When a person is faced with a sudden terrifying or dangerous situation, certain bodily reactions occur. Their palms may become sweaty, the heart rate and breathing rate will increase suddenly. The blood pressure also increases. The person is on edge, their skin may become flushed or pale, and they may be tense or trembling. A person can then respond in one of two ways. We have a saying in English that describes the choices: “Fight of Flight.”
“The fight-or-flight response was first described in the 1920s by American physiologist Walter Cannon. Cannon realized that a chain of rapidly occurring reactions inside the body helped to mobilize the body’s resources to deal with threatening circumstances.” (https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-the-fight-or-flight-response-2795194). “The response is triggered by the release of hormones that prepare your body to either stay and deal with a threat or to run away to safety.” (https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-the-fight-or-flight-response-2795194). “Without you even telling it what to do, your body is assessing what’s going on around you and determining your options on how you most likely could survive the event.” (https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-happens-to-your-body-during-the-fight-or-flight-response/)
Anxiety and fear are actually very helpful responses. These instinctive responses to danger and threat have preserved the lives of many people. Anxiety and fear tell us when danger is present and then instinctively, often we prepare to act.
I am sure many of us can relate to this. A decision needs to be made on the spur of the moment. While this may describe physical danger, in the Christian life we are faced with both physical and spiritual dangers from the enemy. Sometimes the dangers come suddenly and are very threatening, other times the dangers creep in and slowly intensify. Nonetheless, the apostle Peter writes that, “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8
God’s people have often met very threatening times in the past. For example, when there was religious persecution in the Dark Ages, one never knew when they would be discovered with a hidden Bible and be led to the stake or to the lions.
“From the days of Adam to our own time our great enemy has been exercising his power to oppress and destroy. He is now preparing for his last campaign against the church. All who seek to follow Jesus will be brought into conflict with this relentless foe. The more nearly the Christian imitates the divine Pattern, the more surely will he make himself a mark for the attacks of Satan.” –My Life Today, p. 309
To Fight means to take part in a violent struggle. Sometimes involving the exchange of physical blows or the use of weapons; but it can also be a verbal battle, emotional, or spiritual battle.
We sing songs, like Onward Christian Soldiers; Sound the Battle Cry; Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus, Ye Soldiers of the Cross. While we are called to, “Fight the good fight of faith,” (1 Timothy 6:12) and to put on “the whole armour of God,” (Ephesians 6:13), our battle is a spiritual battle. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12
“The gaining of eternal life will ever involve a struggle, a conflict. We are continually to be found fighting the good fight of faith. We are soldiers of Christ; and those who enlist in His army are expected to do difficult work—work which will tax their energies to the utmost. We must understand that a soldier’s life is one of aggressive warfare, of perseverance, and endurance. For Christ’s sake we are to endure trials.” –In Heavenly Places, p. 259
If we are called to stand up and fight the good fight of faith, is there a time when we should flee? Is it the coward who will flee from the enemy or danger? To flee is to be on the move as rapidly as possible in the opposite direction of the threatened danger. We have the case of Jonah recorded in the Bible. He is spoken of as a coward who initially ran in fear in the opposite direction than to where the Lord wanted him to go. The Lord stopped him and set him straight.
In many crises in the past, when God’s people were facing dangers (for example: During World War II), many faithful Christians fled their country to safety and the Lord protected His people and delivered them in miraculous ways, while some remained to answer for their faith. Those who fled were not cowards. They were following the direction of the Lord.
Reading from history, sometimes true Christians fled to the mountains (as with the Waldenses), in order to preserve the true faith. Sometimes they remained and fought as with the great leaders in the Christian Reformation who were called before counsels to answer for their faith (a good example is Martin Luther). Sometimes they fled, sometimes they stayed and witnessed for their faith before the great men of earth. Many perished as martyrs.
The question we have to ask the Lord about is, what should we do in a time of crisis, of sudden threatening danger? Do we run away? Do we remain? Sometimes we need to make a decision on the spur of a moment, thus we should be in constant communion with the Saviour, so that we can be directed as needed and make the right decision at the right time.
