Sermon: How to Combat Future Shock
Preparing for the Future
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 02-Jul-94; 70 minutes
As I express my concern that we not allow ourselves to get distracted by having so many choices available to us regarding what to do with our time, I recalled recently a talk that I prepared for a Spokesman’s Club graduation about 15 years ago, that revolved around some interesting conclusions that Alvin Toffler, who is the author of Future Shock, reached some 8 or 9 years following the publication of his book. The term ‘future shock’ was coined by Mr. Toffler and it first appeared in a publication in an article he authored for Horizon Magazine as early as 1965 and then it was in 1970 that the term became more or less public when his book by the same name was published.
Future shock is the term used to describe a time phenomenon. It is the name given to the stress and disorientation that occurs in individuals when there is too much change in too short a period of time. So he called this, “the disease of change.” It is the product of a greatly accelerated rate of change. He claims that it began about 300 years ago, but it only began to really affect us in the last 50 years or so. It has definitely become an effect that has to be dealt with because it appears to be producing the death of permanence and I think you will see why this is so important in just a bit.
Most of us are familiar with a mild form of this such as whenever we fly in an airplane across several time zones, especially if one is traveling from west to east. When we arrive at our destination, we feel a sense of tiredness in us for the next couple of days or so. We call that jet lag and the reason it occurs is because our internal bodily time clock does not have enough time to adjust to the change of time and location in which we were formerly in, so we feel kind of washed up. What you are feeling is a mild form of future shock, the time changed, there was a change that occurred so rapidly, and your body could not adjust to it.
In Daniel 12 we get a little peek into an aspect of the world at the end time.
Daniel 12:4 “But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.”
This verse can be taken in two ways; one way is for it to be taken literally—that people are literally moving over the surface of the earth, they are traveling from one place to another, "to and fro." They might be traveling by walking, they might be going by automobile, they might be going by airplane, but in whatever Daniel saw, he saw people moving about.
There is another aspect of this that adds another dimension to its application. The phrase translated “to and fro” indicates intensive back and forth movement. If it is used in a different context, it can be applied to the strokes of an oar. Now if you can just picture somebody rowing a boat very rapidly, the arms go back and forth. And if we were speaking in Hebrew, that could be translated to and fro, or the same word could be used in that sense. It can be used for a swimmer’s arms going back and forth making the strokes.
It can be used for somebody searching for a desired object. In other words, their eyes are darting back and forth in their eye sockets, the head is turning about going back and forth. It can be used for a person casting about looking for a particular person in a crowd, or it can be literally used for a person running back and forth.
The question in the translator’s mind, those people who translated this word from the Hebrew or Aramaic, whichever it happens to be there, into the English, is where the movement is taking place. Is it on the earth’s surface or is it in people’s minds? The New English Bible translates it as people are at their wit’s end. We can see very clearly there that the translators felt that the context indicated not people who are literally moving about, but people who were casting about in their minds about what to do and so the reactivity according to them is the result of anxiety, of fear, of insecurity because of the events that are taking place and they do not know what to do.
One thing is certain though. The kind of circumstance that is being talked about here in Daniel indicates that the people are in a very high stress level. And exactly what the verse pictures, it sure does not picture people who are living in a time of calm and peace.
On the surface, the engine behind the rapid rate of change (we are back up into the modern world), appears to be technology, but behind that is an explosion of knowledge in virtually every area of life. Technology is merely the vehicle that makes it available for public use so that it impacts upon us. If they were just groups of people who had a great deal of esoteric knowledge, it would have no impact on you and me. It is when it is made available for practical use, and we begin to use it, we begin to a apply it, then it begins to have an effect on the public's mind.
Let me illustrate in just one area here how fast things are going, how fast they are moving compared to just a short time ago.
Do you know what the fastest mode of travel over a fairly long distance was in 2000 BC? It was by camel. A camel can outrun a horse over a long distance because over a long distance, the camel can move about 8 miles per hour almost for the entire day, hardly ever having to stop for a rest. By 1600 BC, the fastest mode of travel was by a chariot, that is a two-wheeled vehicle drawn by at least 2 horses or a team of four horses maybe and these can reach an impressive 20 miles per hour.
