The Denison Forum reported this week a survey of young voters, in which one in four reported they would prefer having a giant meteor strike the earth than see either major candidate for president be elected for office. That’s where it’s come. It seems that, no matter what side of the political fence you have found yourself on over the years, even if you’ve switched sides from time to time, there always seemed to be a fairly clear moral choice: someone who aligned with your particular ideological stance. From that position, you could argue that the other side was all messed up, that your guy (or gal) knew what was best for the country, and that if your guy (or gal) got elected, we’d probably be on the right path, or at least on a better path than if the other side got elected.
Can you honestly say that now? In this election cycle, most of us, if we’re honest, find ourselves thinking, “I’m going to vote for X, because he or she is slightly less atrocious than the other guy (or gal), and I’m going to have to hold my nose while doing it.” And, that’s pretty much what we’ve got.
As we face this election cycle, the prevailing emotion I’ve seen in many of my friends and acquaintances is fear. Fear of what our country is becoming, fear that the world isn’t as safe a place as it used to be, or that our kids are growing up in an environment that brings us great discomfort. Fear that our economy is failing, that our faith is no longer the “winning side,” that we Christians are seen as weird, quirky, outcasts, hateful, and intolerant. We’re facing anxiety and fear, exacerbated by a government that’s dysfunctional, surroundings plagued by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.
When you think about it, that’s right where God wants us, isn’t it? Life is the inside of a blender. Why is it that we think the default position of our life, life in a Genesis 3 world, should be unyielding peace and prosperity? When has that ever been God’s promise? When the Hebrews were living in slavery under the Egyptians? When those same Jews were in exile, living with the ruthless god-king Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon? How about the good old days when Christians were persecuted under Nero in the Roman Empire? Or, the Inquisition? Burned at the stake in the early Reformation, like Ridley and Latimer? Anyone want to go back to the Black Death of the Middle Ages? Or, even be part of Bonhoeffer’s Confessing Church, speaking out against Nazi oppression? Or, the Church in China, or Syria, or Iraq, or Nigeria, right now?
Who is it, and when is it, that you want to trade up?
The fact is that the peace and prosperity myth is madness. It’s a lie from hell designed to rob us of the joy that we have in Christ, living in whatever time and place we live, and designed to keep us quaking in fear and praying for peace and protection, instead of fulfilling our legacy as more than conquerors. At Caesarea Philippi, when Christ says that “the gates of hell will not prevail” against His Church, let’s understand what that means. Gates were used to keep invaders out, as defensive measures. The image Jesus wants His disciples, and you, to grasp as your positional truth is one of the Church as an army, throwing itself at the gates of hell, of those gates being broken through, of a demonic enemy on the run before God’s people. That’s who you are, who we are.
Warriors who break through the gates of hell don’t live peaceful, easy lives. Sure, they feel fear and anxiety. But, instead of praying for God to make their lives easier, they pray for God to make their lives matter, to count for something. Mark Batteson says that, “too many of us pray as if God’s primary objective is to keep us from getting scared. But the goal of life is not the elimination of fear. The goal is to muster the moral courage to chase lions.”
Here at Grace Community School, one of our core values is “life as worship.” God is worthy of our worship to be sure, and we want all our lives, everything we do in the classroom, on the field, in the performance halls, in my office, to be an act of worship of Him. God should be praised, but one of the primary goals of worship is that it refocuses us. It reminds us we serve an all-powerful, Almighty God who works through history and despite the craziness around us, whatever era we live in, to accomplish His plans and His purposes. Worship reminds us this Almighty God will not be stopped, and we cannot be stopped when we serve Him and live according to His purpose.
The result of a refocused life is joy. Joy- abiding peace and rest- always exists despite circumstances, never because of them. The most joyful people I know are never the wealthiest, or the most beautiful. The person I most admire and wish I was right now has a husband who is dying and a son who is ill. She has reason to fear, yet she exudes joy, despite her circumstance.
When we’re joyful, we see adversity as opportunity: opportunity to reach people who don’t know the Lord, opportunity to be used by God to do impossible things that only God can do: difficult and heart-breaking things, to be sure, because to love is to hurt, but things that are always meaningful, and never, ever boring.
Maybe God will work a miracle and somehow give us a righteous leader. You should pray for that, and He can do it. But, if our current lot is designed to somehow shake us, huddled with anxiety, out of our tents and into our armor– confessing sin, living lives of obedience and trust and grace and truth–so we can launch ourselves together at hell’s gates, doing great and impossible things beyond our imagining but within the mind and plan of God, wouldn’t it all be worth it?
Isn’t that what the Holy Spirit within you cries out for your kids to be? Then, bring on this insanity, Lord, and let’s suit up.