After Elijah’s mountain-top experience on Mount Carmel, Jezebel threatened his life and he fled in fear (1 Kings 19). He ran for a whole day and fell exhausted under a juniper tree and slept. He did not grow weary running before Ahab’s chariot in the pouring rain, but he was exhausted running for his life in fair weather. An angel woke Elijah and fed him. He ate but was so tired he fell back asleep. The angel woke him a second time and fed him. After this second meal, he was refreshed and was able to continue walking for 40 days. He fled to Mount Horeb.
On the mountain, the Lord appeared to Elijah and asked him, “What are you doing here?” It is strange to think that Elijah fled in fear from Jezebel after being so bold before King Ahab on Mount Carmel. Elijah made a spur of the moment decision through fear in a threatening situation. However, is this what God wanted of Elijah? Not really. But God is merciful. He fed Elijah on his journey and then appeared to him and told him to go back as He had work still for him to do, just like He did with Jonah. It was clearly not a time to flee.
During the time of Civil War in Lebanon (1975–1990), Andrew van der Bilj (author of the well-known book God’s Smuggler), travelled twice a year to Lebanon to encourage the Christian churches who were suffering. One family man and missionary named Lucian told Andrew on one of his visits, “I don’t think I can put my family through this any more.” His church had offered to move him to Cyprus to work where it was much safer. However, Lucian ended by saying, “Somehow, I feel the ministry belongs here, among the people whom we’re helping.” His house was half destroyed from the war and the lives of his family members were in constant danger, but they did not flee Lebanon as many others did. They felt it was their mission to remain. The Lord saw them safely through the years of the war, and they were able to encourage many Christians. (quotes taken from, Light Force, by Brother Andrew and Al Janssen, p. 62). They had an opportunity to flee, but they were impressed by the Holy Spirit to remain and encourage the Christian believers in Lebanon.
Martin Luther worked tirelessly for the cause he loved. He had found peace in faith in Christ—peace that had evaded him in his early life through all his work-righteousness as a Catholic monk. He now worked to bring this light to those who were still held in the chains of spiritual darkness by the corrupt leaders of the church.
He fearlessly, in the strength of the Lord, was called to answer for his faith at an assembly in Worms, Germany. Here he faced high ranking papal leaders and the political leaders of his country. He boldly went in the name of the Lord. After the proceedings he headed back to Wittenburg to continue his work, not fearing his own life. He had defied the authority of the fallen church by courageously standing for the truth and supporting his teachings through the word of God. He intended to fearlessly continue his work. He took the challenge and fought for the Lord. However, the Lord now had other plans for him temporarily. The Lord did not want him to continue the fight and possibly lose his life at this point in time, as the Papal leaders were plotting against him. Since he chose not to flee from the wrath of his enemies, the Lord caused him to flee without his knowledge or participation. “God gave wisdom to Frederick of Saxony to devise a plan for the Reformer’s preservation. With the co-operation of true friends, the elector’s purpose was carried out, and Luther was effectually hidden from friends and foes. Upon his homeward journey he was seized, separated from his attendants, and hurriedly conveyed through the forest to the castle of Wartburg, an isolated mountain fortress.” –The Great Controversy, p. 168
Fredrick was moved upon by the Holy Spirit to orchestrate a kidnapping in order to save the monk’s life. Martin Luther was taken out of the battlefield for a time and hidden in the castle at Wartburg.
“In the friendly security of the Wartburg, Luther for a time rejoiced in his release from the heat and turmoil of battle. But he could not long find satisfaction in quiet and repose. Accustomed to a life of activity and stern conflict, he could ill endure to remain inactive. . . . He feared being charged with cowardice in withdrawing from the contest. Then he reproached himself for his indolence and self-indulgence. Yet at the same time he was daily accomplishing more than it seemed possible for one man to do. His pen was never idle. . . . He also performed a most important service for his countrymen by translating the New Testament into the German tongue. From his rocky Patmos he continued for nearly a whole year to proclaim the gospel and rebuke the sins and errors of the times.” –Ibid., p. 168–169
Clearly it was the Lord’s will that, for a time, Martin Luther flee from the battlefield and work in a secret location, quietly doing a very important work for the Lord. Here he was safe from those who wanted to kill him and he could write, undisturbed. Back in Wittenburg he could not have accomplished this writing and translating in as short amount of time as he could while hidden away from society. When this work was accomplished, he returned to the battlefield.