About 3000 years later, at 1825 AD, the great hauling ships were plying the oceans with the goods of manufacture from one place to another, and they were moving at a terrific rate of 6 miles per hour. It was in the same year that in England, a steam-driven train reached a terrific speed of 13 miles per hour, that is only 5 miles faster than the camel and it is not quite as fast as the horse-drawn chariot at 20 miles per hour. By 1874 AD, only 120 years ago, the first horse-drawn mail coach, the stagecoaches, averaged 10 miles per hour traveling out West in order to deliver the mail and to bring people from one town to another.
I want you to catch how fast things have changed since 1874. By 1880, that is 3,900 years from the 8 miles per hour of a camel, the first steam locomotive reached one hundred miles per hour just in time when the West was opening up. Rails were laid across our great West, the West began to be peopled, and manufactured goods from the East began to go out at the possible rate of one hundred miles per hour.
By 1938, only 58 years later, experimental jet airplanes reached 400 miles an hour and people began to be concerned about what would happen to men’s bodies and airplanes and so forth when they broke, if possible, the sound barrier at 714 miles per hour. Only 22 years later, in 1960, the X-15 rocket-driven plane reached 4000 miles per hour! And in 1965, men were being shot in capsules outside the atmosphere of the earth so that they escaped the earth’s gravitational pull at the rate of 18,000 miles per hour and that is faster than a speeding bullet.
The death of permanence has profound ramifications on God's people because God’s whole purpose revolves around permanent things, eternal things. God is eternal. God never changes and He wants to spend eternity with us. His purpose involves absolutes in the form of laws and values. God’s way is contrasted in the Bible to vanity, and broadly, vanity is that which is temporary, having no lasting values, and a large part of the minister’s responsibility, my responsibility to you and to God, is to persuade you to consciously choose eternal things, things that never change as contrasted to that which is vain.
This is not an easy task because we are being overwhelmed by an awesome flood of information impacting on us from every direction. At one time, and this is within the memory of everybody who can hear my voice (except maybe the youngest children), there was only one telephone company serving the entire United States where it was possible, except for some small local companies. Do you know that today in California alone, there are in excess of 125 long distance carriers?
Computers used to be a novelty and they were huge in size. I can remember the very first one that I had any personal knowledge of back in the 60s and the church installed a computer to generate payroll checks and I guess a number of other things as well. You know we had to build a building for that computer and that building was easily about 50 to 75 feet long by about 50 feet wide and most of the room inside of that building was taken up by the computer! Today, I am absolutely sure that I have sitting on my desk in my office, a computer that has more power within it than that huge computer that took up an entire building.
Do you know that the amount of components that a computer chip will hold is doubling every 18 months on the average and that more new information has been produced in the last 30 years than the previous 5,000 years? If you went to the Library of Congress and you spent just one minute, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week looking at each book, manuscript, or other library resource that it would take you over 700 years just to glance at each one.
Television is one of the major information carriers into your own home, at your beck and call 24 hours a day whenever you want to use it. When television first arrived in people’s homes, there were 12 channels, and if you were in a fairly large city, there were three stations. This year, the FCC is unleashing an additional 500 channels on the American public.
This explosion of knowledge is made available to businesses and the public use. It impacts on us in the form of rapid, and sometimes devastating, job changes, large economic fluctuations, and sometimes mass movements of people from one area to another.
The people who study demographics, for example populations and their impact and their movement, say that the largest population disruption in the history of the world has already begun and one of the major causes is that American, Canadian, Australian, and South African farming practices are being introduced into developing nations.
I do not know whether you are aware of it but those four nations, United States, Canada, Australia, and South Africa are carrying the burden of feeding the world and one of the major reasons that we are able to do it, is not just the fact that we have good soil and generally good weather patterns, but we also have methods of producing those foods that the rest of the world simply does not have available to them—a great deal of mechanization.
