Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Worst Day Ever!

Imagine this: Your alarm clock sounds at the usual time, alerting you that is time to get up, get the kids off to school, and get ready for work. This morning, you reach over to hit the snooze, only to accidentally turn the alarm off. The next sound you hear is the honking of the school bus as it briefly stops in front of your home and then pulls away toward the next stop. You jolt up in a panic. In a frenzy, you fly around the house, getting kids ready for school and yourself ready for work. You manage to pull everything together so as to maybe get the kids to school on time. You breeze out the door only to see a flat tire on your car. You’ve never changed a flat before, but by the time you make a call, get someone to come out, and get it changed, you’ll be even more behind than if you did it yourself. Forty-five minutes later, you wonder if your previous decision was a correct one, but now the tire is changed and you can’t go back. You are now disheveled, there is dirt under your nails, and you smell a bit sweaty. You rush the kids to school and sign them in as tardy as the principal stands behind the desk in the front office and gives you the you-have-to-be-the-worst-parent-in-the-world look. You get to work and hour and a half late, and there is a voice mail on your phone. The boss wants to see you immediately. You timidly go to his office, only to find out that his day must be just as bad as yours for he has no desire to hear your reason for being late. Amid flying spit and flailing arms, you are issued a warning to never be late again.

Sound like the beginnings of the worst day ever? In all honesty, it does. The first few hours of your waking time have been wrought with confusion, frustration, and opposition at every turn. But times such as these really try us, and our reactions can tell us much about our mindset. Is our reaction to be one of despair, helplessness, and anger? Or is it to be one of hope, trust, and faith? As Christians, we know the answer should be the second one, right? But why is it often not that way?

First, an ungodly reaction shows that we have a mentality of permanence. That is, we think things around us are stable and permanent. Now we always say the right things such as ‘nothing is guaranteed,’ ‘the next breath could be the last,’ and so on. But we really don’t think that way from day to day. We believe that today, for the most part, will be like yesterday, and tomorrow will pretty much be the same as well. Any changes are premeditated and planned, so those are OK. But we really don’t have the mentality that things around us are unstable and situations can change at any moment. We have become masters at controlling our environments. . . or so we think. But scripture points out that such thinking is ungodly. When Amos prophesied the destruction of Israel, he said in chapter 9 verse 10 that “All the sinners of My people shall die by the sword, who say, ‘The calamity shall not overtake nor confront us.’” God knew that deep down in their hearts and minds, they really did not believe that God would bring any calamity upon them. The thought is continued in the New Testament when Jesus, in Luke 12, tells the story of a man who decides to hoard some of his bountiful crops so he does not have to work for the next few years and enjoy some time off. But God said to him, ‘”Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” The man thought his life would be pretty much the same for the next few years, so since he had a great abundance, he would kick back and relax. But those years were not his to have. An attitude of impermanence is central to the Christian life and is woven throughout scripture. We are implored to be watchful and ready to take flight at any moment when our savior rends the skies and reveals Himself in glory. The parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25 illustrates this well. It has also entered into our Christian vocabulary where we are often described as pilgrims. A pilgrim is a transient; one who is traveling through and not entangled in the affairs of the areas he visits. Otherwise, he is bogged down and no longer traveling.

I like to think of it in terms of a wartime mentality as described by John Piper. The soldier moving through enemy territory travels light. He is only concerned about guarding himself and his fellow soldiers and making it to his destination. Even minor provisions are enough to keep him on his mission. He notices the things around him, but only from the viewpoint of how the enemy might use them to hinder or even destroy him. A vine could be concealing a trip wire. A grove of fruit trees may be the perfect place for the enemy to dig a pit. A seemingly mild distraction could be the ploy to get the soldier to lay down his arms. So are our days upon this earth. And an entanglement with the idea of permanence is one of distraction by the enemy. And, in the end, such an attitude can be one of a very anti-Christ spirit. Peter reminds us in 2 Peter 3 that “scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’ For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”

But there is one other thing such days can reveal, and that is where we place our trust. We trust in our cars to start every morning and for there to be air in the tires when we start to roll down the driveway. We trust that the school bus will arrive on time and that when we get to work we will have a job, just like the day before. We trust in so many things without even thinking twice. And the trust runs so deep that when we have the flat tire, or the car doesn’t start, or we are threatened with that job loss, our worlds can be rocked. These things have revealed our misplaced trust. If we trusted in Christ the same way, these things would not have the effect that they do. They would not control us. We take comfort in the things that are from God, yet not in God Himself. Our God is comfort, in the end. And ultimately, we have betrayed the only One who is worthy of our trust. When our faith is properly aligned in the person and integrity of Jesus Christ, these things do not destroy or derail us. It is in Him that we can be assured that He is working all things for His glory and our good if we are called by Him. In fact, trying times are times of great blessing because we know that we can “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1: 2-4.

So may we see the world as it is: waning, temporal, and not our home. And that becomes ever more evident as we see God for who He is: everlasting, permanent, and trustworthy.


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