offer his good services to unite the nations of Europe once again. European nations want, seriously, to be united. Of themselves they are unable. John Paul II could make it possible. If and when that happens, the present Work of God, which He is carrying on through His Church, will quickly be finished! It now appears likely that God's present Work through us will come to an end 1,335 days before the approximate date of Christ's return in supreme POWER and GLORY! It appears the Roman European armies will surround and take half of the city of Jerusalem 45 days later, and the GREAT TRIBULATION will begin 30 days after that. And the GREAT TRIBULATION, running parallel to the worldwide telecast of the TWO WITNESSES (Rev. 11), will last approximately 3 1/2 years. The prophesied DAY OF THE LORD will probably take place, in its first phase, during the latter part of that 3 1/2 years — cutting short the GREAT TRIBULATION caused by Satan's WRATH! REMEMBER WE CANNOT SET EXACT DATES. But all signs, both in God's Church, and in the world, do indicate all this is now drawing NEARER THAN WE MAY THINK! Since I wrote the above, news flashes report Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomaini has said definitely he is going to put the remaining hostages on trial for espionage, and that he already has found them guilty. This would call for their execution. President Carter, after counseling with congressional and State Department advisers, declares the United States will use military force if the fanatic Moslem leader in Iran carries out his threat. A group of U.S. war-ships are in either the Persian Gulf or the Arabian Sea, and the carrier Kitty-Hawk has been sent sailing there from the Philippines. The U.N. charter provides for the United States to use military means to defend its diplomats in Iran. Also today members of the Shiite Moslem sect (headed by the Ayatollah Khomaini) (about one tenth of Islam Arabs) invaded the most sacred of all Islam shrines, the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, killing some and holding others as hostages. The Arab followers of the Islam religion are divided. The Ayatollah Khomaini, virtually a madman, may be seeking to capture the total power over the entire Islam religion. Anyway, Saudi Arabia, chief oil producer, and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt are on America's side in this. Following all this, the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan was blown up! This whole situation is extremely SERIOUS. The whole world is aflame and in chaos. Anarchy is ruling in Iran. We are well into the TIME OF THE END! The formation of the United States of Europe — "the Beast Power" of Revelation 17 — is close at hand. And that will plunge our people and the world into the GREAT TRIBULATION, to be cut short by the DAY OF THE LORD and the coming of Christ in supreme POWER AND GLORY! We must press on as never before, to FINISH THE WORK Christ is doing through us! We must now put all else aside, make every sacrifice — to PREPARE OURSELVES for Christ's soon coming!
How get ready?
God's Church is not yet READY to meet our glorified Lord in the air. How, then, shall we get ready? The GREAT TRIBULATION will be cut short (Matt. 24:22) by the "DAY OF THE LORD." That is the time of God's intervention in world affairs, leading immediately into the coming of Christ. God instructs us how to GET READY, before the DAY OF THE LORD, especially in the prophecy of Joel. Read it carefully. OBEY IT! Put it into action! Here is God's instruction to us, NOW: "Sanctify ye [set apart] a fast, call a solemn assembly... Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come... O Lord, to thee will I cry... Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand; A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness" (Joel 1:14-15, 19; 2:1-2). Continue: "Therefore also now, saith the Eternal, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Eternal your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil" (Joel 2:12-13). The DAY OF THE LORD will not come until God moves swiftly to cut short the GREAT TRIBULATION. But, we are drawing VERY NEAR to the GREAT TRIBULATION. It probably has to be MORE than 3 1/2 years before the coming of Christ in POWER AND GLORY! Yet what did Jesus warn about those who say, "My Lord delayeth his coming"? He pronounced woe upon them. We dare not say, "Oh well, there's at least another 3 1/2 years — there's lots of time yet — I'll start fasting and praying later." That would be a good way to go into a lake of fire, instead of into God's Kingdom!
