When Rhonda and I first got married and we had a bill to pay or something we needed to buy, it wasn’t hard to sort out the next step. I could look in my pocket or look quickly at my checkbook to see if the money was there or not. If it was, spend it; if it wasn’t, don’t. One of our first added resource we discovered was Sears when we bought our first washing machine on credit, $5.50 a month. Today, checking out our resources would take much longer to see if we can afford something or not. There are more accounts, more banks, more places to look. Money and how to spend it has become more complicated.
I have found that many of us when we have a problem of any sort — big or small — we check into every resource we can think of. If one of those resources pans out, thank you very much, we solve the problem and go our merry way. Now if we can’t find the solution after a day, a week, or longer, then we check the last resource we can think of, “God.” Maybe God can help, maybe a miracle might be available, or just, Lord, have mercy. I am not sure that God wants to be the last resource we look at in times of difficulty. In fact, it might be one of the ways we can marginalize our relationship with the God we often say we prioritize.
Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me, and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me you can’t do anything.” John 15:5
I think one of the biggest things this culture does in checking out resources is heading to the news, news in all its multifaceted formats. People keep looking, waiting for everything they hear to line up perfectly to their expectations and hopes. If it does, then they believe they will have peace and sleep better that night. This, of course, never happens, so peace never comes. Anxiety and fear reign in the soul for so many when peace is so close. The Bible says God is our peace. Jesus said abiding in Him is where real peace is found.
One writer records, “This is the generation that will pass through the fire. It is the generation, under the gun. This is the tormented generation. This is the generation destined to live in the midst of crisis, danger, fear, and death. We are like a people under sentence of death, waiting for the date to be set. We sense that something is about to happen. We know that things cannot go on as they are. History has reached an impasse. We are now on a collision course. Something is about to give.” These words sure could illicit fear and anxiety. Except they were written by Billy Graham in 1965. We could probably find reason to write these same thoughts to almost any generation in human history, just as people are writing them today in different words. To this generation, it’s what people do, and it’s why Jesus says, “Do not be afraid.”
If we look for peace by hoping the news lines up with our hopes, then we will be forever anxious, just as millions of Americans were in 1965 and are today. But if our peace is the simple words of the hymnist, “It is well with my soul,” then we will have peace, peace found in the only resource it can be found, “Abiding in Christ.” I think the fear and anxiety too many live in today is because we often look to God as our last resource rather than our first, reflecting the anxiety of the culture rather than our abiding relationship with Jesus Christ.
Now a few words to my pastor and church leader friends. Many of us look for peace in the wrong place — how many came to church Sunday, what was the offering, is most of my church family happy with me, is my new project taking off like I hoped, did I get the appointment I wanted or was I overlooked again? These things may be important, but peace is not found there. It is found in our walk with God, this coveted relationship that Christ makes possible, the joy in knowing Christ as Lord, the sense that even though we can lose that which we hold in our hand, God will never lose that which He holds in His — us.
We look to our resources to create success for us. May God be the first resource we look to. “God give us success!” Psalm 118:25