HOW TO LIFT THE FOG ON AN EVIL WORLD
By Trevor DeVage
Praying as I walk around the whole outside of our church building has become my new way to start most days. Monday it was a special experience. The circle takes about ten minutes, and when I started this practice several weeks ago, I would pray for only two or three of those minutes. But this day my prayers continued, out loud, till I got clear around the building. I was still praying when I finished, and I said, “OK, now it’s time to go inside and listen.”
I want to tell you what I decided as I opened Titus 2 for my study that morning. I can’t stop thinking about Paul’s challenge near the end of the chapter.
HOW TO LIVE
“We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God,” he wrote (v. 12*).
I was struck by this for two reasons.
First, Paul called his world evil, and we could say the same about ours. Everywhere we turn we’re hearing about racial upheaval happening at the same time as unprecedented pandemic. Disease and death seem to confront us from every corner while hatred is shouted in the streets and social media breeds conflict. Our country has never been more divided, at least in our lifetimes, and the ugliness of it all threatens to overwhelm us.
But then Paul offers antidotes to discouragement: Live with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God (v. 12), and “Look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus, Christ, will be revealed” (v. 13).
Sometimes I think we tend to over complicate obeying God. But all of us can remember and apply Paul’s simple strategies.
Wisdom comes when we pray for it (James 1:5) and when we obey two foundational commands: Love God with all our heart and soul, and love our neighbor as ourselves (see Matthew 22:37). When we set that kind of love as a daily goal, we gain a calm outlook on life that surpasses any formula you’ll find in the dozens of self-help books sold by Amazon.
Righteousness follows heeding Paul’s challenge to “turn from godless living and sinful pleasures” (v. 12.) This seems like a daily pursuit to me. How do I function effectively in the world while turning away from it? Finding that answer is why we need wisdom.
Devotion to God helps, too. Repentance always requires not only turning from, but also turning to. When I’m living devoted to God, my investment of time and money and every other resource will be different from the priorities demonstrated by those who don’t know him.
Hope grows from realizing that not every problem can be solved here, not every question can be answered now. God will “wipe every tear from our eyes” (see Revelation 7:17) only after “the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.” Our time on earth is just a temporary stop. When we realize that we’re really aliens in this world, our focus can be on the world to come.
But that doesn’t mean we aren’t concerned about this world. To the contrary, Paul says Jesus “gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.” The basis for those good deeds is the fruit of the Spirit, listed in Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control (vv. 22, 23). I know I’m developing this fruit if I find ways to demonstrate it. A watching world is attracted to my faith if I live it out among people far from God.
And so, as I begin my study break this year, one of my goals for the month is to grow that fruit of the Spirit in my life. This commitment was strengthened as I came close to the end of my walk Monday morning.
Fog—at first I thought it was rain—was rolling across Mason and settling on the field beside the church building. When it reached the brick walls, it parted, surrounding the building but not covering it. Above the fog the church’s cross stood unhidden, and the sun shone down upon it. This is what happens when the church is the church, I thought. It stands above the fog of cynicism and selfishness—the evil— that threatens to overwhelm the world.
When Christians learn how to live in an evil world, we can lift the fog around us. I’m committed to finding and leading even more effective ways to make that happen.
*I’m quoting from the New Living Translation today.