Have you ever felt overwhelmed – you know, like really overwhelmed? Like there is huge pressure to perform? Have you ever wondered that life, at times, doesn’t seem to be very easy?
Okay, let’s rationalize it for a moment. Whenever you think about your generic schedule your day is fairly easy. For most of us our schedule consists of: wake up, go to work, go home, sleep, repeat. Some of us even manage to find time for food and friends during the week. Our schedule seems easy, but then you throw in people. We have traffic, clients, and construction. Making our day even harder we have accidents, ill-tempers, missed opportunities, grudges, and that barista (insert your favorite coffee shop) that can’t seem to get your order right.
Even if you seem to get everything right you can still have co-workers who are in bad moods, neglected spouse’s, employers that prefer the other guy in the next cubicle, jealous siblings, and arch-nemesis’. A seemingly easy life has gotten more difficult based on the company that you have to keep. One could say that you should just avoid all stimulus that makes life difficult. The solution: work for yourself and work from home in the woods away from all civilization.
This leaves only one option to fully detach yourself from society and have nothing to do with the powers outside of your property line. Logically speaking that sounds like a great idea, but that’s not the culture Jesus was seeking to put in place. John 17: 15 (NIV) says, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” That doesn’t sound like a church that disconnects.
Christian culture is one that does not shrink, or at least it shouldn’t. It might be easy to say, “enough is enough, forget you people, I’m moving somewhere remote, so I don’t have to deal with you, or anyone like you”, but that is not what God has called the Church to be. In fact, that is the opposite of Christian culture. Do you remember the whole light of the world thing? The part where the Christ-follower will be put on hill that cannot be hidden. Oh yeah, also, let’s not forget the salt of the earth thing. We can’t preserve society if we aren’t trying to actively engage society and shape it versus passively going through our day-to-day.
The Christian should not try to remove themselves from the conversation. They should not choose to depart society. Salt surrounded by salt is just salt. Salt that is in a bottle may have the ability to preserve, but it’s not preserving anything. Salt in a bottle, on the shelf, not be used is useless. Salt doesn’t become useful until it is fully rubbed into what is meant to be preserved.
If Jesus’ prayer is that the Church remain in the world, then it must be for some grand purpose. The design is to be a part of society not to be apart from society. In fact, the Christian should be so a part of society that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to remove them from the culture. David wrote a Psalm that had this aspect of life in mind. Psalm 23:5 (NIV) says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
One could postulate that Psalm 23 is not just a message about dinner, instead, it is a declaration and testimony for David, but it goes deeper than just the history of one individual. It has become allegory for what God will do for all his children. Think about it, is it not true that God will give us rest, guide, protect, equip, and be with us?
Psalm 23 verse 5 says, God will prepare a table for us “in the presence of our enemies”. On the surface that doesn’t sound like a good deal but look closely. It might look like God is setting us up in a place where we will be run down, overthrown, and destroyed, but that’s not what is in God’s heart at all. The Psalmist is writing a song about the journey of life and where our help comes from. There will be good times and bad. We should love correction and listen to God because he will lead us along the right paths. He knows that we are in the world and I believe Psalm 23 can be a foreshadowing of Jesus’ prayer that we remain in the world with protection.
Thinking about it this way, doesn’t the table look less like a place for food and more like a place where a trade can be performed. What is God calling you to? Are you a teacher, engineer, student, policeman, firefighter, EMT, Accountant, or Mechanic? What does your table look like? Are you in politics, business, or the arts? Whatever you do; God will give you the skillset you need to perform the work.
To take a modern example, a dentist’s tools are already set on a table before they even sit down to check for cavities. Even in the case of a master craftsman, the tools are set and in place ready to do the work. Don’t waste your life waiting for the table to be set. Don’t sit idly by taking up space, God has placed an ability in you that must be tapped before it can be used. It might be the same as someone else’s ability, but someone else isn’t going to the same place as you, nor will they reach the same people. You have the tools at your disposal. See the table is set before you and your hands will be blessed. Whatever you do get stuck in and do it as unto the Lord.