I just read this past week in a newspaper here in Charlotte of a man who visited his hometown in South Carolina and he began to notice, it struck him so that he asked his friends, “Where are all the people?" especially he asked "where are all the blacks?” His friend said that they have left town and the man said, “Why?” The man took him outside and he pointed out into a field and he said, “You see that building out there?” He said in that building is a machine that is capable of taking the place of 700 farm workers. It happened to be a tobacco farm. One machine that does virtually everything, it plows the ground, it plants the tobacco. It does virtually everything that formerly people had to do by hand and so what happened? The people left the town because there was no more work for them to do. The machine was doing virtually everything.
Here is what is happening in the third world countries. Every two seconds, nine people are born in the world, and during that same two seconds, three people die. That is a net increase of 3 people every second. Three new lives every second. The world population is increasing by 10,600 people every hour, 254,000 per day, 1.8 million people per week, 7.7 million per month, 93 million people per year. That is a new nation of Mexico every single year that is being produced.
These people are spread around the world, and 92 percent of this increase is taking place in the developing nations. By the year 2000, that 93 million will increase to 94 million, and by the year 2020 that will increase to 98 million.
Let me give you some comparison here as to how fast the population is increasing. In 1800, after 5,800 years of mankind’s existence, the population of the earth reached one billion people. Only 125 years later, we are now up to 1925, the population was two billion people, 5,800 has been reduced now to 125 years. (Please understand how rapidly things are changing now as we approach the end.) By 1959, only 34 years later, the population was three billion. By 1974, now down to 15 years, it was up to 4 billion. By 1986, now down to 12 years, it was up to 5 billion, and in 1997, it will be only 11 years, it will reach 6 billion people.
Here is what is happening. These third world countries, these developing nations, in which the population is growing rapidly are adopting American, Australian, Canadian, and South African farming practices, agricultural practices, at a much faster rate than we did here in the United States, Canada, Australia, or in South Africa because the equipment and the know-how to do these things have to be developed, it had to be experimented. The technology had to come along and now this technology has reached a place where it can be spread over the world and these people do not have to go through the normal process of developing it. It is already there, it can be just given to them.
In the meantime, their population is increasing at a tremendously rapid rate. These machines, these methods, are going to rapidly cut down the number of people that it takes to work on the farm. In the United States, somewhere between two and three percent of the population works on the farm. Think what happens when farmers begin to get this mechanization available to them. What will happen to the people on the farm? You cannot hold them on the farms, they move into the city. We were able to absorb it with very few dislocations because it was happening at a fairly slow pace, but it is happening tremendously and rapidly in these developing nations. People are moving off the farm.
In the third world nations, their populations generally have 20, 25, 30, to 40 percent of their populations involved in producing agricultural products. Those people are not going to be needed. It is already happening. The people are moving off the farms in those developing nations and into the cities in a tremendous numbers.
One of the areas of the world that this can be seen most clearly in is our neighbor to the south—Mexico. The population of Mexico City is exploding at such a rate because the people simply are not needed on the farm anymore. The population of Mexico City is approaching 20 or 30 million very shortly, and of course we have a tremendous stream of illegals coming across the border because there is nothing to do in Mexico. There is no employment.
What kind of political, economic, social problems is this going to cause in these third world nations? It is already impacting on you and me in places like Somalia. What happened? There will be many, many more Somalians, Rwandans, and Nigerians, and who is the world's policeman? And whose sons and daughters die on foreign soil? It is going to impact on you, it is already occurring.
One of the biggest, most momentous population disjoining to take place ever in the history of mankind, and it is happening very rapidly (it is happening outside the United States, it is happening outside of Western Europe), but it is affecting your life because it is happening so fast. You are a half a world away from where the action is taking place, but it is affecting your life, it can affect your pocketbook, it is going to affect your liberty, it is going to affect your choices.
The average Americans moves about every 5 years. He had his job about 4 1/2 years. Contrast this to my father and mother, I think they are fairly typical of the generation just before mine. My father had the same job, with the same company, at the same location, from his teens until he retired at the age of 62. In all of their married lives, my parents moved 3 times. I do that every 3 years, sometimes. Things are changing rapidly. We could go on and on and on how rapidly the pace of life, the pace of change is taking place.
