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Finding Our Way

Last Word

on July 1, 2014
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Tough times often force us to go back to the Bible and rethink our assumptions.

Mike Matthews

Mike Matthew, Editor in Chief

Am I the only one confused by life in the 2010s?

The first time my head smacked against the mysteries of life was the late 1970s. I wasn’t disturbed by the malaise of the Jimmy Carter era so much as by the difficulties of choosing a college, with all it entailed about my future. I realized that, after all my years of schooling and reading, I lacked the resources to answer the big questions of life. The resulting tailspin didn’t end until I “found” Christ my freshman year.

In the months following my conversion, I consumed all the Christian literature I could get my hands on. I also read through the whole Bible attentively. The basic convictions that would guide me for the next three decades were settled. After reading a few trusted Christian authors, I thought I had life nailed down.

But God has a way of throwing perplexing problems into our lives. Devastating droughts transform our lush landscapes into a cracked desert. Old ways of thinking don’t seem to apply anymore.

Like you, I’ve had my share of tough times, and I’m disturbed by the direction of our culture. How are Christians supposed to minister in this new age?

For a long time I’ve wanted to publish an article on the secularization of America to encourage readers (and myself) with biblical insights. It’s no accident that God led me to Dr. Mark Coppenger, a seminary professor, pastor, father, and outreach leader.

His article lists five ways Christians have historically interacted with the culture (pp. 70–73). In years past, my natural inclination would have been to choose one (“Christ against culture”) and ignore the rest. But life’s challenges are forcing me to reexamine my assumptions.

God does not offer a simple, one-size-fits-all solution for every problem. We need His wisdom in applying Scripture to particular circumstances.

Back to Basics

The Lord wants us to “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). If we could blindly follow a set of rules, then we wouldn’t need the Holy Spirit’s help. Instead, God constantly throws us into situations where we must depend on Him to help us understand how to apply His unchanging Word in our changing world.

Lately, my Sunday school has been going through the wisdom literature, which has helped me immensely. As I bring new concerns—both personal and public—to bear on Scripture, I am overwhelmed by the new light it sheds.

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” As I reread Ecclesiastes, I realized that Solomon not only starts with those cutting words (1:2), but he closes with them (12:8). Apparently he intended to shock his readers into rethinking their most basic assumptions.

Solomon was depicting the landscape of the world harshly to make his conclusion all the more telling: “Remember now your Creator” (12:1). Over four thousand words of despair to highlight four words of hope. I love his writing style.

Solomon is relentlessly knocking down our presumptions about the certainties of life. The book cries out for us not to despair but to seek an eternal perspective. Given life’s inconsistencies, injustice, and ultimate vanity, there must be something beyond—a resurrection. Because Solomon compellingly depicts the vanity of life (which only Christ can overcome), his book has been called “the most striking messianic prophecy the Old Testament has to offer.”

Exciting stuff. I’ve been learning new things I can share with anyone in the 2010s who thinks angst is this generation’s prerogative. There’s nothing new under the sun. And I learned these insights because hard circumstances drove me back to Scripture.

One reason for times of drought, I think, is to create a landscape where seeds can miraculously take root and flourish, for all to see what only God the Creator could do.

We live at such a time.

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