Because I spent at least an hour each day in my car driving, I prefer to use my time efficiently by listening to podcasts in lieu of the radio. Most of the podcasts I listen to are Christian speakers and pastors around the country. I like them all but my favorite speaker by far is Matt Chandler at the Village Church in TX.
Chandler is the teacher pastor at the church and is responsible for delivering the majority of their messages. He is a Calvinist and complementarian and his love for God is apparent in everything he says. While we different on the first part (I’m a Wesleyan and Egalitarian), he challenges me to not get sucked into the lies of this world and to keep my focus on Jesus.
In one of his messages, Chandler described an odd hobby he had. He used to walk through cemeteries and look at plots of individuals that were the same age as he was to remind him of his mortality.
If you’re thinking that this sounds a little morbid, you are not alone. I was sort of taken aback when I first heard it and remember asking myself if I was sure I should be listening to what this guy had to say. Surely this is the sign of someone who isn’t really in the right frame of mind.
However, after thinking about it for a little while and contemplating this idea in light of my own life, I think I understand what he was saying.
Our Time is Short
The book of Ecclesiastes is probably everyone’s least favorite book. Essentially, King Solomon asked God for wisdom and God gave him a bad attitude. The book consists of Solomon telling everyone that all of our possessions are basically meaningless and on their way to the trash. The big flat screen TV we just bought will be obsolete by next year and thrown in the trash after that. The new clothes we bought will break down and become rags. Our youthfulness and beauty will fade. Our money and fame won’t last.
We get a glimpse of the grand scheme of time. We see a tiny perspective of life. Like dew, we arrive in the morning and are gone before noon.
This carries over into how we spend our time, too. Do we spend too much time worrying? Do we sit in front of the computer, television, or our cellphones? Do we pour our energy into what makes us happy even if it only satisfies us for a moment?
Seeing A Bigger Picture
When I say that we need to think apocalyptically, what I’m saying is that we need to focus on what matters and discard what doesn’t. It is truth that many draw closer to God in times of sorrow, grief, and powerlessness. It is during this time that we recognize how limited, weak, and powerless we are. For a brief period of time, the fog lifts from our lives, and we see the brokenness that exists in this world.
Unfortunately, the lies of the world woo us back to ignorance. When the emotion fades, we forget what we saw before and pretend that everything is once again perfect, that we are in control of our own happy futures, and that we can satisfy ourselves.
Thinking apocalyptically reminds us of our mortality. It reminds us that this world we live in is broken and that this is not where we are supposed to end up. It reminds us to cling to God acknowledging our brokenness, and it reminds us that money, sex, and possessions do not satisfy our deepest desires.
So… No Happiness Ever Again Then?
It’s crazy to me that so many people that know and experience an emptiness in their lives despite their attempts to assuage it through drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping, relationships, etc. still insist that God only wants us to be unhappy, repressed puritans for the rest of our days and their way is better.
God created the good stuff! He created sex. He created technology. He created relationships, community and culture. He desires nothing more than to see His creation experienced in fullness and completeness. It is we who try to forage our own path and fail to listen to His instructions.
It’s a little like God giving you an Xbox, telling you how to play with the Xbox and then you smashing it on the ground and getting angry at God for giving you the Xbox. Then you make fun of the guy who’s reading the directions and plugging in the Xbox.
God wants us to have great Joy and tells us how.
By reading the uncomfortable passages in Scripture and remembering your mortality, you begin to rethink what you buy, how much you spend, and where your time is going.
Is buying this $200 juicer really necessary? Is buying this video that I’m going to spend hours playing a good thing? Is working overtime so that I can buy my daughter a big gift for Christmas worth more than missing her play to do it?
Additionally, thinking apocalyptically allows us to focus on what matters.
By becoming a mentor, I will be able to help someone help others. By volunteering at this soup kitchen, I’ll provide for a family that’s trying to get back on their feet. By donating the money that I was going to use to buy the iPod 8 for my friend to repair his car, I help him get to work and support his family.
Be joyful. Love the Lord, and don’t get bogged down in stuff that doesn’t matter.