Although we are called to fight the good fight of faith, there are very serious times that we can read of in the Bible when it is necessary to flee. And to flee means to go, get out, and run in the opposite direction as fast as you can and as far as you can go. The Bible does not simply use the words, “thou shalt not” in these verses; the word, “Flee” is used. Do not linger—get out!!!
Learning from the Garden of Eden, when Eve found herself in a dangerous situation, having wandered from the side of her husband she felt uneasy; she felt the danger. She should have fled back to her husband’s side immediately. This fear came from the Lord. However, Eve did not flee from this danger. She chose to remain, and she lost the spiritual battle.
“Flee fornication.” 1 Corinthians 6:18. We live in a time when many forms of vice seem to be becoming more acceptable. Some sins considered terrible 100 years ago, today are accepted as a normal way of life. Marriage is no longer sanctified. It is just as acceptable to live with a partner, unmarried, as it is to be married. Society accepts both. However, being unmarried and living with someone is considered fornication in the eyes of God. Fornication is accepted as normal behaviour in this day and age. However, we are to avoid this situation at all costs and go back to the principles of marriage that God ordained in the Garden of Eden. We are to flee—run away from any such temptation.
Make it a habit to flee. Do not stop to parley with the
tempter when he confronts you with any invitation to indulge in any form of lust. Immediate flight from the temptation is the only safe course to take. The temptation may often be very subtle and be committed in one’s thoughts only, with no outward action. “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Matthew 5:28. A person is safe only by fleeing from it. Joseph is a perfect example. He fled from the temptation of Potiphar’s wife when she tried to entice him into evil (Genesis 39:7–12).
“Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” 2 Timothy 2:22. The apostle Paul wrote these words to Timothy. Timothy was a young man at that time, very spiritual and serving in the cause of God.
Lust is a craving that finds sin appealing (diet, fashion, laziness, entertainment, etc.). Are youth the only ones prone to give into lust? No; each person has his own particular cravings, whether young or old, which arise from his own temperament and experiences; and the tempter takes advantage of these potential weak tendencies. While Satan may tempt man to sin, the temptations would have no force were there not in man a desire to lust after a particular sin. “No man can be forced to transgress. His own consent must be first gained; the soul must purpose the sinful act, before passion can dominate over reason, or iniquity triumph over conscience.” –Messages to Young People, p. 67
The bottom line: Neither God nor Satan can be blamed for sin. Sin is man’s decision. Man falls before temptation because of a desire to satisfy a particular craving that is contrary to the will of God. Evil desire is allowed to control the mind. You know your weaknesses, therefore flee every lustful thought immediately as it passes through the mind. Flee from every situation that you find yourself in where you may fall into sin. If you think you have no weaknesses and sinful tendencies, then pray as did David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23–24. ‘‘For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
“Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” 1 Corinthians 10:14. Again, the word flee here is used to indicate urgency, haste, immediate and continuing attention. Paul urges Christians to get as far away as possible from all contact with idolatry and from people who would endanger us to fall into the sin of idolatry. There must be no compromise with anything or anyone connected to idols. The dangers that are present in association with those who do not love and obey God are so great that the Lord calls upon His people to separate themselves from intimate contact with such. No man is strong enough to expose himself deliberately with idolatry in any form or idolatrous companions and be able to avoid contamination.
“Jesus will not be found in the company of those who are careless of His presence, and who engage in conversation having no reference to their Redeemer, in whom they profess their hopes of eternal life are centered. Jesus shuns the company of such, so also do the angels who do His commands. These heavenly messengers are not attracted to the crowd where minds are diverted from heavenly things. These pure and holy spirits cannot remain in the company where Jesus’ presence is not desired and encouraged, and His absence not marked.” –The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1118
“Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in her iniquity; for this is the time of the LORD’S vengeance; He will render unto her a recompense.” Jeremiah 51:6
The following is a portion of the 1895 General Conference sermon by E.J. Waggoner. In 1895 the Seventh-day Adventist Church was God’s church. Today, as you read this portion of the sermon and come across references that he makes to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, simply substitute “God’s church,” or the “Seventh-day Adventist Church Reform Movement.” Since the Seventh-day Adventist Church apostatized following World War I, the Seventh-day Adventist Church Reform Movement is God’s visible, remnant church on earth today.
