Theme: How Do I Live in this Mess?
by James W. (Jim) Poppell
You can live a godly life in this ungodly and deeply anti-spiritual world—not because you are so great, but because your God is. You don’t have to walk alone in this darkness. Do not try to.
That is, however, just what the faddists who sanctify the “positive mental attitude” philosophy would have you do. With them, Peale and Ziglar substitute for Paul and David, while sheer grit and determination take the place of a Biblical faith and hope. They’re right about our problems: a general lack of faith, zeal and joyful enthusiasm. Too many of us are sad and sour, but numbers have tried to try harder, to redouble their efforts, to produce the fruit of the Spirit by calling it up from deep within themselves, and have failed. The answer is not PMA.
The answer is to believe more strongly in our God — not in ourselves. A constant awareness of His omnipotent presence steels the mind, strengthens the heart, and satisfies the soul. We are never stronger than when we know the strongest walks by our side.
Remember how, as a child, you were frightened to go somewhere by yourself in the dark? It was a terrifying experience. Every shadow and every sound contained a thousand horrors. Unless, of course, Mom or Dad was with you. How strong and brave we were with them along!
Conway Skinner helped me to see how true this is spiritually. He was fighting cancer but still living joyfully. He hadn’t lost his smile and I wanted to know why. “How do you do it? What keeps you going like you do?” I asked. “I know I belong to the Lord,” he confided. “I’m His. He won’t allow anything to touch me I can’t bear. I know good will come out of all this because He’s with me.”
My view of God and man would allow for little of this at the time, so he elaborated. “Titus 2:14, Jim, says we are God’s ’peculiar’ people. That word can be illustrated by a dot within a circle: ⊙. The dot is peculiar to the circle. As the circle is around the dot, God is around His people. They are special to Him. He is with me and nothing can get to me unless it first passes through His hands. It’s knowing this that keeps me going.” I cannot forget his words. Hours of reflection since have convinced me that Conway was right. His hope hung on three vital truths.
God is in control
Is this thought a problem to you? Sometimes even Christians remove God from the ordinariness of life in their thinking, They feel that a force separate from Him keeps everything going. Were they able to see His hand of providence at work they would view it as an intrusion into the order of things. ls that your view?
You could not convince Job, or David, or Jesus, or Paul of it, if it is. Job learned the hard way that though we may not understand or appreciate God’s ways, He is in control! Satan’s touch did not indicate God’s absence, but His grace. David looked at “nature” in Psalm 104 and saw “God” at work. Jesus taught us to walk without worry in a world of sunshine and rain, flowers and birds, because God provides our food and clothing. And Paul did not see his life as an animated dice game where we must simply take our chances against some blind force. Christ, he says, holds the whole thing together (Colossians 1:17). These men all lived and died in the firm conviction that God is in control.
God is with His people
You are not alone. Your feelings are not a safe guide here. Something more substantial is needed. I’d advise you to soak your soul in the Psalms. Some will praise Him for His faithfulness, others will rail at Him for His apparent forgetfulness. Regardless, you will always be led back to this one truth: God is with His people. Three examples come readily to mind: Psalm 139, Psalm 73, and Psalm 37—especially verses 23 and 24: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” God is faithful. No matter how dark the night gets, how strong the winds blow, the rains beat, or how wretched the storm may be, do not let this truth slip. We may not understand what is going on any more than Job did, but God is still faithful.
This is the rock upon which the assurance of 1 Corinthians 10:13 is founded. “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
After his beloved wife had died, W. W. Otey scrawled this complaint: “I do not like living alone!” None of us do. Nor do we have to. Instead of being so “earthed” in day-to-day activities we can “heaven” our hearts with these three truths. We can walk with God. And when He walks with you, you can do it,
CHRISTIANITY MAGAZINE FEBRUARY, 1984