Thursday, February 4, 2021

what then shall we do?

 There is no doubt that the world is going crazy. People seem to have collectively lost their ever-lovin' minds and are running toward a future that is full of broken hearts, shattered dreams, and days of darkness that we can't even imagine. Those who see the direction the world is headed are called bigots and conspiracy nuts and enemies of the state.

And honestly? We should take that as a blessing.

Jesus was despised by the world. Isaiah wrote,

"Out of emptiness he came, like a tender shoot from rock-hard ground.
He didn’t look like anything or anyone of consequence—
    he had no physical beauty to attract our attention.
So he was despised and forsaken by men,

    this man of suffering, grief’s patient friend.
As if he was a person to avoid, we looked the other way;
    he was despised, forsaken, and we took no notice of him."
~Isaiah 53:2-3

If we are truly His followers the world should despise us, too. Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ have lived this truth for generations, but most in the United States haven't ever truly tasted the meaning of Jesus's words: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:10) We've lived in peace and comfort, which has overwhelmingly led to complacency. As a result, we are fearful of the future that so many of us see coming so quickly. We are afraid of the cliff we see everyone running toward.

As so many before us, we ask Jesus, "What then shall we do?"

1. Rest in the knowledge that God isn't surprised by what's ahead of us.

"Remember the old days. For I am God; there is no other.
        I am God; there are no other gods like Me.
From the beginning I declare how things will end;

        from times long past, I tell what is yet to be, saying:
    'My intentions will come to pass.
        I will make things happen as I determine they should.'”
~Isaiah 46:9-10

Look at that again-- He alone is God. He knew how things would end before they even began, and He determines how things happen.

All this mess and chaos that somehow has caught us off guard? He's not surprised by any of it. And here's the kicker that we seem to forget--His will is still happening. The stuff we're seeing in the world around us didn't throw off his plans or make Him have to rethink things.

2. "Always be ready to offer a defense, humbly and respectfully, when someone asks why you live in hope." (1 Peter 3:15)

In this time of confusion, people are searching for hope. We're told in Ecclesiastes that God put eternity in our hearts, but without Him that sense of eternity is disquieting. It's that sense of eternity that has people searching and striving, but He's the only One that can satisfy that longing. When people see us, they should see that we are different--that we aren't searching for a way to be filled. They should see that we have a "peace that passes all understanding" (Philippians 4:7), that we aren't filled with stress and anxiety about the future. It should be so obvious to them that something's different that they ask why. And when they ask, we have to be able to give an answer. We have to be able to tell them that we know God is in control and that He is able to keep us through anything and everything that comes our way.

I have to be honest, I don't live that way. I tend to dwell in a place of stress and anxiety instead of resting in the unexplainable peace of God. Instead of relying on Him to give me what I need for today, I work and plan and stress over trying to make sure I have everything I need for the future. Oh, I'm ready to give an answer (I'm good at answers), but I don't live in such a way that people want to know what makes me different.

3. Remember that we aren't promised ease and comfort.

Sometimes we seem to cling to the idea that once we have made the decision to follow Christ, life will turn into smooth sailing. I can't count how many times I've heard people say, "Just love Jesus; He wants to make you happy." The thing is, we aren't promised happiness. In fact, we're promised exactly the opposite: In John 16 Jesus told His disciples that in this world they would have tribulation. What was translated as "tribulation" is the Greek "thlipsis," which more literally means a pressure that constricts or constricts. Jesus wasn't telling His followers that things would be easy. Instead, He told them that they would face times that would put them in a tight spot, times of pressure and friction.

As He so often does, though, He followed the warning up with a promise: "you need not fear; I have triumphed over this corrupt world order." (John 16:33, Voice)

4. Take refuge in God.

I'm glad that Jesus has overcome the world, don't get me wrong. Without that promise, the others wouldn't do a whole lot of good. What I'm most thankful for, though, is the promise that we aren't left to fend for ourselves. Yes, we will face hard times. For those of in the United States, I think we're tumbling towards a time when we will get a taste of what our brothers and sisters around the world have experienced for a long time. Here's the thing, though--God could have given us salvation and the promise of eternal life, then stepped back and told us we were on our own to get through this life. But that's not the way He chooses to operate. Instead, He makes us these promises:

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”  ~Joshua 1:9

"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." ~Matthew 28:20b

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." ~Isaiah 41:10

And like David wrote after God saved him from Saul, may we always say, 

"I love You, Eternal One, source of my power. The Eternal is my rock, my fortress, and my salvation; He is my True God, the stronghold in which I hide, my strong shield, the horn that calls forth help, and my tall-walled tower." ~Psalm 18:1-2

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