“Hurry up and Wait”
What shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world (even if he hurries) and lose his soul. Mark 8:36
Speed. There is definitely a need for speed in our society. Wait, did I say need? Okay, there is a want for speed. You might think that with all the time-saving devices, gizmos, and machines at our disposal, we would have plenty of time to sit and ponder. Nope, we are busier than ever.
I’m not a terribly impatient person, but I chuckle at my ability to choose the slowest check-out person at the grocery store. In an age of fast foods, express lanes, Jiffy Lubes, quick printing, speed dialing (and dating), instant messages, well, you get the picture — the fact is, we can do more, faster than at any time in history, and yet we regularly hear, “I just don’t have enough time!”
Last week I referenced the beauty of waiting, particularly, waiting for a haircut. When life puts you in a holding pattern, what do you do with it? Scripture says, “They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.” This suggests value in waiting.
Waiting is like most other activities of life, it can serve a wonderful purpose when we choose by faith, to embrace joy because that activity belongs to God. “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God.” (I Thessalonians 5:18).
Waiting and Action
I remember many, many great waiters in my dad’s barber shop. But one young man particularly stand out from the others. He was out of work and was spending more and more of his time reading the newspaper and listening to the barber shop banter. He was developing a routine, complete with a standard answer for those who wanted to know what he was up to.
The question would eventually come. “So, what you been up to? I heard you was out of a job.”
“Me? Oh I’m trustin’ God for a job. I’m lettin’ my faith do the workin’ right now.”
My dad, a man who is very personable but typically silent on anything that might provoke controversy, had been listening to this for many days. He had his own thoughts and theology on this matter of the young fella’s situation. The guy was showing up earlier and staying longer each day. Finally, Dad broke his usual silence and commented, “Friend, I’m sure God does have a job all lined up for you, but you ain’t gonna find it sittin’ on your butt in here.”
That was my dad’s way of saying, “Faith without works is dead.”
Faith and Works
So on one side we’ve got the problem of hurrying, rushing, and all the anxiety that comes with it. Yet on the other hand we have the problem of “sittin on your butt” and believing that doing nothing is what faith looks like.
It’s funny, but it’s American. We believe in the “self-made-man” and we believe that if you want something badly enough, all you have to do is work hard. And there is a proverb that seems purely American, “God helps those who help themselves.” Wikipedia calls this phrase “a motto which emphasizes the importance of self-initiative.” I’m all for self-initiative. I appreciate a self-starter. The challenge is to draw the line before we become self-shepherds.
Perhaps that’s where the balance is between faith and action. It’s about following the right shepherd.
The Problem of Self-Shepherding (self salvation)
We fret much of life and become tormented by things out of our control. Rather than resting in the flock of the good Shepherd, we fret; we criticize and complain. We hurry more. We sprint past opportunities to love, give charity and share hope. The hurry causes us to lack fulfillment, so we work harder. Some just give up. We try to come up with our own solutions to the problems of life and treat the Shepherd like a bail-bondsman — “I’ll let you know if I need you.”
That is not the way to find the flock.
The Shepherd of the Flock
Do I really believe that I am my own shepherd? Do I really want to go through life worried, anxious and fearful? I am not the author of my fate, though most motivational posters will tell you otherwise. By finding the flock we become subjects of the Shepherd.
The Lord is my Shepherd — Psalm 23 speaks to all of us. All of us can find strength in knowing that the Lord is our Shepherd. “He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, the sheep of His hand.” (Psalm 95:7) The fate of sheep depends on their shepherd; trust begins to define a major part of our faith.
The Lord is my Shepherd — Have you asked Jesus to be your Shepherd? Today? This means you’ll be the sheep of His pasture. You will feast on His Word and you will ruminate (chew your cud) in Truth. The God who is more real than the chair in which you sit wants a relationship with you. He is caring for you and has your best interest in His mind.
Have you made the Lord your Shepherd? Sure, we may have a testimony of faith; we may point to a time when we trusted the Lord for our salvation. Now we must exercise faith and trust Him with our life.
The Lord is my Shepherd — Sheep follow. Though “all we like sheep have gone astray,” the good Shepherd passionately calls us to abide in the flock. Jesus said, “I am the good Shepherd…” (John 10:11 & 14)
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. I don’t have to go through life believing that more will make my life better, which is insanity. If our food, our want, is to do God’s will and there we can find contentment. “Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.” This was Paul’s resounding message in chapter 3 of Philippians. To paraphrase, “I find all things to be rubbish compared to abiding in Christ.”
What would life be like if we could totally eliminate anxiety, worry, and fear? Life might seem manageable, we could become empowered, or we may simply walk in peace with a big goofy grin on our faces. The challenge of life is finding the Shepherd’s fold and humbly confessing, “The Lord is My Shepherd.”