Today’s world is overwhelming. We’re inundated day after day with what is always made out to be massive news. A few headlines from the last week:
– “With Putin by His Side, Xi Outlines His Vision of New World Order…”
– “Bug-Out Bags and Survival Training Go Mainstream…”
– “Another Day, Another Court for Donald Trump…”
– “MIRACULOUS RESCUE FROM HAMAS TERRORISTS: ‘God came down and saved my parents'”
– “Death toll reaches 100 in flash floods and GLOF events in Sikkim and West Bengal, India”
– “BREAKING: Israel Bombs Damascus & Aleppo Airports Before Iran’s Foreign Minister Due To Arrive”
How are we supposed to stand in the face of such large-scale events? What is our role as believers on a daily basis? How can someone with a yard to mow, children needing time and care, and a job to work every day really have an impact on anything on that list?
When we view life in terms of headlines, it quickly overwhelms us and can move us into spiritual paralysis. I’m the guiltiest. I spend my days in a cubical making phone calls. I feel the angst of passing up service opportunities at my church or local charities like a stab in the gut. It makes me feel small and like I just don’t seem to have the bandwidth to help.
Times and seasons like this can really bring the urgency of The Great Commission home. More and more Bible Prophecy is unfolding every day, and we see the guidepost as they draw near (Gog Magog, Damascus) and as we pass them by (the rebirth of Israel, The forming of Gog’s alliance). Giving into helplessness is easier when we let our lives get out of balance on either side. We have to find a way to live in expectation but also be about the Father’s business. We must keep our eyes on Heaven and our hands on the plow.
Twenty-three years ago, my dad (an OBGYN) delivered Darren. Darren grew up like a lot of us and wrestled with a lot of the same issues. Some of his battles he won, and some he lost. At some point in his life, he became involved in substance abuse and violent behavior, and an association with gangs soon followed after. His addictions dogged him, and try as he might, he never could break free.
One afternoon, his mother, still a patient, called my dad’s office in tears. The office was packed with patients, but my dad carved out a few minutes to see why she would be calling. She explained that Darren had reached out for help to escape his life of drugs and violence. My dad attempted to arrange a later meeting with him, but his mother insisted it must be now. She was out of resources as no one would help her. She remembered my dad praying over him at birth, and something told her to call.
My dad made plans to cover the rest of his day and met Darren in a restaurant that afternoon. After a long discussion, Darren repented of his sins and shortcomings and was able to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord of his life. He began to attend regular group meetings and live soberly. He left the gang behind. He was fighting the good fight and winning.
Three weeks after that night at the restaurant, my dad received another frantic call from Darren’s mother. Darren was on his way home from a recovery meeting and was broadsided by a drunk driver. He was killed instantly.
If my dad hadn’t taken the time on his way through a busy day in the office, if Darren hadn’t taken the time to call out for help, he may not have come to salvation and restoration in his life. Darren may not have been a believer for long, but like the thief on the cross, he received the truth. That moment impacted many people in his family, even after he passed.
My dad taught me a lesson over the years that brings me great comfort to this day. That lesson is found in Darren’s story but also in the book of Matthew.
The first 30 verses of Matthew chapter 25 are two prophetic parables about the nature of the very days we live in. Jesus has just finished what’s known as the Olivet Discourse. He gives his disciples a list of things to watch out for as his return approaches so they would know three things: when these things would begin, what the sign of his coming would be, and then, finally, the sign of the end of the age. This message in chapter 24 is not a symbolic story or allegorical sermon meant to help them with some ethereal concept. This was a direct and specific list of how the world will look as the end approaches. He follows this up with two parables that provide a warning to those who don’t heed His previous words… those who decide to live life as though all systems were normal. The order of these parables is indeed significant.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins is found in Matt 25:1-13. Here, we see 10 women watching for the bridegroom to arrive and open a door. The oil in the lamps represents the Holy Spirit, and as the night begins, they all have some oil in their lamps. Even in the body of believers here, we see a division that ultimately kills. Half of the virgins are not in a relationship with the Holy Spirit. Perhaps they called on the Lord at one time but didn’t cultivate a deeper, greater intimacy. As a result, they ran out of oil. They ran out of the source for the light in their life. In desperation, they turned to those who were not so foolish and sought and brought all the oil they could so they would last through the long night.
The five virgins that made it through the night kept their eyes on heaven and prepared as they saw it drawing closer. They may have grown weary and fallen asleep, but their lamps were full when the bridegroom arrived. The relationship they allowed the Holy Spirit to cultivate in them carried them through to the end.
In Matt 25:14-30, we find the parable of the talents. Many readers have likened this to how we use our gifts and abilities in this life, and I have no problem with that interpretation. I do, however, believe there is a little more in the layers here.
The crux of the parable is that while the master was away, he entrusted three servants with some of his wealth. Two spent it wisely and actually used what they were given to grow the wealth. The third looked at what he had been entrusted with, remembered that his master had high expectations, and out of fear, he hid his coin. Perhaps he thought if the master never returns, at least I’ll know where the gold is buried. Whatever he thought, the master was furious and cast him out into darkness.
While the master was away, the two wise servants spent the time doing what they could to grow his kingdom. They worked and filled their time wisely so they could show him that they could be trusted. Keep in mind the master gave according to each one’s ability. In other words, he had appropriate expectations for them and was going to judge them accordingly. The two wise servants kept their hands on the plow and were rewarded.
There’s no coincidence that these parables follow a pretty horrific description of the end. They are not meant to discourage but to give us a method and thus hope. When you feel overwhelmed by the times and seasons, look up to heaven and know that your Father loves you and has an appropriate expectation for you wherever you are in life. When you feel too small and insignificant, put your hand on the plow and trust the Holy Spirit to multiply your talents.
Jesus has never taken his hand off the plow. We know he won, and we know the ending as believers. Take your anxieties and inadequacies to the foot of the cross and find rest and purpose.
If you want to read more about how to incorporate what I call an “On the Way” approach to your life, if you feel anxious about the times, you can read more about overcoming this in our latest book, On the Way: Ministering in the Moment. Follow the link below for more info or to place an order.
May The Lord bless you and keep you, wherever you are, in whatever you do.
To order On the Way: Ministering in the Moment on Amazon: https://a.co/d/9YdnOJq
To order directly from the publisher: www.wipfandstock.com/9781666782851/on-the-way