Justin, living in Australia wanted to go on a holiday. He booked a holiday for June over the phone for Christchurch New Zealand, but also booked via the internet for Wellington just in case his credit card details weren’t written down word for word by the clerk on the other end of the phone. He then packed his suitcase full of woolly jumpers and jackets as he heard that the weather was cold, snowing and windy but also packed his trunks and swimmers just in case he wanted to swim in the Cook Strait, if the weather was up to it. He installed burglar alarms the month before leaving, just in case the 40 he already had were faulty and he had to buy some more. He also enlisted his friend to take care of the place for him, and bought a black Doberman to guard his house as well, just in case his friend was unreliable. He then packed his laptop as well his i-Pad just in case he wanted to use one more over the other. He also paid for Foxtel in his hotel rooms in New Zealand just in case he wanted to watch the England vs Australia Ashes series on TV. He disconnected his SIM card from his international mobile phone as he didn’t want people to disturb him, but also bought another phone with international roaming just in case he changed his mind. And finally, perturbed by the possibility of another Cyclone Larry, or another Bali Bombing that could occur in NZ, he decided to cancel the much-anticipated holiday, just in case.
Just in case…we can all be like Justin Case, don’t you agree? Nonsense! You think. How can we be like this idiotic person? Well, in my life, I’ve always been known to worry. What if this happens? What if that happens? What if I’m not a good Christian? Will God love me more…or less? What if God’s plan doesn’t work out? Do I need to keep a backup? What if my parents don’t approve? Why do we even need to listen to parents anyway? All these thoughts inside one’s head, and then at the end of the day; it’s no wonder why there are so many family breakdowns. We try and try to account for all the possibilities, that at the end of the day; we focus more on the planning and getting things right than the event itself. We try to perfect the outcome rather than trusting God to do his bit. Dare I say, that we actually focus too much emphasis on the planning and worry that we can sometimes worship that than God Himself… bold statement right?
I am often close to the things of this world, more than I think and I ought to be. Not that we shouldn’t enjoy the things we have in this world, but we should know that if something doesn’t work out, if the TV blows, or if our dishwasher leaks and is past the ‘returnable and refundable’ period, we shouldn’t get upset, and blame this person, the next guy, or in some rare cases, God. Why did you let this happen? We think. We fail to realise the basic fact that we didn’t get all of these things by ourselves anyway, and it was God who inherently gave us the abilities and skills that we have, in order for us to do work, collect our income, and therefore attain the items and material possessions that our heart desires at a particular point in time. We couldn’t have done all of this, survive, in the place called ‘Earth’ all on our own. Whether we acknowledge that God is in control or not, we also know that we haven’t made it in this world alone, and that our friends and family have helped us along the way. But I have stopped and paused, wondered about whether our quest for materialistic gain, our quest for the perfect life in terms of comfortableness, has led us into a false sense of security, into us believing that when we see the injustice and inequality in this world, the solution would just be to ‘roll down the window and throw some cash outside’.
I’ll admit it, I’m a comfortable Christian. I’ve noticed, and seen the injustice in this world…but I still like my TV, my computer, not to mention all my CD’s and DVD’s. I mean, I guess Delirious?’s 2008 studio album, Kingdom of Comfort, speaks very clearly into the heart of every Christian- a comfortable Christian at that. Check out the title track- ‘…save me, from the kingdom of comfort where I am king, from my unhealthy lust of material things. I rob myself of innocence with the poison of my indifference. I buy my stuff at any cost, a couple of clicks and I pay the price coz what I gain is someone else’s loss…’ Revealing, right? How as human beings we long for the new car, and the new house, and rarely stop to think- surely we should be thankful that we are even ALIVE to begin with, before we can even think about possessions. But I guess in this society, we never wake up with the mentality that we are alive, usually it is ‘Oh, what do I have to do at work today?’ or ‘Is that dog barking again?’ In my life, and it has been difficult, I have been trying, and it’s been working to say the least. Every day I’ve tried to get into this mentality that this story that I’m living in is not about me. It’s not about how much money I make in 10 years’ time; nor is it about how many possessions I own. If I behave and act like that man in Jesus’ parable that went and built a barn to hoard all his possessions, then I’ve missed the plot.
