One of the greatest advancements in human health is the vaccine. A tiny amount of a weakened or dead germ is introduced into the blood stream. It provides a practice run for the body’s immune system, which learns to recognize it and produces antibodies to attack the threat. The system stores a copy of these antibodies, so that, weeks or even years later, when the real germ shows up, the body is ready to fight it. Often the germ is destroyed before it can cause symptoms. Many diseases, such as polio, have been exterminated by vaccines.
Spiritual vaccines are a good idea, too. There are certain things that we need to be inoculated against before we encounter them, so that we will not be caught unprepared.
Vaccinated against temptation
In Proverbs 6:20-22, Solomon advised his son:
My son, observe the commandment of your father, And do not forsake the teaching of your mother; Bind them continually on your heart; Tie them around your neck. When you walk about they will guide you; When you sleep, they will watch over you; And when you awake they will talk to you.
Solomon urged his son to bind his godly teachings on his heart in a day of calm reflection, so that they would already be in place to provide guidance and protection in a day of quick decision. Solomon knew that his son would soon have to make choices without mom and dad at his shoulder.
Solomon’s chief concern is obvious if you keep reading—to avoid adultery. Solomon warns his son that sexual temptation will be very powerful and exciting. Only by rehearsing what one will say in that moment, only by reviewing the consequences—financial ruin (6:26), shame (6:27-28), disgrace (6:33), the spouse’s anger (6:35), not to mention God’s wrath (1 Thess. 4:3-8)—will a godly person have the fortitude to say no.
The time to learn God’s word is not during a crisis. We need to “have our senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb. 5:14) long before we find ourselves faced with sin. There’s not a soul who can call time out and suggest a little Bible study when already in the backseat! You need to already be convinced. You need to already know what you will say and do.
Vaccinated against false teaching
In Acts 20:28-31, Paul reviewed his time among the Ephesian elders.
Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore, be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.
Notice that Paul preached to prepare them for the coming of false teachers. Timothy needed to preach truth to his congregation too, for “the time will come” when they will need to use it to defend themselves (2 Tim. 4:1-4).
It is never a bad time to have a doctrinal sermon. The peace of the auditorium class is a great time to discuss doctrines like instrumental music, once saved always saved, infant baptism, long before people show up who recommend them. The teen class is a great time to discuss what skeptics are saying about the Bible and evolution and humanism, long before hearing it from the college professor. One must know the real to spot the counterfeit. This can certainly be overdone, but a congregation that has been warned against false teaching is a congregation less likely to have a problem with it.
Vaccinated against tragedy
In Psalm 37:24, David says of the faithful, “When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.” Christians are not shielded from suffering and hardship and loss. But those with a firm faith and knowledge of God’s ways will be spared from the spread-eagle, crash-and-burn, total wipeout.
In the throes of emotional grief, it will be tempting to say things like, “Why does God hate me so much?” and “What did I do to deserve this punishment?” The preacher can’t really say then, “Let me convince you otherwise with a good long Bible study.”
The time to buy bottled water is before the hurricane blows. And the time to prepare for inevitable tragedy is long before the phone rings. Your head has to be fully convinced for your heart to follow along after. Don’t leave your mind exposed to the mercy of your emotions. Decide right now that you’ll let nothing cause you to give up on God, and find the reasons in Scripture why God is trustworthy all the time (Job 1:21, Psalm 84:10). It’s no accident being able to give thanks in the midst of suffering; it comes to those who have vaccinated their spirits in times of plenty. —John Guzzetta