Ecclesiastes 1:2 “Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher, "vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”
Ecclesiastes 1:4-8 One generation passes away, and another generation comes; but the earth abides forever. The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it arose. The wind goes toward the south, and turns around to the north; the wind whirls about continually, and comes again on its circuit. All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; to the place from which the rivers come, there they return again. All things are full of labor; man cannot express it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
Solomon here is describing an endless cycle of seemingly frustrating events that occur in the life of all who live. I do not believe that he had this present day reality of future shock in mind when he wrote this, but I think that what he said applies even more so today because many of the cycles of life have been greatly accelerated. They are moving so rapidly it is awfully hard to keep up with these things that he is talking about. Seasons come, seasons go, life comes, life goes, and they move at a pace that is very slow by comparison to the way things are moving now.
Proverbs 22:3 A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.
The word evil means calamity or danger and says that the prudent person, the careful person, the level-headed person, sees what is coming and he keeps himself clear. That is another way that that could be translated. But on the other hand, the thoughtless, the people who do not take consideration of what is going on around them, they just go right on and they pay the penalty.
Permanence is something that everybody needs and that is what a major part of God’s purpose is drawing us toward—permanence, things eternal. All of this rapid change, the gradual death of permanence, affects a person's physical and mental health in a variety of stress-related ways through over-stimulation. In other words, the body or the mind never seem to get any rest. It is constantly moving because attention is being diverted—first this way and then that way—and it happens so rapidly, the mind, the body never get the chance to slow down to a pace that it could adjust to and therefore absorb whatever the change is bringing about, and eventually that over-stimulation leads to apathy.
You know what apathy is called in the Bible, spiritually? Laodiceanism. A person who is over-stimulated eventually gets to the place where they do not care. That is what apathy is. They do not care.
The prudent man does foresee the danger and he does something to cope. How can we cope? We have to be careful here because one might be led to think that what God wants us to do is very little. That is, just kind of withdraw. Not so. On the contrary, He wants us to be very busy as we move toward His Son's return, He does not want us to go in the direction of apathy, He does not want us to just sit back on our lees and accept things as they come along. He wants us to be actively doing things. The issue is not necessarily how much we are doing, but the quality of our prioritizing and how many different things we are trying to do.
Variety might be the spice of life, but we have to remember that spices are stimulating, and stimulation is a major part of the problem. Stimulation increases the drive for gratification. Think about that. When your taste buds are stimulated, are you not then increasing your desire to satisfy, to gratify that stimulation? Same with the eyes, same with the ears.
An overall principle regarding what to do lies in understanding that future shock, which in turn eventually produces apathy, is the result of the loss of permanence. It is constant rapid change that produces future shock, so it is caused by the loss of permanence. Which direction is God leading us? To things that are permanent. Therefore the overall aim to reduce the effect of future shock is to choose to pursue things which build permanence into your life.
The prudent man perceived the calamity, the evil, the danger, and he turns aside. In the case of the effects of future shock, the death of permanence caused by a rapid change, change that occurs so quickly that our bodies and minds do not have enough time to properly adjust to it. That causes the stress that wears the body and mind out and eventually is going to produce an apathy in the mind. Psychologically, we will not want to do things. Physically, we will just feel tired and eventually it can even lead to our death.
I might inject here that we cannot suppress change of the sort that is now occurring. In other words, there is no way to avoid the fact that it is going to occur, so do not even bother yourself worrying about it occurring. It is going to occur. It is like a huge flywheel that has been sped up and nothing can stop it now. What we can do is anticipate and do our best to manage as well as we can.
The people who study these things have produced a profile of people less affected by rapid change. It is interesting what this profile looks like because it is in this area that the church can be very, very helpful.
People who are goal-oriented tend to be less affected than drifters.
There is a very familiar scripture that fits right here.
This verse sets the highest priority in one’s life. It is the number one goal (remember, goal-oriented people), it is set by our Creator and our Savior and He urges us to seek it. Does He want us to seek it in a lackadaisical way or does He want us to go at it in such a way that shows a determination, a willingness to work hard?
