Last week, I was diagnosed with a heart condition. The main symptom is breathlessness when I have been trying to run. As long as I don’t overexert myself it should not be too much of an issue going forward providing I stick to the prescribed medication. The reason for posting this is not to get sympathy but simply to highlight the fact that when we come face to face with such things, it causes us to re-evaluate what is important in life. In thinking about this over the last few days, I have come to the conclusion that my priorities need to sit in two areas: the Kingdom of God and my family.
All of us, from time to time, need to re-evaluate where we are putting our time, energy and resources. For me, I want my investment to be in that which is of eternal value and that which will leave a positive legacy in future generations. As the writer of Ecclesiastes suggests, all else is ‘meaningless; a chasing after the wind’.
So my challenge to each one of us is, in what are you investing? I make no judgements in this respect – we all have choices. But I encourage you to invest your time, energy and resources wisely.
Philippians 3:13-14 says, ‘Brothers and sisters, I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.’ In these verses, Paul is speaking of the journey we are all on. Essentially, he says, ‘I have not yet arrived but I press on’. This is the place where many of us are in the midst of the pandemic. We know there is an end in sight but it rmains difficult for the present. Some of us are tired and weary; some are bored and fed up; some are just frustrated. The reality is that there is little any of us can do to change the situation excpet stick with the guidelines and have our vaccination when it is our turn. However, in knowing that this is not going to last forever, we can begin to set our sights on what lies ahead. God has not finished with us yet and there are many things that he still has for us to do, individually, and as a church. My encouragement to all of us at this moment is ‘press on’. There are better times ahead. Let us press on towards that goal and embrace all that God has for us in the future.
One phrase that I have heard bandied about on TV is ‘the spirit of Christmas’. I have no idea what that actually means but I think it is a reference to events incorporating family, friends and fun that occur at this time of year. The issue I have is not that such things are unimportant, but that the real meaning of Christmas is not in such events but in one event: the advent! The coming of the Son of God to this earth to bring salvation, healing, forgiveness, hope and life for all humanity. However, you spend your Christmas this year, take time out to give thanks to God for stepping into human history for your sake and for mine!
So far, this autumn has been fairly mild. We have had some rain, buy most days have been fairly clear. Usually, we associate autumn with mists and cold morning starts. Maybe they will come in November? One thing I really do not like doing is driving in mist and fog. I have experienced some very scary journeys in such conditions. The issue is that, if we cannot see the road ahead, we cannot prepare ourselves for what it will bring. Each twist and turn meets us as a surprise and any hazard only appears to us at the last minute.
At the moment, I feel like we are all in a bit of a fog. We do not know what the future will bring or even when the mist that has descended at present will clear. Each week, things change. Spring seems a long way away. All of this breeds a level of anxiety and insecurity and I am sure all of us, during the present period, have experienced good days and bad days as a result.
There is one thing that is certain, however, and that is that God holds our futures in his hand, whether that be for us as individuals, or as a church. He knows the end from the beginning and none of this surprised him or caught him unawares. Our trust is not in governments or councils, or even in the NHS. Our trust for the future must be in God and in Him alone, for there is no firmer anchor to help us hold steady than him!
20th January was identified as Blue Monday. It was the Monday of the third week of the new year which is associated with high suicide rates as people fail to come to terms with a cold January, the arrival of Christmas credit card bills, the distance from the arrival of Spring, and much more. All of us, to a greater or lesser extent, experience highs and lows that are often associated with external factors that we cannot control. Our greatest safeguard against such things is endeavouring to keep our own mental wellbeing in good order so that we build resilience into ourselves. This is not always easy as we are complex beings each with our own set of triggers that can take us in all kinds of directions.
To help us, God gives us His peace. Philippians 4:7 says, ‘And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ This verse is given in the context of dealing with anxiety. The peace of God is his gift to us. I pray that in these days you will be filled with the peace of God so that you are able to overcome the anxieties and stresses of the season.
God Bless, Richard