Three Questions that will Shape the Way You Live in 2020
The following in an excerpt from The Four Gifts of the King:
“What else can I do? The path is impassable. If I try to walk on it, I will be sucked down into the mud and die. And I can’t go back through the woods. They’ve become too thick. Do you have a way through all of this?”
“No.” The little man stood and poked Steward in the chest with his walking stick. “But you do.”
“I do? What do you mean by that? I have no idea how to get through that bog!”
Steward was in no mood for word games. Was this little man really from the king? Who could he trust? He would proceed with caution.
The little creature motioned for Steward to come to the edge of the moor. “Come here and tell me what you see.”
Steward looked out again across the field of shifting mud and sighed. “I see a great bog, a swamp filled with bubbling mud and reeds and mosquitoes. And I see my path disappearing into the middle of it.”
“Young Steward, you will find that what your eyes see and what is real may be two different things. How do you know what you are seeing is real?”
I can see it right there. What is this man talking about?
“How else can I know if something is real than to see it…and touch it? My foot was sucked into the mud, so it seems real enough to me.”
The man shook his head and held a fist in the air. “No, no, no. You must learn to see things as the king would have you see them.”
Steward spun around and stumbled toward him in his excitement. “You’ve…you’ve been sent by the king?”
The creature nodded. “Calmly now. Yes, he sent me to you. He wants you to understand that the world you think you see may not be the real world at all. You need to have new eyes—lenses, if you will—to see the world as the king would have you see it.”
Steward was enthralled by the image. “How do I get these lenses?”
Dunston fished around inside his tunic and produced a set of spectacles. He handed them to Steward. “Here, for now you can borrow mine. They will help you discern what is real from what is illusion. Put these on and look back to your moor.”
Steward did as he was told, but when he turned again to look out over the moor, it was gone! In its place, Steward saw a meadow filled with wildflowers. His path ran through the flowers. He reached up and lifted the glasses from his face, and the moor with its foreboding fog and bubbling mud was there. Then he rested the glasses back onto his nose, and the meadow and wildflowers returned.
Frustrated, he took them off. “This is a trick, some sort of illusion.”
“Yes, yes, you are right. It is an illusion.” The little man poked his stick again into Steward’s chest. “Only which of the two views is the illusion, and which one is real?”
Steward walked again to the edge of the moor. He placed his foot on the mud and pressed down until the mud oozed around his shoe and he felt the ground give way. He jerked it back.
“This is reality!”
“Is it? Put the spectacles back on.”
Steward placed the little glasses back on his face and again the beautiful meadow appeared. He watched as Dunston shuffled up to the path and began to walk through the wildflowers. He stopped and picked a bunch and held them to his nose. Then he continued strolling along in the warm sunshine.
“Dunston, how can you walk through the moor like that? I don’t understand!”
The creature looked back at him. “Leave the glasses on and walk out here with me.”
The writer of Hebrews tells us, “You have made them for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned them with glory and honor, subjecting all things under their feet. Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor.” Hebrews 2: 7-9
The great 20th century theologian Karl Barth uses the rich German term Heilsgeschichte, translated ‘salvation history’, to affirm that, “The pure eternal being of God as the being of the Triune God already presents us with a ‘history’; in the dynamics of His inner life as Father, Son and Holy Spirit God is the basic type and ground of all history. … [To this specific] history as Heilsgeschichte and thus as the history of the people of God, … all other history, so to speak, is but a temporary appendage.”
What do these three quotes have in common and why are they important at the beginning of this year and this decade? Dunston’s spectacles helped Steward see a reality that he could not see otherwise. The writer of Hebrews tells us that by seeing Jesus we believe a greater truth about the world than can be readily seen. Barth reminds us that human history is subjective to a greater reality, the history of salvation.
As I read these perspectives, I find myself both encouraged and perplexed, because I also watch the evening news. The beginning of 2020 may mark one of the most tortuous, unsettled, disturbing periods in our nation’s history. We are on the brink of major conflicts with other countries globally, and we’re at war with each other internally. The news is marked with a depth of acrimony, visceral hatred, and narcissism the likes of which many of us have never seen. How do we reconcile the view of the kingdom of God above with this reality of a rapidly deteriorating kingdom of man writ large across our news reels and computer screens?
The answer, I believe, lies in the veracity of our belief in the reality of the kingdom of God; that is, whether we truly believe it to be the defining reality of our day. Being this kind of consistent kingdom person may be harder in 2020 than at any time in recent memory. If we are to be such followers of Jesus, I propose that we must decide how we answer three questions. See how you do.
#1 – Is it really all His?
The issue of lordship is the issue of our day. Kingdom people affirm Abraham Kuyper’s declaration that, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” Here at the beginning of 2020 can you look out over the landscape of your life and your world and affirm this proclamation? If we are to be kingdom people, then God’s kingdom must define our reality, and everything else must be subordinate to it. The danger is to claim some form of counterfeit ownership for ourselves, and that starts us down the same path as our increasingly morally vacuous culture. Let us reject this from the start and begin this year with the bold, unequivocal assertion that “It’s All His!”
#2 – Are we all His?
It’s one thing to proclaim God’s ownership of everything ‘out there’ but what about us? Does He have lordship over us? Are we so sold out to Jesus Christ that the world will see and know and react? The narrow path of following Jesus runs down the center of the wide path that leads to destruction. Are we ready to walk that path in the sight of everyone going the opposite direction? Let us allow the overwhelming love of God in Christ to so transform us that we can say without hesitation or limitation, “I’m all yours!”
#3 – Is He enough?
This is where the rubber meets the road. In a world shaped and driven by scarcity, can we affirm with confidence that God is enough? Is He enough to meet our needs, to transform our attitudes, to bring us satisfaction in sacrifice and fulfillment in selfless service? If God is not enough, we will spend 2020 grasping at every other possible source to fill our unmet needs. Let us instead trust God to be our Provider in every circumstance and by every form by stating here and now, “God is enough!”
My prayer is that we live 2020 as kingdom people, acknowledging the reality and supremacy of what we often cannot see. Let’s put on Dunston’s spectacles to see the world the way the King wants us to see it. Let’s be content in ‘seeing Jesus.’ And let’s remember that our human history is subject and subservient to God’s salvation history that began with creation and will end with the final, physical and universal coming of God’s kingdom. Until then, let us affirm with heart, hands and voice these truths; “It’s all His, I’m all His, and He is enough!”