Do not get the idea that God wants us to just drop out. The solution to the problem of a future shock is what we pay attention to, what we give our time and effort over to accomplishing; and here we want to make sure that our goals in life are the right ones. God wants us to be goal-oriented and strive to achieve those.
Is there anything more permanent in God's creation than the Kingdom of God? It never changes.
The word "seek" is a strong word meaning to endeavor with earnestness. When Jesus commands us to do this, He is not speaking of the Kingdom of God in the sense of something vague and far off, but rather to endeavor to put into practice the principles and the values of that Kingdom in our lives on a daily basis.
Amos 5:6 Seek the Lord and live, lest He break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it, with no one to quench it in Bethel.
The word "live" is interesting here because even though Amos intended it in a physical sense, he intended it in the sense that their lives would have a quality to it, they would really live life to its fullest. Both of those things are inherent in what Amos said, but to live is the opposite of death, which is the most tragic and stress-related change of all. The people who deal in prioritizing, or assembling lists of the most stress-related things in life, said the one that is at the very top is the death of a spouse, the death of someone who is very deeply loved.
This “seek God and live” is ultimately pointed to the same thing that Matthew 6:33 is pointing to. This is the way to eternal life, as well as increasing the quality of one's life right now. It means to seek God's way of life. It means to practice it in your life and ultimately you will live permanently, because you have the same values as God because we will be in the image of God. There is permanence in being in the image of God.
The reason this is good in terms of the effects of future shock is because goal-oriented people are focused on what they are trying to achieve and because their mind is focused on what they are trying to achieve, they are not going to have time for the peripheral things that clutter up the use of time. That is very important and that is why future shock does not affect these people. Their mind is bent, focused on, achieving something that they consider to be very important and so a far fewer number of things impact upon them. To goal-oriented people, the other things or distractions clutter up their mind and rob them of time to accomplish their objective.
Matthew 6:19-23 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
What did Jesus say? Is He not continuing the thought of being goal- oriented, is this not a part of seeking first the Kingdom of God? He said, “Don‘t allow your life to become focused on things that are subject to change.” That is very clear. He says focus on things that do not change and then if you are focused on those things, that is where your heart is going to be. And if your heart is really there, then far less of this world is going to have an opportunity to impact on your mind because you will not be interested.
You simply will not allow your mind to be distracted on these other things because you are focused on accomplishing this goal that is right in front of you. I hope I can get this across to you. This principle is so clear to me though. When you are focused on paying attention to those things which are permanent, then the ramifications of other changes that are going on about you are going to be very minor indeed.
Proverbs 24:30-34 I went by the field of the lazy man, and by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding; and there it was, all overgrown with thorns; its surface was covered with nettles; its stone wall was broken down. When I saw it, I considered it well; I looked on it and received instruction: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest; so shall your poverty come like a prowler, and your need like an armed man.
The lazy person, the slothful person is a drifter. He generally lets nature take its course. God built it into nature to degenerate. Nature must be maintained by efforts of man. When things are let go in nature, almost all of them degenerate, they do not get better. We are part of that which is natural. If we do not make effort to achieve that which is permanent, what is going to happen? We are going to degenerate, just like the rest of nature. The mind will degenerate, the body, the health will degenerate. Psychologically, we will degenerate.
The drifter, the slothful man has no defense against the natural order of things. He is at the whim of whatever is happening, he will degenerate, and so in order to protect oneself from that the eye has to be single. We have to seek those things that do not change. We have to seek the Kingdom of God, it is the number one priority in life. We have to bend our efforts in that direction.
Make sure of your values. People who have a solid grasp of right values are not very affected by rapid change.
I think that it is interesting to note that God says of himself in,
Malachi 3:6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.”
There is permanence to what They are—Their life, Their values, Their character, Their purpose. And if it were not that way, there is no way that They could be trusted. There is awesome stability that can be absolutely relied upon.
People who are unsure of what they believe and why they believe it are very likely to be thrown about by every fad, by every change of fashion, by teaching, change of teaching, or whatever it is that comes along. People like this are erratic in their behavior. They create and cause a great deal of stress for others who are not exactly sure where they stand and what they are going to do. These people are not in control of very much of their lives and they become victims of their own instability.
