Chicken Little was sure the sky was falling. Increasingly, the conversations we are having in our country and communities sound a lot like Chicken Little. The sky is falling because _________. (insert your favorite problem here) But is that true?
That’s the question posed by a well-known Harvard psychologist named Steven Pinker. In his recent book, Enlightenment Now, he argues that despite the tsunami of headlines that have us convinced the sky is truly falling, the numbers and data tell a different story. For example, he notes the following:
- Humans are living longer lives than in previous generations
- Millions fewer people are living in extreme poverty
- War-related deaths are down significantly
- Totalitarian regimes are in decline
- Literacy and equal rights are far more wide-spread
- Economic prosperity is growing for many populations
- Terrorist deaths are reduced
- Overpopulation threats are diminishing
Is he right? Well, some agree, and some accuse him of cherry-picking the data. I’m not doing either one of those. Whether you agree with Pinker or not, his point is powerful: Our opinions of our current and future well-being have almost EVERYTHING to do with what we choose to focus on. In 2018 it’s super easy to focus on the click-bait headlines and get thoroughly disgusted and demoralized. Pinker’s suggestion is to look at something else, namely the hard data.
Here’s where Jesus comes in. Jesus calls us to focus on something other than only what’s going on under our noses. The temptation is to become fearful and anxious because of the events happening in our family, our city, our nation, or our world. But there’s another place to focus: the kingdom of God. That glorious, unstoppable revolution that Jesus started, and which he will one day finish when he returns. If the book of Revelation has left you scratching your head, then know this about it: Jesus wins! That’s the message of the whole book. For that matter, it’s the message of the WHOLE book, from Genesis thru Revelation.
But we easily forget that. The click-bait culture is conspiring to cloud our vision of true reality. We get so tightly focused on here, that we forget there’s another reality. Here will one day be caught up in the “hereafter.” Oh, don’t be confused. It’s not that we’re getting whisked off this planet. No, it’s actually scheduled for a radical restoration project, much like the radical restoration project that God has already begun in the followers of Jesus. (For details on this, I highly recommend N.T. Wright’s, Surprised By Hope, a book that is sure to rock your understanding of life in the here AND the hereafter.) The hard question is, “what are we focused on?” Is it the immediate…the headlines…the click-bait?
What if, while working faithfully on the real challenges we DO face (because we’re called to be the light of the world), you could focus on the reality that Jesus wins. What if, when tempted to wring your hands and fling your accusations at the mess around us now, you could lift your head up and see down the road. What if, in those moments, you could see the King of Kings and the Prince of Peace. What if you took him at his word when he said,
Don’t worry…but seek first his kingdom. (Matthew 6:31-33)
What if we left Chicken Little behind and became men and women whose vision was transformed by the power of the Spirit of God, and fueled by the HOPE of the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ? Then whatever happens around us, we can be those who ignite the HOPE of the gospel in our city, county, and world.
Once a month I drive to Frederick to see my chiropractor. On my most recent visit, I was reminded of the similarities to our spinal health, and our spiritual health. I learned three important connections.
ONE: I need frequent re-alignments. Over time, my body reverts back to sub-optimal patterns. Slouching, lifting incorrectly, laziness regarding my exercises, etc. Then my spine/neck revert to their old ways, which involves limited movement, and eventually pain.
Spiritually, we can revert back to sub-optimal patterns. Ways of thinking, behaving, speaking, believing and more. Our spiritual health begins to suffer. We’re limited in our ability to live the life we’re made for. And eventually we get to pain. We need re-alignment.
TWO: A skilled practitioner knows exactly where the trouble spots are. My chiropractor has an uncanny ability to put his finger on the one painful part of my neck and say, “Does this hurt?” OUCH! Why, yes, it does…and it would feel better if your finger wasn’t pushing on it. He then patiently helps put things back in line.
Spiritually, there is no human who can do this. But God the Holy Spirit certainly can. When we allow God to examine our lives, he often puts his finger on the place that is filled with pain. That’s why sometimes you may find yourself getting very emotional during a worship gathering, and you wonder, “What’s going on?” It’s God, patiently trying to heal the broken place in your life.
THREE: My ways of dealing with stress often exacerbate my problems. I carry stress poorly (is there a good way to carry it) and the result can be tightened muscles, reduced flexibility, and seized_up vertebrae. The most common instruction I hear while on the table is, “relax.”
Spiritually, we don’t need to carry stress. But we do. We worry about so many things. And it creates problems for us in our relationships, our appetites, our habits, and more. And then we come across a passage like this:
Do not be anxious about anything… (Phil 4:6)
Right! If you want to learn HOW to actually live like this, please join us this Sunday for “Overcoming Stress and Gloom.” It’s the last week in our series, “Joyful Living in a Stressed Out World.” Hope to see you then!