2010-03-14 (pm) LD 50 Psalm 104 Daily Bread
Consider the wisdom of the world. Work hard. Save and invest. Prepare for the future. Put funds into an RRSP. Don’t trust the government’s pension. Don’t wait ‘till its too late. Set money aside today for tomorrow.
There is wisdom there isn’t there? But there’s also a danger.
Keep in mind the ground of a certain rich man which produced a good crop. He thought to himself, “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.” Then he said, “This is what I’ll do, I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there i will store all my grain and my goods. Then I will be able to take it easy, eat drink and be merry.”
But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your very life will be demanded of you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”
When we consider the fourth request of the Lord’s Prayer, it is not only an expression of trust in God, it is also a humbling reminder. All that we have is not ours, it is Gods. God has graciously provided it for us.
And so, that ought to give us pause, that we might not have too cavalier attitude about not just our stuff, but also our very lives.
When we place our lives in Christ, we gain a new perspective. We’re pulled, as it were, out of the rat race. We’re rescued from the hamster wheel of the endless pursuit of the next great thing, the next achievement, the next goal. We step off, step out of that world and into a new world.
In this new world we see life laid out before and behind us. We see God in the beginning of creation, speaking everything into existence. We see him creating and forming every beautiful and amazing thing. We see his delight in his creation, his joy in his work, indeed it is very good.
We see him form humans, first man then woman. Creatures bearing God’s image. Destined to be in relationship with him, everlasting beings, created to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
And though the fall into sin marred all this beauty, nevertheless it remains to this day. But with the fall came a dark perspective. Instead of seeing creation as it is, reflecting and telling all of God’s glory, it became the means of man’s glory, man’s delight.
Instead of governing the creation with God’s perfect and pure authority, humans have used and abused, not only it, but also one another for the pursuit of personal gain, fame and glory.
Into that darkness the light of Christ shines. Christ teaches us the truth. And, having seen the way it is meant to be, we are able to move toward the right perspective once again.
What’s the right approach to planning for the future? What was sinful in the rich man’s attitude? Wasn’t it his greed? Wasn’t it that he was seeking only to spend his fortune, God’s fortune, God’s gift to him on himself?
Suppose someone comes up to you and says, “So, how are your investments doing in light of the recession? Are you still going to be able to retire by the sea?”
Suppose also that even thought the recession was tough, you got through, not only okay, but that your portfolio is even stronger now than before. So what are you planning to do with God’s blessings? What is God calling you to do?
Does God call us to live only for ourselves? Does God tell us to live for the long vacation after years of hard work?
It is a desire and a temptation that I struggle with. I very much desire such a thing, and yet, if ministry continues to go well, I honestly can’t ever see myself retiring. I realise that one day I’ll be old, and even more out of touch with the realities faced by those around me, but I can’t deny the fact that there’s nothing more that I want to do with my life than serve God as a pastor.
Pastor John Piper speaks very strongly on these terms. He chastises his listeners who dream of retiring by the sea, spending long hours walking the beach collecting sea shells. He says something like this, “When you appear before your saviour and he asks of you, ‘What have you done with the blessings I gave you?’ How will it look to say, ‘Well we collected some nice shells!’”
We were created for more than ourselves. We are raised with Christ to do more, to do our Father’s will. No, this does not mean life is lived on God’s treadmill, stoically going along, doing what we believe God requires of us. No, it means that we see that our lives have purpose beyond our limited imaginations.
It means that we see the universe, the earth as really belonging to God. We see that he is involved in every aspect of creation. He provides water. He causes grass to grow and trees to tower, fruit to appear in season. All the creatures of the earth turn to God for food. They tremble when God approaches, for he who gives is he who also he who takes away.
Though there is one creature who barely takes notice at all. Indeed, there is one creature who believes he is the creator. Humans believe that if we aren’t the cause of creation, then we’ll be the destruction of it. Humans are convincing themselves that there is no God, that everything happened by chance, and that ultimately there is no meaning to life.
Then, society blames religion for trying to control the masses. But in reality, society is controlled by the media.
Michael Crichton in his book, State of Fear, demonstrates how the media is used to create a state in which to control the general population. In WWII it was the Nazis. In the cold war, it was communists. With the fall of communism in eastern Europe and Asia, a new fear had to be found. Looking back through newspapers reveals that soon after the fall of communism works like extreme, catastrophic, unprecedented, started appearing in newspapers when describing weather.
Weather, accidents, plane crashes, terrorism, all have contributed to a perceived state of fear. The media has kept it up, seeking to persuade the general population into believing that danger lurks around every corner.
So how shall we respond? Shall we run for cover? Shall we cower in fear about the next great event to befall us?
Do you remember all the hype surrounding y2k? There were all sorts of dire predictions that if computers weren’t upgraded that planes would crash, traffic would snarl and all manner of calamity would strike. But it didn’t happen. Hardly a whisper. And what was the response, “We were so well prepared.” The truth? It was nothing more than hype. It was nothing at all.
Some feel the same way today about the H1N1 virus. All hype and nothing to show for it. What concerns me is when people stop listening to these cries of “Wolf” and when a real danger happens people will really be unprepared.
For Christians, though, we have no fear, except the fear of God. We fear God because he is all powerful. He holds the world in his hands. He brings into being. He causes being to end. He brings life, he takes life away. We are totally at God’s mercy.
In his sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, Jonathan Edwards vividly describes all of humanity as spiders hanging from their threads attached to God’s hands. The spiders are held over a fire. Unless God keeps holding them, into the fire they fall.
For Christians, however, we’re held safe in God’s hands. He has called us, recreated us in Christ and made us steadfast in him.
Everything we need comes from God’s hands. God is merciful and just. God provides everything we need, and more.
Now, during the last year, some, more than others, have experienced God’s attention to their lives. Though times were tight, still we didn’t experience what has been experienced in the past.
Even so, those who felt the pinch, felt at the same time a deep sense of God’s care in their lives. All of us though, can resonate with the Psalmist’s declarations, we are in God’s hands. Yes, God is wonderful and terrible to behold. He demands our lives, sometimes when we least expect it.
Therefore, we live our lives with God’s plan in mind. We are destined for eternity. Why long for the beach rest, the extended vacation, the retirement of luxury, when there is work to be done. Not just using our hands for practical purposes, but spreading the good news of Christ around the world.
We might make all plans, but if we haven’t consulted God, we plan in vain. Consider James, Jesus’ brother’s teaching on this. In James 4:13-17 he says, “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why you do not even know wha twill happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “if it is the Lord’s will we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”
In light of this, in light of the catechism, in light of the Psalm, let us remember where every good and perfect gift comes from. Let us humble ourselves before God’s mercy. Let us always try to remember that we are dependent fully on God’s generosity. Let us have in mind God’s plan for us and our lives, seeking to glorify him, through our trades, our school attendance, our work, our neighbours, our friends and our family.
Let us live such good lives, such carefree, trusting in God lives, that those who have taken notice, will notice all the more, and will wonder about those generous, happy, friendly Christians who live to serve Christ with a near reckless abandon!