Self-preservation?

I once saw a TV show set in Great Britain during the early part of World War II. The Nazis had defeated France, and the British expected imminent invasion. For some, the uncertainty, the fear of the future, and the feeling that they needed to take care of their own led them to act in ways they wouldn’t have in their normal day-to-day lives. They showed less concern for others, many hoarded, others stole, and some even committed murder!

Other people, in contrast, reacted in a completely different manner. They weren’t heroic because they performed great deeds; they were heroic because they performed small deeds selflessly. They faced their difficulties with dignity. They helped one another. They banded together as a community, looking out for the welfare of their neighbours and sharing what they had with those in need.

Seeing the contrast between the two types of responses brought home the challenges we face when we are in uncertain times or difficult situations. In times of disorientation, it’s natural for people to feel concerned for themselves. While everyone won’t respond in the same way, the selfish human instinct for self-preservation takes a more prominent role for some people.

When all around us is unstable, it’s natural to become destabilized ourselves. When what felt like solid ground begins to feel like shifting sand, the fear can be gripping.—Fear of the future, fear of the changes being, or about to be, thrust upon us. If we allow fear to overpower faith, our trust in God’s care tends to diminish. Once that happens, then the feeling that we must take control of events and take matters into our own hands becomes more prominent. This isn’t necessarily bad, since the “fight or flight” instinct is built into our nature, and we automatically respond to perceived danger with self-preserving moves.

The challenge we face, though, is finding the right balance between our human nature and our spiritual nature. As Christians we are “new creatures” who possess more than just human nature (2 Corinthians 5:17). We have God’s Spirit dwelling within us (1 Corinthians 3:16). We abide in Jesus and He abides in us (John 15:4). So, our responses to circumstances and events should be influenced by that indwelling. While we may feel naturally driven toward self-preservation, the Spirit can temper that reaction, so that we can find the balanced response—one which is compatible with Christ’s nature. (Galatians 5:22–23)

This isn’t easy, because our human nature is so … well, human. It’s our default setting. Being concerned for someone else or their need, situation, or struggle isn’t naturally our first priority. Because of this, there is the danger that we will minimize or even completely ignore someone else’s needs in favor of our own. Taking care of your needs and the needs of your loved ones isn’t wrong. But as disciples of Jesus, filled with the Spirit of Jesus, we should step back from focusing on our own needs and look also to the needs of others. Philippians 2:4–5 says: “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

Appreciate This Wonderful World

Imagine a traveler, sitting quietly in a boat as it floats down a river that meanders through a green valley. Trees and shrubs, some in full bloom, line the riverbank. Majestic, snow-covered peaks rise in the distance. But this traveler doesn’t notice the beauty of his surroundings; he is too busy studying the guidebook, learning about the history of the area and where the river will take him.

“Look up! You’re missing the view!” We call to him, but to no avail. He just keeps on reading, his head bowed, his mind elsewhere.

There are times when we need to study the guidebook, as well as times when we need to think back or forward, but there should also be times when we stop and take in the moment.

For the next week, take five or ten minutes each day to look closely at the world around you. Focus your attention on the fluffy white clouds as they drift effortlessly across the vivid blue sky. Study the intricate design on the petals of a flower, or the graceful architecture of a tree, or the pattern of a flock of birds in flight. Look for something different each day, and thank God for His creativity.

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to stand beneath the boughs,

And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

—William H. Davies (1871–1940)

The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.—Anne Frank (1929–1945)

God is the friend of silence. Trees, flowers, grass grow in silence. See the stars, moon, and sun, how they move in silence.—Mother Teresa (1910–1997)

So send I you

“As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” – John 20:21

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” – Isaiah 6:8

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”– Mark 16:15

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” – Romans 10:14–15

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To go on mission to all of creation is to express something indispensable about God’s nature. In the Bible, the word sent occurs more than 650 times, and in a majority of its uses, God is doing the sending. In the Old Testament, He sends angels to minister, manna to feed, and prophets to warn. He sends disasters to stop tyrants or discipline His people. He sends leaders to deliver. God is attentive to needs, and so He sends.

In the New Testament,

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