Once upon a time, I was sitting on the balcony of a little condo overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. My ex was out hunting for shark teeth as I drank coffee (or was it a Mojito?) and read one of those beach-perfect novels with one eye, while being entertained by the kite surfer in front of me with the other.
The guy looked so relaxed out there, gliding over the water and jumping the occasional wave with such skill and ease…until the wind suddenly changed and I found myself diving for cover as he crashed into my personal space.
Despite the wind of change that I know will soon follow, this is is a time of blessing for me.
- We are experiencing the end of the pandemic (at least in the short term), restoring so many of those things that we’ve always taken for granted–get-togethers with family and friends, travel, and the simple joy of smiling at strangers and seeing them smile back.
- After 23 years of wishful thinking, there is now running water at my northwoods cabin.
- And sitting in my inbox is a book-length contract for the “wintering in Florida” plan that was put on hold more than a decade ago.
But I know enough about these high times to be relatively comfortable with the fact that they don’t last forever. I can’t help but think of the often-repeated warning by Bob Merritt, former senior pastor of Eagle Brook Church:
If you’re not in a storm right now, get ready, because one is right around the corner.
I recognize that a crash of some sort may be—almost certainly will be—right around my own corner.
The old me would have prepared to bulldoze my way way through whatever barriers I might encounter. Or I may have stood frozen in fear, not enjoying the blessings of today because of worry over tomorrow.
But God, through his disciple Paul, tells of a better way to prepare:
1 Corinthians 16:13-14: “Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.”
Reading that first powerful warning to be on guard made me pause. It scared me a little, and I felt compelled to grab my hard copy Bible to read its notes on this passage:
As the Corinthians awaited Paul’s next visit, they were directed to:
–Be on guard. They were to be constantly watchful or alert for spiritual enemies that might slip in and threaten to destroy them whether it be divisions, pride, sin, disorder or erroneous theology;
–Stand firm in what they believed—that is the gospel that they had been taught in the beginning, the gospel that had brought them salvation;
–Be courageous so that they could stand against false teachers, deal with sin in the congregation, and straighten out other problems;
–Be strong, with the strength given by the Holy Spirit; and
–Do everything with love because without love, they would be no more than prideful noise-makers.
Today, as we wait for the return of Christ, we should follow the same instructions.
That first piece of Paul’s advice–to be on guard–really made me stop and think. Because it seems to me that all of the “spiritual enemies” cited in my 2009 edition of the Life Application Study Bible slipped into our lives in 2020 and continue to wreak havoc today.
Division, pride, sin, disorder and erroneous theology threaten to destroy us.
But we don’t need to panic. We can rest on the advice of Jesus Himself:
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me” (John 14:1)
So Father, I thank You for the advice of both Jesus and Paul–specific instructions to help us live joyfully in the present while preparing confidently for the future.
I pray for Your wisdom to guide us and Your protection to surround us as we take in everything that is happening in our world. Help us to see it all through Your eyes, make good judgments and always be on the alert for the spiritual enemies that sneak up on us. Keep us firm in our faith. Give us courage and strength in the power of Your Holy Spirit. And please, Lord: Change our hearts so that every thought, word and action comes from a place of love and compassion. Amen.