What are your feelings about 2017? Will it treat you well or poorly? Will you find yourself happier at the end of this year?
Your answer may have more to do with your focus, what your eyes choose to look at, than with your circumstances.
Let me illustrate.
Howard Chapman is a preacher and the son of missionaries who worked in Sierra Leone, West Africa. He tells of how much a flashlight could mean to them and how dangerous darkness was. They were sometimes forced to walk a path at night. That path could be shared with cobras and black mambas. One bite would mean death in mere minutes. Flashlights were essential.
He remembers walking a path when 5 or 6 years old. He begged his mother to let him hold the flashlight. She said OK but reinforced strongly that it was not a toy. She reminded him of the dangers. He took the light but quickly began to worry. He started scanning the bushes and long grass at the side of the path with the light, flashing it back and forth. And just as quickly his mom grabbed the flashlight back.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“I’m looking for snakes,” he replied.
Let me let him finish the story.
“No.” she said. “We are not looking for snakes. We are looking at the path ahead. As long as there is nothing ahead of us we keep walking. If we see something, we stop. It will be afraid of the light and will go off into the dark. When it is safe, we go on. But the light must always shine on the path ahead.”
Chapman is making a point about what I like to call “Next Step” theology. Worry happens when our imaginations begin to flash back and forth scouting out every bush and looking for dangers that may never come our way. Our focus should instead lie on simply seeing the next step we need to take.
Jesus in what we call the Sermon On The Mount reminds us of God’s continuing care for his creation, specifically flowers and birds. He notes that God loves us even more than those. He then goes on to say two important things about worry.
He asks, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” And he states, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Next Step theology. Don’t shine your flashlight so far down the path or off into the bushes that you’re borrowing trouble and unable to see the real problems that lie at your feet. Remember God is good. Let him help you handle today.
So, again, how are you feeling about this coming 2017? Your answer may not depend on your circumstances. The answer may be determined by your focus.
Rick Cupp is minister of the Kenai Fellowship, Mile 8.5 Spur Hwy, Kenai. Call 283-7682. Sunday Bible classes, 10:00; 10:45, Coffee; 11:15, Worship. Wednesday meal, 6:15; Worship and Bible classes 7:00.