My story is to be in God’s story. That’s it. Wherever he leads, I will go. That does sound like a bold statement, and you readers probably will scratch your heads and wonder whether I’ve woken up on the right side of the bed or not. But be it crazy as it sounds, I know my place in the never ending story of God. I know that my purpose goes beyond writing blog posts, it goes beyond having a good career, a good house, a good life. Because sooner or later, if those ‘passions’ start to define us, it’ll all be for the wrong reasons, and we will, sooner or later become disappointed with it all. Sooner or later, there will be a better house on the street. There will be a better video game console. Buildings fall at the end of the day. Even books get old, and probably in a few years time, Don Bradman will be forgotten forever. My point? If our goal is to be remembered at the end of the day, to have a legacy based on what we do- we cannot do it. Sure we will leave a legacy, based on what we do, but it won’t last to the effect that we want it to. When the last clap fades, we will be forgotten. We are born, we live, and we die, and sure we can do great things in this world, but it could be for all the wrong reasons. If our heart isn’t in the right spot, if our passion becomes our purpose, then we need a reality check.
And this is what reality is- our purpose is to glorify God as much as possible considering each circumstance of the day, and to leave our story of me-centred society, our story of indifference, our story of collecting and storing, and abandoning it at the feet of Jesus, going to him and saying that we want to make a positive difference in this world, a difference that will last, that won’t stop when history fades into nothingness, a purpose that will last for eternity. And that’s how it was when the #1 radio single ‘Cry out to Jesus’ by Christian rock band Third Day was released. Though God didn’t want Hurricane Katrina to happen, ‘Cry out to Jesus’ was nevertheless birthed, so that a hundred years from now, that song could still touch lives. I’ve realised that sometimes a riveting song with catchy lyrics and good music can evoke in someone something so much more powerful than listening to a boring sermon made by the most boring pastor ever alive. Music, sometimes even film, crosses national boundaries. I guess you can say that music and film are the indirect language that everyone speaks. And I guess that when you look at all the songs and music that have been created over the history of mankind, it’s no wonder it’s another language. Everything, ranging from struggles, questions, worship, praise, humanity, everything is talked about in songs, and I guess it’s almost expected that when you’re recording, to stretch musical boundaries- to pose to the listener, is this normal? Is this the way we should live our lives, and if not, how do we live it? Sure this world is in pain, and we may never understand how everything works, but we do know the One who does. And in some ways, we often are caught up in all the busyness that we miss the beauty of stories, like the Aesop fable, the ant and the grasshopper, where a grasshopper who has spent the warm months singing away while the ant worked to store up food for winter, only for the winter to come, and the grasshopper finding himself dying of hunger, only to be rebuked by the ant for food because of his idleness.
The moral of the story? Prepare during the summer months for the winter months… no really. Are we like the grasshopper or the ant? Does the ant have the right to refuse the grasshopper’s help, or are we as Christians like the ants and do we help the grasshopper anyway, because we are showing him the love of Christ through our helping? Do we have the deeds to back it up? All we ever do is throw money at the problem, and then we just think that if we close our eyes and carry on with everyday life, things are going to get better. And it’s a story that has been told from generation to generation, a story that money will and can solve everything. But is it really true? Can money buy a good wife/husband who loves you for the way you are as a person, not by what you do; good friends who respect you, even if they have different points of view; a great family, great children? I guess that is why in today’s culture, the young are noticing the trend that material things aren’t fulfilling them. Cricket matches don’t fulfil me, as I know now that money is more of an incentive for players’ right now than playing for their country. Every sports team will lose sooner or later, and that would mean that if we seriously lived our lives according to our culture today, we’d be depressed every single day because our ‘team’ lost. But to tell you the truth, there is something that fills us, like a cup overflowing- the story of Jesus.
But you may think; this story of Jesus is cliché. Yes, it is; someone who came to save mankind from eternal destruction. Sort of like a Superman figure. But let’s get this straight- God yearns for us to understand that he is more than enough for us to live, and that if it is not the King of Kings, if it is not the Lord of Lords, then it is something else. The lie and story that has been told that if we’re not religious, we’re not a worshipping kind, is totally wrong. For if we do not put our trust in a superior being, we will put our trust in something, something that we think will fulfil us. Everyone denies being a worshipper, but it is what we do all so well.