Fasting and prayer needed in God's Church today
Brethren, we NEED EARNEST FASTING AND PRAYER NOW! We need to GET READY NOW — and grow constantly in grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ! Some of us are too far from our God right now. Let me tell you of a time when I came to realize that I was not close enough to God. My prayers were not being answered. ARE YOURS? I have written this before, but those of you who read it need to read it again. It was about mid-January, 1930. I had been converted less than three years. God had directly answered my prayers, but now, near mid-January, 1930, they were not being answered. It was near time for Garner Ted to be born. My wife was excessively anemic — seriously lacking in iron in her blood. The doctor feared she did not have sufficient strength for the delivery. He insisted she must go to the hospital. But the hospital bill for the birth of our first son, Richard David, had not yet been paid, and the hospital would not admit her until it was paid. I was without money. We were utterly without food. We burned wood in the kitchen stove, and we were completely out of wood. I had prayed. Now I asked in desperation, "WHY doesn't God answer my prayers anymore?" I knew the reason was mine, not God's. But I didn't know the reason. The Sabbath was coming on. I decided to FAST AND PRAY until I found the answer. I fasted Friday night. Sabbath morning I continued the fast — no food — no juice — no liquids. I started Sabbath morning by praying one full whole hour. I did not ask God to heal my wife — I asked for nothing, except for God to show me what was wrong with ME that my prayers were not being answered. Then I meditated for one hour, searching my mind, to understand wherein I was wrong. This was followed by one hour of searching the Bible to see if God would reveal to me, there, the answer. Then I started all over again, with one hour of prayer, one hour of soul-searching meditation and one hour of searching the Bible. This hour-by-hour program was maintained until bedtime that night. By Sunday morning I was really hungry. But I continued the hour-by-hour prayer, meditation and Bible searching. It must have been about two in the afternoon Sunday that one of our daughters called out, "Grandpa and Grandma Armstrong are driving into our driveway!" By that time, I KNEW why my prayers had not been answered. The stress of trying to earn a living and such cares had taken my time, and I had not been as close to God as I had previously been after my conversion. I guess the "first love" — or the "romance" of conversion — had worn off, and my mind had been taken up with material cares. I had no longer been close enough to God. But now, Sunday afternoon, this fasting and prayer and soul-searching had brought me back into CLOSENESS with God. I had been reading His many PROMISES to answer prayer in the hours of Bible searching. Now I KNEW God would hear! I did not need a long prayer now. I was very close to my Creator. Now, for the first time in this fast, I asked Him hurriedly to heal my wife and restore the needed iron. I asked God to send us wood. I asked Him for food. I asked Him for payment of the hospital bill. I asked Him for needed money. I asked him for a new overcoat — for I had only an old lightweight topcoat with a hole at least six inches in diameter in one side of the rear. This prayer took no more than 18 seconds. Then I closed, saying, "You've promised to supply ALL our need, and You know what we have need of before we ask, so send whatever else You know I need."
Then I ran out by our garage, and my father and mother were just getting out of their car. Dad had removed the rear seat and piled kitchen-stove wood in the back of the car. Mother had a huge baking pan with cover on it, full of cooked food that needed only warming. Part of my 18-second prayer was answered while I had yet been praying! We enjoyed a most welcome visit with my parents. On awakening Monday morning, my wife's cheeks were rosy red. The doctor was astounded! She had iron to spare! The Monday-morning mail brought the means of payment for the hospital bill, including Garner Ted's birth, in advance! Later Monday morning, I stopped up to see my younger brother, Russell, at the gas company office. I always took my old topcoat off on entering the lobby of an office building, folding the gaping hole inside and carrying the coat on my arm. Russell said: "Look, I know it's embarrassing for you to have to hide that hole in your coat. Today Meier & Frank's have a special sale on overcoats. Anything I charge on my charge account beginning today will not be billed until March 1, and I'll have until March 10 to pay it. You go over and pick out a good warm overcoat, and during noon hour I'll come over and have it charged." "Oh, no, Russ," I exclaimed, "I can't have you buy me an overcoat." I was embarrassed! Then a voice seemed to say to me: "Didn't you ask Me to give you a new overcoat? Are you too proud to receive it the way I have chosen to answer your prayer?" Immediately I stopped protesting, and said, meekly, "Okay, Russ, I'll do it, and see you at noon." That afternoon I happened to stop in at the Portland Oregonian office, to see their merchandising man, a Mr. Davidson. "Well, hello, Mr. Armstrong," he said, "you're just the man I need to see right now. The Bissel Carpet Sweeper people want you to put on a survey for them, to learn direct from consumers the amount of demand for carpet sweepers in face of vacuum-cleaner competition. How soon could you do it?" "Right away," I answered. There was going to be a good-sized check for this, as soon as the survey was completed. I went immediately to the office of the company from which we rented our house. Our rent was past due, and they were about to get nasty about it. I told them of the survey, and they agreed to wait for the rent until I received the check.
