May 22, 2013

Dancing rather than speculation

One of my pet peeves is the tendency of media to speculate. They project winners in political elections, consider the odds in sports events, figure out who is going to win tournaments, and chatter continually about the likelihood of this or that happening or not. While asking “what if?” has a definite place in the life of a fiction writer, it is almost always a waste of time and energy for the rest of us.

After Jesus died and rose again, and after He appeared to the disciples and over 500 others, He ascended to heaven. The disciples stood there, watching Him depart.

And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10–11)

These two men, likely angels, rebuked them for their speculation. Yes, Christians are told our citizenship is in heaven and we are to store up treasure in heaven and consider things above, not things on the earth. So what is wrong with gazing into heaven?

The answer is in the context. Like all of us, these disciples were eager to know the exact time Jesus would come and claim His kingdom. Even though He repeatedly told them this was hidden from them, even hidden from the angels in heaven, their last question for Him was about that very thing. But He told them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” (Acts 1:7)

Christians have been asking and trying to answer the same question ever since. Predictions about the Second Coming of Christ have become so commonplace, that the entire subject is mocked. The Bible even says that, “Scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’” (2 Peter 3:3–4)

Not only has the promise of Christ been trampled on by speculation, so has the character of the church. Jesus told us to wait patiently for His return, believing that it will happen at the right time. Instead, our speculation has created date-setting and a host of doctrines and arguments that are divisive rather than edifying. Such a focus also breeds disappointment, skepticism and invites mockery and unbelief. The enemies of Christ blaspheme the very idea of His return, even as many Christians wonder if it will ever happen.

Is the guilt of scoffers shared by believers who speculate? What is worse: to say that He is coming at such and such a time and being wrong? Or the failure to confirm the Word of God that says, “Concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32)?

Every time I start trying to figure out if this or that will happen, I am entering into forbidden territory, even if I am gazing up into heaven while I do it. Jesus didn’t intend that I stand there watching Him go or wondering when He is coming back. Even as I can pray to Him about everything and trust Him to answer my prayers, I have never been able to guess what He is going to do. He does not offer me that information.

Instead of wasting time in speculations that absorb energy and paralyze action, He wants me to leave that “mountain of ascension” and get busy in everyday life. I am to pray, but also to trust Him and wait in confidence for His grace to live each day. Like a dance partner, He wants me to hold His hand and follow His lead for each step, rather than trying to figure out when this song will end and heaven’s music begins. 

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