September 5, 2011

It’s hard to stay on the right road

Sometimes driving in our city feels like I’m in a war zone with other drivers bent on destruction. They drive like kamikaze pilots with no concern for their own lives and certainly none for the safety of others on the road. This past few days, I’ve seen vehicles make left turns in front of oncoming traffic, drivers hit the gas to speed through red lights, motorcycles doing double the limit up, over and back down the ramps of an overpass to get ahead of traffic and the usual cars weaving in and out of traffic as if being there first was going to get them a trophy.

Traffic is not the only peril in this world. In talking with a young man who just returned from Africa, we heard stories of the apathy where he lived. People don’t care about much of anything, just having their own way without concern for others, or their eternal destiny.

The psalmist felt much the same about his world.

Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar! Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war! (Psalm 120:5–7)
Spurgeon points out that as a Christian, I must live in an ungodly world. There isn’t any point in crying, “Woe is me” even though I feel like it at times. Being here is not about what I want. If it was, I would be no different from the reckless, careless, self-focused all around me.

Today’s devotional reading offers the reminder that Jesus did not pray that His people should be taken out of the world. Because of that, I should not be thinking of escaping this place, at least not for that reason. Instead, I need to be asking Him for His strength to meet the difficulties of living in this world. He wants me to be determined to glorify Him rather than live for myself.

I realize that my bigger battle is with Satan, my unseen but ever-present enemy. He is continually looking for ways to cripple my conduct and ruin my witness. If he cannot destroy me, he will tell me lies to throw me off track and get me thinking more about my I-wants than about glorifying God.

On the other hand, the Bible tells me to watch my conduct and give no occasion for blame. While I find this hard to imagine, I’m to let my goodness be the only fault others can discover in me. One example is the Old Testament prophet, Daniel.

Then the presidents and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.” (Daniel 6:4–5)
To live without fault is challenge enough, but the greater challenge from Spurgeon’s reading today is this: “The worse the people are among whom you live, the more need have they of your exertions; if they be crooked, the more necessity that you should set them straight; and if they be perverse, the more need have you to turn their proud hearts to the truth.”

He says that doctors go where there are sick people. Soldiers earn the greater honor in the thick of the battle. When I am dismayed or weary of the strife and sin that seem to be in every corner, I need to remember that all God’s people have endured the same trial. None were carried on beds of ease to heaven. I cannot expect to travel more easily nor can I escape the reason that He put me here. I am His ambassador and in His name, I represent my real home.

Yet sometimes I just want to opt out. Sadly, some Christians do simply stop trying. The mess is greater than their desire to be effective for God in reaching out to those who are in it. They find other things to do.

This is a big temptation for me. I could spend the rest of my days perfecting skills in some hobby or other. I could ignore the news and the lost condition of those around me. I could shake my finger at poor driving instead of caring that the drivers need more than a refresher course in driving. However, I know for certain that God offers only one cure for their problems and for all selfishness and sin. There is only one way to overcome thoughtless and even foolish behavior and I must walk that way. If I take the other route, then I will lose any right or credibility to tell others about that one way.

Father, the good news of forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ can change lives. Those who do not care about others need new hearts, yet most of them either do not know it or do not want change. That does not alter Your command to me. I’m still supposed to tell them about Your love for them and show it by the way I live. Forgive me for sometimes wanting to give up. Because of what I see around me, I don’t always know whether to be merciful or simply outraged, so help me to have the right attitude. Grant me grace to persevere.

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