God knows our needs
That was EVERYTHING I had asked God for Sunday afternoon — except I had asked God to send whatever else He knew was a need. Tuesday, I think it was, my youngest brother Dwight (composer of our hymns) drove to our house. "Herb," he said, "I want to leave my car here until you take Loma to the hospital. I was just thinking, you might have to go in the middle of the night, with no way to get there. Meantime, I want you to use the car as much as you need." Thursday evening my sister Mary, Dwight's twin sister, came over. "Loma," she said to my wife, "I brought over a dressing gown. I don't know why. It's the strangest thing, but something made me kneel and pray this afternoon, and in my mind I heard a voice saying, clearly, 'Take a robe over to Loma!' It was repeated twice. I didn't know you needed a robe, but here it is! This was a most unusual experience." "Well, Herbert and I understand," said my wife, "I will need a robe in the hospital, but I never thought about it until now." God had sent what HE knew, before I asked Him, that we needed! I hope this experience of mid-January, 1930, now 50 years ago, will be the means of helping some of you to take an effective step toward GETTING READY for CHRIST'S COMING!
What kind of prayer?
But now what you need to know about fasting. Fasting without prayer is of no avail spiritually. There is a real physical benefit, if you understand it, but not many doctors know the physical benefits of fasting. Animals fast by instinct when physically sick. But fasting alone, without intensive prayer, will not draw you closer to God. But what kind of prayer? Jesus gave a parable describing two kinds of prayer. The self-righteous publican used prayer to try to convince God of his self-righteousness. "I thank thee, O God," he prayed, "that I am so much better than this sinner beside me. I want you to realize, God, how GOOD I am. I fast often, I pay tithe, I am a very righteous man." But the poor sinner beside him was praying humbly: "O God, be merciful to me a sinner. I'm not worthy even to pray to you." There was also the incident of a lunatic, demon-possessed (Matt. 17:14-17). The disciples had tried to cast out the demon, but failed. When Jesus cast out the demon, the disciples asked why they had failed. Jesus answered: "Because of your unbelief... Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting" (verses 20-21). Jesus fasted at times to keep Himself close to God the Father. Could YOU cast out a demon? I have, more than once. The first time I was asked to come to a house to cast out a demon, I first fasted and prayed. The demon had possessed a woman, kept in bed. While I was talking with others in the living room, this insane woman yelled out: "I hear you out there. I know who you are — I hear you on the radio!" I walked into the bedroom. The crazed woman took out from under the covers a flatiron, raised her hand as if to throw it at me. I took an instant step toward her, pointing a finger directly at her, commanding, "In the name of Jesus Christ, put down that iron." She (the demon in her) saw I was unafraid and spoke with a voice of authority. She put down the iron. I talked with the demon a couple moments, in the same manner Jesus talked to the demon-possessed. Then I said, with authority, "You foul demon, I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of this woman!" The woman grinned. "YOU come out!" she said saucily. I commanded her again, saying to the demon it HAD to come out, for I spoke by the authority of Jesus Christ. "I WON'T come out," answered the demon with the woman's voice. "I've been paying taxes on this place since 1929. I've got a right to stay here." "You have NO RIGHT! Jesus Christ commands you to come out!" I replied, keeping a stern commanding voice. The woman sank into a sleep. The next morning they took her to the state hospital for the insane, as they had planned. Examining her, officials said: "Why did you bring this woman here? She's not insane. She's as sane as any of us." I checked up. They had lived in that house much longer than since 1929. That was the year she went insane. This event occurred, as near as I remember, in 1934. I have had other such experiences, but must not take space here to recount them.
Realize your faults
When you fast and pray, do NOT use the time of fasting and prayer as a means of inducing God to answer your prayers. Your fasting will not compel God to jump when you crack the whip. If your prayers have not been answered, it is YOUR fault, not God's. Fast, as I did in the example cited above, to learn where you have been wrong. Perhaps you asked for something you should not have asked. Perhaps you were too far apart from God, and close to this world and material problems or pleasures. When you pray while fasting, examine YOURSELF! Discern whether your ATTITUDE has been right. Seek to draw closer to God and to His WILL. Seek for FAITH (which He will give you). Then, when you have undergone this self-cleansing, and know you are in God's WILL, believe His promises and expect your prayers to be answered. THE TIME HAS COME for all of us in God's Church to draw CLOSER TO HIM! I hope what has been written here will help you.