Let me tell you about my day (he moaned, while his listeners rolled their eyes). No, seriously, let me tell you about it. Starting with last night.
First: my true love tells me our pipes had frozen. Her father suggests pipe insulation, which we purchase at Menard's (braving the sub-zero Midwestern cold that's making headlines). I crawl into a blocked-off room in our new old house (we moved 2 months ago) to find that the beams along the foundation are rotting. Surprise and disillusionment. Did the couple who sold us this house know? How can we fix this ourselves, without spending a lot of money?
Today: Snow, all day--four inches and still coming. I'm not looking forward to shoveling it. Then my wife tells me one of my sisters has called. It's an emergency, apparently. I fear the worst, but when I call her, my sister can't tell me what's going on. I stew while waiting for her call. Is she angry? Is somebody dying? What will she say? I imagine the worst.
When Jesus talked about the things that hinder the Gospel of the Kingdom of God in our lives, He spoke of a man sowing seed. Some seed fell on good ground, some on hard ground, some on shallow ground. And some fell among thorns. Then Jesus told His followers that each type of ground stood for something that hindered the Gospel. There was persecution (shallow ground) and there was lack of understanding that allowed "the evil one" to take the message away. No problem for me--I face no persecution and I understand the Gospel (I studied in Bible college, for Pete's sake!). But there was the third hindrance, the "cares of this life" that choke out the Gospel. Here, we're on to something.
The challenge we face is that we live in the world but we are not of it. Still it pries its way into our thoughts. Think about me, it cries. Face me! What are you going to do about me? And this is just what sucks the life out of most Christians I know. This is our biggest challenge, the place where we trip up. Here we forget that we are alive with the power of God's Spirit and that the Holy Spirit has an answer for all those things.
Once as I worried over my sister's call, the thought broke in: "What are you worried about? Can't God give you wisdom for this? Don't you have His strength? Why are you fretting?" But once was enough to make me see this from God's perspective. It's not death anymore that grips us but life. That's what happened at Pentecost; that's the point of Ezekiel's vision.
Things happen. That doesn't make them thorns--I make them thorns. Or I make them something else. They can choke life out or call me fully into real life, the powerful flood of life from Jesus. If we say that we are a mighty army that lives by the Spirit of God, then we also mean that we can shout with gladness no matter what we face, because our God is greater than all that. We will expect God's strength to show up in us and God's wisdom to come out of our mouths. We will honor God and rejoice. This is not trite; this is a point of view that we must hold onto day by day, moment by moment. If we don't, then the weeds choke us.
(BTW, Thanks, Tony. God bless you, bro.)