I am now officially an old guy.
Proof #1 : Now that the youngest of my offspring has attained the ripe old age of twenty, I no longer have any teenage children. Instead, I have grandchildren. They are lots of fun, but their seemingly boundless energy also proves to me that I am no longer young.
Proof #2 : I have gray hair – what’s left of it, anyway – although my three-year-old granddaughter Sophie, while riding on my shoulders recently, patted my bald pate and loudly proclaimed “Gwampa, you don’t got hair – you got a head!”
Proof #3 : I also have glasses – not only the reading glasses that I began using a few years ago, but progressives, with a lens that has zones for short-range, medium-range and long-range vision, with no abrupt line between them.
Progressives are great, but they also have their limitations. The part of the lens devoted to close-up vision is quite small, and this can be annoying. Because of this, I have kept an old pair of half-glasses, which were originally intended for reading and computer work. I got them before my progressives, and I still prefer them if I want to look really closely at something – but that’s all they’re good for. If I want to see long-range, they are no good to me at all. I have to look over top of them. If I do wear them while looking at something farther away, they make everything go very blurry. This can be quite dangerous when going up or down stairs.
A lot of Christians are like that. We are so focussed on what is right in front of us that our perception of the big picture is blurry at best.
This is a bit like going through life staring through a magnifying glass at the next immediate problem or obstacle. You may see that problem or obstacle very clearly, but you don’t see the big picture, so you end up stumbling over something you didn’t see, and falling flat on your face.
We need both short-range and long-range vision. If either one is missing, we end up in trouble.
Jesus chastised the religious leaders of his time because they had no sense of the big picture. Driven by fear of offending God, they had become so fixated on rules and regulations for staying pure that they totally missed the big things – the things that mattered most to God – justice and mercy and faith.
Others among God’s people – the ordinary folk, who weren’t so religious – were also blinded by short-term thinking. The details of their personal lives and concerns – the heavy struggle for daily bread and daily hope – had blinded them, too, to God’s big picture and their place in it.
To all of them, Jesus held out a golden opportunity to start again – to start fresh. He showed them God’s heart of mercy. lavishing healing and forgiveness on many who were undeserving but needy. He told them of the Father’s love, and invited them to a banquet that was coming soon, when the Son of Man would return in glory to banish evil and restore all things. Sadly, most of them were so busy staring at their current obsession that everything else was completely blurry to them. He warned them that unless they put down their magnifying glass and opened their eyes to the big picture of God’s purpose, the little world they had built for themselves would be torn apart and they would be left with nothing.
Some humbled themselves, heeded his words, and received new life. Most rejected their Messiah, missing their opportunity for mercy and a fresh start. The results were exactly as Jesus had forecast. Within forty years their people and their nation had been torn apart.
We are currently living in a world in increasing turmoil, even if the worst of it has not yet reached our doorstep. My own conviction is that we are rapidly heading towards the final crisis of history. The enemy is raging against the people of God and his rage is increasing. At the same time, the gospel is spreading even where the darkness is at its darkest. I recently read the account of a young man from an Islamic nation who heard about Jesus through an Arabic-language Internet ministry. He went on a pilgrimage to Mecca and all his dreams were filled with thoughts of Jesus. When he told his relatives of these visions, he was hospitalized and subjected to electric shock therapy to rid him of alleged mental illness. Eventually he was released, and has now found a church and some Arabic-speaking Christians who can answer his questions. Praise God that he has discovered mercy and hope through Jesus, and that he didn’t give up during the times of testing.
This young man has found life, but he had to pay a price. His story is one of many – some far more dramatic – that confirm my belief that the end of the age is drawing near.
Meanwhile, I am currently looking for work. This is my most pressing short-range issue at the moment. I can’t ignore it, and I shouldn’t. But I don’t want to become obsessed with this immediate concern. I do need to deal with it, but it’s one small blip in a much bigger picture. I am living for eternity, and I don’t want to lose my reward by losing sight of God’s purpose for me.
Each of you has your own immediate concerns – a house, a job, a child, a parent, a health concern – and they are valid and legitimate. But those immediate concerns need to be kept in perspective. Don’t let short-term thinking lead to blurry vision that robs you of your reward. Put down your spiritual magnifying glass, step back from your immediate concerns, and look at the big picture. Jesus is Lord! He is coming for his Bride! You get to be a part of that. He knows what you are concerned about right now – but he has something bigger for you to be part of. Don’t miss it!