Reflection for 2020
Have you struggled against spiritual sleepiness, aware of an unexplained urgency? As I’ve talked with people, urgency feels like an underlying theme. It makes me wonder if the wind of the Spirit is blowing through the church saying, “Wake up! Get yourself ready for what is to come!”
Luke 21:34-36 says about the last days, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness, and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you will be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you will be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
Now this scripture is a good word regardless of where we are in the timeline of history. Let’s look at these three descriptions: dissipation, drunkenness, and the anxieties of life. These are the things that weigh us down, that hinder, or entangle us in sin as noted in Hebrews 12:1.
The first word in the list is dissipation. Various definitions of this word all revolve around excess, self indulgence, lacking restraint in the pursuit of pleasure, and wasteful expenditure. The process of dissipating in physics or mechanics means a process in which energy is used or lost without accomplishing useful work.
So Jesus is saying that we can be weighed down by self indulgence. It’s easy to see how our pleasures and our excesses siphon energy away from a wholehearted pursuit of the kingdom of God. Endless distractions hook our attention and dissipate our focus—think Facebook, video games, Amazon shopping, Game of Thrones, being a foodie, etc. infinitum.
I would have to say that for me, my cell phone and computer chew through precious time like Pac-Man gobbling through power pellets. It’s so easy to glut on entertainment. No wonder we end up feeling fragmented, unfocused . . . and empty.
Second, Jesus mentions drunkenness. Dissipation meant intemperance, especially excessive drinking. In this context, drunkenness could represent all addictions.
I recently heard a sermon where the pastor cited a study which found that Americans have never been unhappier, and one of the reasons is addiction. The opioid crisis alone takes 170 lives daily. The internet brings gambling, porn, video games, and “knowledge addiction,” straight to your own home, creating more and more landmines as never before.
And new addictions continue to surface. When the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) was updated in 2013, though it did not make the cut, “Caffeine Use Disorder” had been considered for inclusion.
Third, Jesus warns against being weighed down with the anxieties of life. Even though we are an affluent society with far more abundance than Israel enjoyed during Jesus’s time, we still worry about the same things—food, clothes, and money. We just worry in a different way. Food. Will it make me fat? Or maybe the additives will kill me? Help, my clothes are out of style! And oh no, the stock market is plunging!
Worry presses in as we are preoccupied with what we do, with what people think of us, and with what we possess. We focus on our problems, our past and our pain, and angst about the future. All these anxieties, like weeds, suffocate true life.
Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). Dare we take Him up on it? He certainly knows what we are up against, and yet still He tells us to trust and not worry.
Summarizing Luke 21, Jesus is warning this last generation to beware of slipping into self indulgence, addiction, and sight-blurring anxiety. “Be careful or your hearts will be weighed down . . “
Do you relate to this idea of being weighed down? Of dissipation—a sense of feeling fragmented, unfocused and expending energy unproductively? Jesus’s words are a wake up call to pay attention. He is saying, “Be careful or you will be caught up in civilian affairs instead of the affairs of the kingdom. Don’t be caught off guard.”
The best antidote to lethargic spirituality is to cultivate the joy of your salvation every day with all your heart and with all your strength. Talk to God about anything that gets in the way of a free relationship with Him. If you focus all your energy here, the yoke will become easy and your burden light.
Do you sense it? A call to trim your lamps and add more oil? Note that all the virgins in the parable fell asleep. The western church has been sleeping too, lulled by her comforts. But not far off, the bridegroom calls. He is on the way and near. We must wake up and prepare for the increased labor pains of the earth prophesied before His return. The contractions of evil are most certainly coming stronger and faster.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, breathe fresh life and power into us as we enter this new decade. Thank you for the promise of hope and strength even in unprecedented times.
“Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthian 1:7-8).