“Many people have been getting the idea that if they get out of the Methodist church or the Presbyterian church or the Catholic church and get into the Seventh-day Adventist church, then they are out of Babylon. No. That is not enough, unless you are converted, unless you are separated from this world you are not out of Babylon, even though you are in the Seventh-day Adventist church and in the Tabernacle in Battle Creek. This is not saying that the Seventh-day Adventist church is Babylon; that is not it at all. But the man who is connected with himself is connected with the world, and the world is Babylon. You have separated from sin, separated from this world, to be out of Babylon. ‘Having a form of godliness, without the power,’ is simply another expression which describes Babylon and her condition in the last days. That being so, if I, a Seventh-day Adventist, have the form of godliness without the power, I belong to Babylon; no difference what I call myself, I am a Babylonian; I have on the Babylonish garment. I bring Babylon into the church wherever I go.” E. J. Waggoner, –General Conference Bulletin, February 13, 1895
“Do not stop for one moment to reason. Satan would rejoice to see you overthrown by temptation. Do not stop to argue the case with your weak conscience. Turn away from the first step of transgression.” –Counsels on Health, p. 587. When any temptation looms before you (fornication, lust, idolatry, etc.) do not stop to contemplate the risks and benefits, do not linger or stand up and try to fight in your own strength. The safest course of action is to turn away and flee. Flee to the foot of the cross. Flee to your knees in prayer. Turn your back on the world.
When Jesus comes, where will He find His living saints— those who have made it a habit to flee from fornication, lust and idolatry? “The people of God–some in prison cells, some hidden in solitary retreats in the forests and the mountains.” –The Great Controversy, p. 635. As we near the end of this world’s history, those who have fled to the cross, away from the world, may be called to drop everything and run when it is time to flee to the mountains. Some will be called to remain to “fight” and stand up for the truth before the magistrates and great men of earth, ending up in prison as a result. Do we fight? Do we flee? That is why it is so important to learn to “Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Thus as you converse with the Lord habitually, fleeing from sin, He will instruct you what to do in this emergency, whether to flee to the mountains or to remain. .
Every day we face smaller and less threatening disturbances. These will prepare us for the final attack against God’s people. The daily annoyances may not be terrifying in that they would not need immediate attention and decisive action. The devil is constantly on our track to annoy and disturb our peace. We may face some surprising and unexpected events that may not necessarily drive us into “fight or flight” mode. Some things may make our “blood boil.” Some things may require us to ponder and think what the best course of action would be. Sometimes we wonder what the Lord is trying to teach us by these circumstances. We still have to make a decision whether to stand up and face the circumstances, or to be silent and walk away if possible. When the crowds rejected His message in Nazareth and threatened to throw Him off a cliff, Jesus simply walked away. “He passing through the midst of them went His way.” Luke 4:30. And in the court of Pilate, Jesus remained silent. “And Pilate asked Him again, saying, Answerest thou nothing?” Mark 15:4. But when they desecrated the temple, He took immediate action. “And when He had made a scourge of small cords, He drove them all out of the temple.” John 2:15. There is a time to walk away, and a time to face the problem and take action. Every day, we need to make these decisions—pray for wisdom.
Today, the church of God also needs men like Timothy to fearlessly work for the Lord; young men and young women who will flee from all sinful lusts and idolatry in any form and take a firm stand for the truth.
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7. When you take a stand against sin, “Satan trembles and flees before the weakest soul who finds refuge in that mighty name.” –The Desire of Ages, p.131. “Neither give place to the devil.” Ephesians 4:27. We are no match to our enemy. We cannot rise up and fight him. Our safest course is to pray and Jesus will cause him to flee. If we flee to the foot of the cross the Lord will direct our paths, letting us know in every emergency whether we are to flee or to fight. “The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.” Proverbs 18:10