Looking out at the world can be a soul destroying thing. This world is full of evil, and full of evildoers, who somehow always seem to thrive and do well. And as we look out we are inclined to stumble. The natural instinct is to envy the wicked their ease, to see their unpunished prosperity and wonder why they do wrong and yet prosper. The more we look, the worse it appears. It makes life to be a wearisome task.
But, if we are to free ourselves from stumbling we must enter into the sanctuary, the place where God is – only there will this life make sense. We can only come into God’s presence resting on the reconciliation to God won by his Son. But, as we enter into God’s nearer presence, our embittered souls are sweetened and our spiritual compasses are realigned. God is our goal, our measure of what is good and right; God, and not this world is our goal and our glory. No-one else, nothing else matters except our relationship with the living God, the Creator God, the Redeemer God, the Consummating God who will one day reveal himself and his purposes in fullness.
The more we look at the world, the less we look at God. The more we look at God, the better we see the reality of this world and the world to come.
For every son and daughter of Adam the bottom line is:
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever!
If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs you obviously don’t realise the seriousness of the situation! So goes the tongue in cheek rewriting of Kipling’s poem. Of course, Kipling is pointing us towards the mark of a true man – the ability to hold your head up high in the face of all that the world and mankind throw at you. But Kipling missed the spiritual dimension. It’s all very well being a man in this big bad world if this big bad world is all there is, but it’s not. We’re inundated with ‘how to live your dream’ and ‘how to stand firm’ memes. We’re encouraged to find in ourselves and in our humanity all that there is to be a fine upstanding human in our own world. There are two problems with this: 1. It doesn’t hold true for most people and 2. It ignores the spiritual realm: God, providence and the spiritual forces at work in the world and the heavenly places.
So where does this leave us? How do we live in a troubled world in circumstances that are less than perfect? Keep calm and trust in God! This is the message of the whole Bible, but particularly in Psalm 46.
Our assertion must be with the Psalmist, not that we have within what we need to succeed, but that God is our refuge and strength. God is our help, now, in our trouble. It takes a big man to admit he needs help. It’s somehow easier to put on that Kiplingesque inner manliness and play the strong quiet tower of strength. But that’s not what God requires of us!
God is our strength, not us, therefore we will not fear – not because we have our own grounds for keeping our heads, but because we know someone who is stronger than our situation. Though the mountains be thrown into the sea God is in control!
So, as Christians we don’t look inward to our core strength – it’s not sufficient. We look to God. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. We look to the God indwelt city of God’s people. We look to his divine presence, help, & hope. “Come behold the works of the LORD…” the Psalmist says – this is where we look to and find strength.
Though the world truly and literally be falling apart around us we have a hope:
Be still and know that I am God,
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our fortress.
Keep calm and trust in God