Thursday, August 28, 2008

Anxieties of Life

“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.” Luke 21:34 NIV
What day? The day that the heavenly bodies will be shaken; the day we see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory; the day of our redemption; the day the kingdom of God arrives (v. 26, 27, 28, 31).

That day will come unexpectedly, trapping us in the way we have been living. There will be no time or chance to change at that point. How we’re living then will be what matters. It will not come unexpectedly to everyone but only to those whose hearts have been weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life.

This puts me in mind of a similar passage in Matthew, where Jesus gives an illustration of what he means:
"Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, 'My master is staying away a long time,' and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of.” Matthew 24:45-50 NIV
Why does the day come unexpectedly? In this last passage, it is because the servant thinks it’s going to be a long time before his master returns and so he figures he can live however he wants for now, and closer to the time of the master’s arrival, he’ll clean up his act. But he’s so involved with mistreating his fellow servants and having a good time at the master’s expense that he forgets about the master’s return. His mind isn’t on pleasing his master or on doing what is right, but on pleasing himself and so he is caught off guard.

Contrast this with the servant who also doesn’t know when his master will return but who spends every day treating his fellow servants the way his master would want him to. Yes, the master will come unexpectedly to him too but it won’t be a disaster because every single day has been the same in the sense that every day he was ready.

Back at our first verse we can see what impedes us from being ready for the Day of the Lord: dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life. Most Christians see the hazards of dissipation and drunkenness, but the “anxieties of life” are another matter. The New Living Translation warns against being “filled with the worries of this life.” Can worry keep us from being unprepared for the Day of the Lord? Is worry as dangerous as drunkenness? Is it as sinful? We tend to think not.

We excuse our worry by saying that we’re being responsible or careful but Jesus clearly says that if we are weighed down or filled with worry and anxiety not only will the Day of the Lord come unexpectedly, meaning that we’ll be unprepared for it, but also that we will find ourselves trapped. We’ll be caught with our pants down, so to speak; it will be too late to change, too late to stop worrying. We will be like that servant who was carousing while the master was away: cut to pieces and assigned to “a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 24:51 NIV

Worrying is that bad? Why? Because it shows a lack of trust in God. Jesus says:
“...do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. ...Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? ...See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? ...For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:25-33 NIV
“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” This is to be what occupies our mind, not how we will pay off the debt, or find enough money for school supplies, taxes, insurance; not the safety of our children as they travel abroad; not our neighbour who keeps irritating us; not even the proposed new law that will promote sinful behaviour throughout the nation. When my mind is focused on God and stays focused on him, then it won’t matter when the Day of the Lord comes because I’ve been connected with him all along. My life and manner of living will continue throughout eternity, just as it did before the Day of the Lord—seeking God and his righteousness—only it will be so much better.

Father, I want to live now how I will live forever in your kingdom—focused on you, loving you, drawing near to you, my whole being connected with you through your Spirit. Please keep me from allowing anxiety, worry and concern about anything else to get in the way. I want to trust you for all things, knowing that you provide all that I need and even the desires of my heart. I don’t want to be caught off guard by your coming, but to be ready to enter into a new dimension of relationship with you. Thank you for your love, your guidance, your direction, your interest in me. Thank you for all you have done and are doing for me. You are an awesome God. I love you.

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