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Friday, March 25, 2011

Weekly Snippet: Don't Worry, but Be Wise to Plan Ahead

The news has been buzzing with really bad news lately.  It seems like the end of the world (and perhaps it is)!  We hear of terrible natural disasters (Haiti, Chile, Christchurch, Japan, etc.), of people brutalizing other people (Egypt, Libya, and others), of economic crises of varying degrees in so many countries around the world (the US, Greece, Spain and Portugal, etc.), of sickness and poverty and starvation (many nations in South America, Africa, and Asia).  To top off that load of disconcerting news, we have our individual troubles to deal with every day, from making sure the bills are paid, to wondering if we remembered to take our prescription this morning.  Such news is enough to make a person worry all the time, yet God has called us not to worry.

What is God asking of us when He tells us not to worry?  Does God mean, don't feel concern about bad news you've heard, don't plan for contingencies, and don't talk or even think about anything negative?  I don't think that's what God meant, since Jesus Himself said to be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves," (Matthew 10:16 KJV).  The way I read it, God has called us to be faithful, and faith-filled, but He has also told us to be informed, and ready to take any necessary action.

Jesus famously told us not to worry, because God is taking care of our necessities and our futures.  I think that gets at the heart of what worrying is.  We feel a dread for what could happen if we cannot successfully fend it off by our own efforts.  Then, when our own efforts don't appear to be working toward fighting off our sense of doom, we worry.  That is, we fearfully contemplate our ruin until the fear makes us sick and shuts down our effectiveness.

Jesus taught against worry because He wanted us to learn to trust Him to save us.  The only thing people truly need to fear is the death that comes from sin; any other doom cannot ultimately harm us, no matter what comes.  The Bible is filled with God's assurances that He would take care of us (for example Psalm 37: 25-29), so can we have faith to wait for it, even when it doesn't seem to be coming?

Waiting On God Does Not Mean Being Unprepared

I have heard people say before that they didn't want to take any precautions concerning the future, because they are waiting on God to deal with the future.  I don't take issue with the level of faith it takes to trust God with the future; however, there seems to be ample evidence in the Bible that God does not want us to stop thinking of the future when we make our decisions today.  God wants us to plan, as far as it is within our power, for the trouble that we have not seen yet.  Whether it is something we believe we can handle, or if it is beyond our power to predict or our strength to resist, the future is in God's hands.  Still, when God gives us warning, He expects us to take action.  Isn't this part of how He takes care of us?

I can think of many examples when God directed people to take action against an uncertain future, but I'll just touch on one here.  Joseph was directed, through Pharaoh's dream, to store up grain for a famine that was still seven years in the future (Genesis 41).  He didn't know whether he would live to the end of those seven years, or whether his precautions would be enough to sustain Egypt and the surrounding countries through the famine.  In fact, his position was always an uncertain one; at any moment Pharaoh could have taken away all that he had.  All of those uncertainties were in God's hands, and only God could guard against them.  Joseph could have spent the time worrying, but instead, he saw a job to do, and he did it.

In the same way, many of the things that could come, or even will come, are completely out of our hands.  We should not live in fear (worry) of these things, because God is stronger than any of them, and He is certainly more capable of fixing them than we are.  On the other hand, we should not be unprepared, or oblivious, when we look toward the future.  There are things we can do right now, that God can use to benefit us in the future.  This is part of being as wise as a serpent--learning about our enemy, understanding how the world works, and having the knowledge (or the skills, or the resources) with which to better meet Satan in the field.  Victory over evil is assured, but our preparation can make it an easier, less painful battle.

How have you prepared for trouble, without worrying endlessly about it?  I hope the first precaution you took was to seek a good relationship with the Lord, and a good foundation of knowledge about His Word.  Those who learn to properly understand evil, and the end of evil, have a huge advantage over those who don't.  After that, every individual needs a different kind of preparation, which is between them and the Lord.  Have you asked Him what you need to do?  Have you done what He asked?

These are things to think about this weekend.  Until then, this is my warning, telling you to stay savvy and plan for the future!