The Preacher Says....  
  Illusion and Reality  
     
  Luke 12. 16 - 21

Over the car radio came the news the dollar was falling against the German mark. Should that worry me? There were tremors along the San Andreas fault. Should I worry? Maybe the drop in the dollar does mean something to meĖit indicates a weakening in the American economy. Are we becoming a socialist state by our redistribution of wealth? The concept is good, except for the waste and corruption that follow. Well, thereís nothing I can do about it. One day these things will affect my life. Iíll deal with them when they happen.

Itís 6:30 in the Middle East now. I wonder what Arafat is doing this minute. Plotting a terrorist raid on the Syrian border? A bombing in TelAviv? Thereís Sadat, dining in his palace, talking with his advisors about the desperate state of Egyptís finances, wondering what to do. Begin and Dayan, both old commanders; this is a workday for them. How shall Israel be defended? Communist leaders in Italy or France are organizing their forces to insure their government takes over. These things donít affect my life, but when they do, Iíll deal with them. In the meantime, life goes on.

One day the Day of the Lord will come (Zech 14. 1 - 4). Iíll probably be dead when that happens. If Iím still alive, how will I deal with it? On one fine day in Israel, there will be no more violence or destruction; the Lord Himself shall be an everlasting light, and the days of mourning shall be ended, the people righteousĖthey shall inherit the land forever (Is 60. 18 - 21). I hope to see those days. In the meantime, life goes on.

Weíre in the habit of viewing world events, present and prospective, as a play and weíre part of the audience. Weíre lulled into feeling the tedium of everyday life where everything is orderly and unchanging. If we decide we must react, the way we do reveals our false perception, because we say we have to prepare for these things. We say we have to watch and wait so we wonít be caught unawares. Or to persist in the play metaphor, we donít want to miss our cue, when we come out of the audience and onto the stage, and become part of the play. We see ourselves as all part of a unified drama, all going on now. Events of the future are in the process of becoming. In fact, weíre already on stage and donít know it. The falling dollar, Arafat, Italian Communists, the coming war in the Middle East and I myself here, in this place. Weíre all part of the single human drama. Are we playing our parts? Or do we keep missing our cues?

Maybe we need to define our part. Weíre the saints. Thatís not funny, thatís trueĖthatís what Christians are. Weíre supposed to be committed; we have been justified by our faith. In fact, we have received the free gift of grace. We perform our work, not to boast, but see it only as a natural outcome of our faith So on a theoretical level we understand, yet we donít understand what is happening on a practical level. Every day we are molding our character. And it happens in a very commonplace way. Our reactions to like events during the course of each day bring the same reactions, and these habits become deeply ingrained. You canít change them overnight, i.e., smoking, overeating. By habit we can become penurious, a stuffed shirt, acquisitive, bitter, egocentric, lazyĖin a word, selfish. If youíre selfish, itís going to be hard to stopĖyou have been practicing too long. Conversely, by habit you can become loving, generous, forgiving, patient, a peacemaker,Ėthat is, unselfish. Each day we are becoming more faithful or more faithless.

Why do we hear talk about having a living faith? Because itís supposed to be part of your life. And like life, itís dynamics are changing. Oneís faith is never in a state of suspended animation. Itís growing, or itís dying. In how to strengthen and build character, letís look at two men at the end of their livesĖboth died in 1965. I first met Sam in a small town in eastern North CarolinaĖhe was 85 and dyingĖfrightened and bitter. He was a wealthy man with two sons who worked with him in his business. The sons didnít really love him; they loved his money and he knew it. He didnít love them either, and was unfaithful to his wife. He employed me to make everything come out right, to stop his sons from fighting and make them love each other, plus save the business. He didnít trust me after a while. He died and my mission failed. The sons sued each other and fought over their fatherís money, property and business until it was all gone. Then there was William, an Englishman whose father died when he was ten. He left school at age 13, became a Christian at 19 and founded a small church that grew and prospered, to which he was a constant source of strength. He helped Jewish refugees in World War II find safety in English homes. An avid reader, he himself wrote many books reflecting his Christian faith. His death was universally lamented. To an article he wrote Now we see through a glass darkly, he wrote in a footnote, Comparisons are odious: to whom much is given, much is required. Insofar as we can judge, one of these men fought the good fight of faith, he finished the course, he kept the faith:

Henceforth there is laid up for him

a crown of righteousness, which the Lord,

the righteous judge will give him at that day:

and not to him only,

but unto all them also that love his appearing