Ephesians 4:14 That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro [Watch this language, how vivid it is in regards to this subject we are talking about here] and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.
Carried about, wind, children. This is not a good thing! This is something that we are to grow out of, is it not? How does one grow out of this right within the context of what Paul is talking about? It is becoming like God, first accepting His values, believing them, trusting them, putting them into practice in one's life. That is how one becomes stable, that is how one becomes mature. There is a very interesting principle in regard to this in Deuteronomy 4.
Practically every commandment and encouragement, admonition to keep God’s eternal and unchanging command is given for this reason.
Deuteronomy 4:40 “You shall therefore keep His statutes and His commandments which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which the Lord your God is giving you for all time.”
“I am God, I change not.” God’s values never change. We are to become like God, we are to adopt and make part of us the permanent, unchanging values of God. Why? So that we will be stable, so that we will no longer be children, so that we will be perfected, so that we will be completed, so that we will grow up, so that we will not be carried about by wind of doctrine, every change in fashion, or whatever it is, fad, music, clothing, whatever it happens to be—all those things changing so rapidly all over the world so that we will not be affected by them. We will go steadfastly and on our way toward the Kingdom of God.
Deuteronomy 5:16 “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”
We could go on and on. Verse 29, same chapter, verse 33 same chapter, chapter 6 verse 3. It is a never-ending plea, command, admonition of God that we make His commands, His values, a part of our lives so that it will be well with us and that we will be stabilized.
There is no way that one can completely avoid the unsettling changes that are taking place because we live in a world that is virtually out of control. But people who do not know where they stand, especially in relation to God and eternity, are going to be at a severe disadvantage, especially psychologically, as events intensify. They will speed up.
I can remember Mr. Herbert Armstrong used to say from time to time that when this thing is all ready, he meant the Beast, it is going to happen so fast that it is going to make your head spin if you are not ready for it. And if you are aware of what is going on, you can see the pieces coming together, you will not be shocked.
Work to build habit into your life.
People whose lives seem to be in a rut, seem to be able to avoid the pitfalls of future shock. Why? You see the principle? Because their lives have a measure of permanence to it. There are things that they will not change.
Proverbs 24:21 My son, fear the Lord and the king; Do not associate with those given to change [Think about our former association spiritually.]; for their calamity will rise suddenly, and who knows the ruin those two can bring?
I mentioned earlier that people say that variety is the spice of life. Yes, a certain amount of variety is good. God did not make the world olive drab in color. But it is interesting that the Master Designer made the dominant colors in the environment that He created for us to be a soothing pastel sky blue, shades of green, and earth tone, the browns. The wonderfully loving gesture designed by our Creator and it is very nice that we do not see the shocking blue of lightning very often. It is too stimulating, especially if it happens to be close.
I have mentioned in the past my father-in-law used to tell me, “Johnny, if you find a good rut, stay in it.” Let me ask you a question here: do you like a lot of variety in food? My father in law, for as long as I knew him, it was well over 30 years, ate the same breakfast and lunch every day of his life. There might have been a few variations here and there, may be a couple of days out of the year, he would be traveling or something and would not be able to eat these things, but as long as he was at home for breakfast, he had two shredded wheat biscuits that he put in a soup bowl. He turned on the hot water, got it good and hot, he soaked those two biscuits in hot water, then he drained the hot water off, and filled the bowl up with milk with a little bit of sugar on it. That plus a cup of coffee was his breakfast. At lunch, he had two soft-boiled eggs, again in the soup bowl. He had got a couple of pieces of toast, and sometimes he would have a piece of fruit, and also another cup of coffee, and that was lunch. He lived to be 87 years old and he was healthy whole time.
There is a very interesting example in the Bible.
Numbers 11:4-8 Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its color like the color of bdellium. The people went about and gathered it, ground it on millstones or beat it in the mortar, cooked it in pans, and made cakes of it; and its taste was like the taste of pastry prepared with oil.
