Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fear or Future?

These are times of political change conflict, economic uncertainty, and armed conflict. People all over the world share a common concern for their safety and security, but most find themselves filled with worry and uncertainty. Good news seems difficult to find, and those who deliver the news from across the globe to our living room or doorstep seem to have only one message: our worst fears may come to pass.

Fear is a part of everyday life in our day. But that’s where the gospel message breaks in and challenges us to get our news from a different source: from the good news of Jesus and his Kingdom. Just when we are tempted to think that these times are unique, the Scriptures remind us that people of every generation, every race, and every society have had to cope with fear and uncertainty. The fears of the human heart do not change from one century to the next. God's answer is always the same: there is a King in Heaven who will return to earth, and we can participate in His Kingdom right now, even before he returns.

In Luke’s gospel, we get a picture of a society eager to find a solution to their worries. The beginning of Luke chapter 12 tells us that so many people gathered to hear the teachings of Jesus that the crowds grew to many thousands, sometimes in danger of trampling upon one another (Luke 12:1). They were hungry for good news. But there is a difference between being part of a crowd and being a disciple. In that setting Jesus reminded his disciples how to order their priorities and manage their fears.

Our First Priority
He taught that our first priority was be sure our fears are rightly placed--in reverence to God Himself, the ultimate Judge. Jesus boldly indicated that the only judgment that mattered was the final judgment when the Son of God would return. In the first paragraphs of this chapter (Luke 12: 4-21) we can receive a powerful revelation from the Scriptures, namely that riches in this life are not as important as being “rich toward God.” (v. 21) Here is a meditation for Students of Jesus: what does it mean to be "rich toward God?"

After establishing the one ultimate truth about Judgment Day, Jesus began to address the cares and worries of this world, the here-and-now. He taught that the reality of the Kingdom of God is not simply about the afterlife, but rather that the Kingdom of God should impact the way we think and act now. He assures us that God cares about our everyday needs. He promises us that we can settle our fears by learning how to trust Him for practical things. In this new relationship with God He will provide for our everyday needs:

And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom (Luke 12: 29 - 32, NIV).

He Will Provide
The same Father who provides for our eternal life also provides for our needs right now. That is, the blessing of his Kingdom can begin now for those who walk in a trusting relationship with him. Do we really believe that our Heavenly Father is pleased to “give us the Kingdom?” It's liberating. If we treasure the Kingdom we find liberty to sell everything we have. If we treasure the Kingdom we become free to demonstrate that Kingdom in radical ways to those in need (which is everyone).

True, in the remaining portion of the chapter (verses 35 - 59) He instructs us to look forward to his return. We should be ready for that day! But Jesus suggests that readiness for the Final Day expresses itself in sold-out obedience here and now. Kingdom citizens can live and act out of the certainty of the future in the midst of uncertainty worldwide. We are free to be unpredictable followers of the King and change-agents for his Kingdom. Anyone can embrace the Kingdom when it is fully manifested. We are called to act in faithfulness now to a Kingdom not yet fully revealed.

These verses about the Kingdom of God in the middle of the chapter are heart of his message. Luke 12 opens and closes with images from the end of the age, but by proclaiming the Kingdom of God in the middle of the chapter Jesus reminds us that if our priorities are correct his Kingdom can impact our everyday needs and calm our fears.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I wrote this article in February for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website. I have reprinted it here (with some changes) because I took the week off to celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary!

1 comment:

  1. happy anniversary, belated...and here's to being an unpredictable follower of the King and a chnage-agent for his Kingdom!!