In these times of national crisis, we need a Jesus perspective, a glimpse of the big picture and a shift in focus.
From a cripple to a powerful preacher
When Joni Erickson Tada was just 17 years old she dived into shallow water and broke her neck. Although she was a quadriplegic from then on, she became one of the most well-known and effective Christian motivational speakers in the world.
These of some of the more memorable things she said:
“Sometimes God allows what he hates to accomplish what he loves”.
“True wisdom is found in trusting God where you can’t figure things out”.
“Perspective is everything when you are experiencing the challenges of life”.
The last quote is particularly pertinent to this article. Perspective is the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance, and we certainly need this in the days in which we live. These are times when we can’t figure things out and so need to trust God for what we cannot understand.
Vital texts rather than tired cliches
I am not going to suggest that you see the glass as half full instead of half empty, or that you learn to make lemonade from lemons. Cliches like this are not particularly helpful when you are facing life’s challenges, are they? Rather, I would like to take you to two passages of scripture that give us wonderful perspective.
Elisha’s servants change in perspective
The first passage is 2 Kings 6:15-17, which tells the story of Arams at war with Israel. Elisha the prophet was Israel’s secret weapon and each time the king of Aram sent out his army Elisha told his king exactly where the enemy soldiers would be. Eventually, the king of Aram found out what was happening and immediately sent a battalion to capture Elisha. One morning the prophet’s servant awoke, went outside, and to his horror saw that their village was surrounded. Verses 15-17: ‘”Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked.
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha’.
The servant saw the enemy cavalry and was afraid, but Elisha saw things from a different perspective, “Don’t be afraid”, he said, “ those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then he prayed that God would give his servant the same perspective and God opened the man’s eyes and he saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire.
The two realities
Two realities are presented here; a real hostile enemy and real spiritual beings of greater power and number. The servant got perspective when he moved his attention and focus from the physical to the spiritual; from the army of Aram to the army of Heaven; from the threat to God’s provision.
So, with this glimpse of perspective shining in our eyes let’s move to the New Testament account of two disciples traveling the road to Emmaus on Easter Sunday.
The unrecognised fellow traveler
Jesus died at 3 pm on Passover Friday and only 40 hours later two unknown disciples left Jerusalem to return home to Emmaus, a 2-hour journey by foot. The scriptural account does not say that these two were returning home, but they likely were. They must have been afraid, disappointed, confused, sad, and angry. Their Messiah had died, their leaders were in hiding behind locked doors (level 5 Lockdown), and the dream was over. I can imagine them saying, “Let’s leave Jerusalem and go home before we too get arrested!”. Luke 24:13-32 tells the story.
As they walked they commiserated with each other. Jesus joined them, probably just after they left Jerusalem, but they were so busy ‘looking down’ that they didn’t recognise him. Jesus asked why they were so downcast and one of them replied: “Are you the only one living in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that have happened there in these days?” Now consider for a moment just how outrageous this question was. They proceeded to tell Jesus what had happened to him! Forgive me, but this sounds a lot like how we sometimes pray; we tell Jesus all about our difficult circumstances as if he doesn’t already know and hasn’t experienced far worse.
The greatest bible study ever
Jesus’ response is recorded in verses 25-27: ‘”How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself’.
Jesus gives them perspective by showing them the big picture presented in the scriptures. But the greatest moment of revelation for them came when they sat down to eat supper together. As Jesus broke the bread they must have seen his nail-pierced wrists and realised just who their companion was. The one who had given them biblical perspective was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ himself.
As a result of this encounter with a greater reality, these two men got up and rushed back to Jerusalem to tell the Apostles what had happened and to be part of what God was doing there. They were filled with enthusiasm and passion and keen to once again be with God’s people. And how blessed they must have felt because God was about to birth the church in the greatest Holy Spirit revival ever!
Perspective on the road we walk
In our strange and distressing times, we too need to see the big picture, the Jesus-perspective. We need to realise that something bigger is happening of which we can be part. Perhaps God is sounding out the last great warning that he will give to rebellious humanity; a trumpet blast of “Repent and turn to me!”
Perhaps millions will heed his call and turn back to God and we will see and be part of the greatest revival seen on this planet since the day of Pentecost!
We also need to grasp the fact that the spiritual world in which we live is just as real as the physical world on which we usually focus.
We need to realise that in this alternate reality the forces of God are greater than the forces of destruction confronting us in the material realm.
Do you recall what Jesus said to Peter regarding this when the Apostle cut off the High Priests servant’s ear in Gethsemane? He said,
“Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels (70,000)?”
Finally, the greatest shift in perspective we need at this time, is that the one who could command 70,000 angels in a moment is the same one who walks with us on our Emmaus road through this strange world. His name is Jesus and he has told us that “In this world, you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world!”
“Yes Joni Erickson Tada, perspective is everything… if it is a Jesus-perspective”.