“…think of it this way: Worship is simply about value. The simplest definition I can give is this: Worship is our response to what we value most. That’s why worship is the thing we all do. It’s what we’re all about on any given day. Because worship is about saying, ‘This person, this thing, this experience (this whatever) is what matters most to me, it’s the thing I put first in my life.’ That ‘thing’ might be a relationship, a dream, friends, status, stuff, a name, some kind of pleasure, whatever name you put on it, this thing or person is what you’ve concluded in your heart is worth most to you. And whatever is worth most to you is-you guessed it-what you worship. Worship tells us what we value most. As a result, worship determines our actions, becoming the driving force for all we do. And we’re not just talking about the religious crowd. Christians. The churchgoer among us. We’re talking about everybody on planet Earth, a multitude of souls proclaiming with every breath what is worthy of their affection, their attention, their allegiance. Proclaiming with every step what it is they worship. Some of us attend the church on the corner, professing to worship the Living God above all. Others who rarely step inside the church doors would say worship isn’t a part of their lives because they aren’t ‘religious’. But everyone has an altar. And every altar has a throne…”
Extract from ‘The Air I Breathe’, by Louie Giglio (p 12-13)
I never really thought about that definition of worship until I started reading ‘The Air I Breathe’. And it’s true; worship is so much more than what happens on a Sunday morning. Worship in fact probably applies more to the non-religious than to the average religious person. Think about it- we love to deny the fact, the truth, the revealing truth that we are all worshipping something. We know that in the end, we’re selling ourselves short, of something bigger that deserves our attention; that deserves our praise, our honour, our devotion. We make up stories, writing ‘fiction’ to suit ourselves. That’s not to say that every book that’s ever written, every brilliant idea that has ever been thought of, every masterpiece that has ever been conceived in the realms of music, art, books, literature and the like, has all been just man’s escapism from reality, not at all. Perhaps some of the great literary works have been written by those who want to discover and uncover something in society rather than trying to conceal it up. But rather, I reckon that we know that there is a God out there. We know that He is worthy to be praised. But we’re afraid to admit it, afraid to admit that our time, our loyalty, our devotion, our ‘worship’ is elsewhere. Oh we try to steer the ship, straight into the iceberg. No? Clear blue sky and no iceberg straight ahead? Then how can you explain that every-time you try to do things your own way, you always, 9 times out of 10, end up in a ditch, crying out, ‘God, if you’re there, please help me!’? We need to be real here, and we need to know that we need and are hungry, not for a story that is just about ourselves, but a story that is fulfilling from the inside out.
But can we really, truly be happy, without wanting something just because our neighbours have it, so that we can compete with them? Why do we compete in the first place? In work, we compete to be noticed, and then hopefully our boss gives us a higher salary. On the sporting field, we compete in order for the coach to notice us, and put us in a better playing position so that we can score more points for the team. So then, why do we try so hard, to the point where our heart is just in it because the next guy is? Why are we trying to catch the wind? Do we really need all these things to occupy us, to take no. 1 place in what we worship?
True worship is to go out there and sing songs of praise to God, from the rooftops, from the hills and the valleys, however, it is also and just as important, as to do good, to care for the widows, the orphans, the ones in need of shelter, friends, those people in need of a better life. We need to keep our priorities straight, the possessions will not last, but the memories and impact of touching someone’s life will last for generations to come. It is 1 John 4: 16-21 that has struck a chord with me to the bone of late- If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen; if we do not love others; whom we have seen. I’ve scratched my head many a time and wondered- has there been some instances in my life where I have, unintentionally or otherwise, where I’ve proclaimed to love God, but under my breath have thought, Gee, this person is unlovable! Many times! The remedy? To immerse ourselves in the story of Jesus, and how he acted. He sat and ate with tax collectors and prostitutes; he twisted rules and regulations on its head and proclaimed ‘blessed are the unrighteous, blessed are the unloved!’ He also told his disciples that if you want to be first, you have to be last, things like that that really challenged and will continue to challenge society. Even now, when I read the words of Jesus, I find it hard to implement in a world like this. I find it hard, when I look around and see the brokenness of this world, to understand that God’s way is the best way, because sometimes now it’s easy to doubt. Doubt God’s promises to mankind. But what I know in my head may be different to what my heart and emotions tell me.
You see, me, you, everyone, we all need to understand that God is enough, and that if he says that he’s going to rise up a generation on fire for him, if he says he’s going to fill us with the knowledge and wisdom to understand that He alone is worthy of worship, then that is what he’s going to do. Needless to say, there are still going to be people out there who are going to need help, today, tomorrow, and into the future. We all have to do our little bit, whether it is to say hi to your neighbour, or to give, whether it is time, or money, to someone in need. But above all that, our heart needs to be right. Only God can make it right. Only God can make our hearts beat for those in need. For those who cannot speak for themselves, we need to rise up and advocate justice and equality. And through all that, we gain knowledge that God will fix it all and all we have to do is sit tight, and wait, for God’s kingdom come, and God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.