Sounds like pretty good stuff to me. But they wanted variety and so they complained about what God provided them. Later on in the Psalms manna is called angel’s food. Man did eat angel’s food.
I bring this example to you to show you that though God has created a great deal of variety, we do not need to sample everything in life. The Israelites got by very well, thank you, by eating manna for 40 years. In fact, variety and food has a tendency to work against us. Having a lot of variety creates a stress within the body.
Now I used the word habit, to build habit into your life, and that is okay, but maybe I could have just as easily used another word, and maybe it is a little better if I used the word ritual. But even ritual has kind of a bad connotation to it to people who have a religious bent because we immediately begin to think of the ceremonies that God gave to Israel and we think that there is something bad about ritual. No, it is people's attitudes about ritual that is bad, not the ritual itself.
What ritual means, if you look in the dictionary, is “according to religious law or social custom.” It also means “any formal or customarily repeated act or series of acts.” Perhaps another synonym would be even better to get across what I mean here, and that is the word custom, because this might better describe what I mean. Work to build custom, habit, ritual into your life. Custom means “usage or practice common to many,” “long established practice considered as unwritten law.” It means “repeated practice” and its synonym is habit.
God has ensured that His Family has certain patterns in their lives that tend to stabilize them in His way. You are very familiar with them:
The weekly Sabbath. Every seven days by custom, by habit, by ritual, motivated by love, You meet with Him, fellowship with Him, and fellowship with His Family.
How about the holy days? They come up on a regular basis, do they not? It is a habitual thing that we do them. How about prayer? Is that a habit with you? Is it a permanent thing? Does it build stability and permanency into your life? Yes, it does. Does God want you to do it habitually? Absolutely!
How about Bible study? That is another one. You know what? Even tithing is something that we do by custom.
There is nothing wrong with that word as long as we look at it in the right way. As long as we do these things realizing their vital significance and importance, they will help to build stability into our lives so that we will be like a rock in the midst of adversity. The Sabbath never changes and when you keep it, it is another increment forward in the right direction to becoming like God.
Adversity will come and we need anchors, things that stabilize our mind, things that keep us in a certain direction, especially psychologically. Everybody needs routine from which they never vary or life becomes nothing more than endless swirl of meaningless events. It is the routines and their quality that determines the direction and thus the outcome of our lives. The human body and mind thrive on quality routines.
The immature—Ephesians 4:14, children—they think that is dull, that is not very exciting. But then again, brethren, that is why they are immature. They never discipline themselves long enough to grow up very much in any area. Discipline forces a person into routines that promotes growth. How many times have you had to practice something before you got it right? Practice is a routine, practice promotes expertise. Routine, depending upon the quality, promotes stability, maturity, expertise for the honing of one’s talents, and that increases one’s self worth, which is worth a great deal. Growth in the right area produces stability.
People who are involved with people are also definitely less effected.
When I say involved with people, I do not mean casual and passing pleasantness with everybody. That is good to have, but what we are talking about here is people who have built deep and lasting friendships.
Friend comes from an old English root that means “akin to,” “related to,” “or similar to.” A friend is one who is attached to another by affection or esteem. Without a doubt, the institution that is the hardest hit by future shock is the family. A friend is one on whom we can lean for support, encouragement, understanding, sympathy, and affectionate correction whenever it is needed. A friend does not necessarily agree with you without question, but they are a person who is sincerely concerned for your wellbeing.
Proverbs 18:24 A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Proverbs 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
Proverbs 27:10 Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend, nor go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity; better is a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.
In friendship, there is usually a commonality that draws people together. But one thing is certain from these scriptures that we just read here, that a friend is more than a mere acquaintance. A friend is the one who sticks by another through thick and thin, through the good times and the bad. Friendship is one that has stood the test of time and has been developed in such a way as to produce a trust, that gives stability to life.
Abraham is called the friend of God. Not that God was Abraham’s friend, but rather Abraham was God’s friend. What an awesome compliment to Abraham! That means God trusted him! Abraham was somebody who would stick by God through thick and thin, through all kinds of adversity. It did not matter what it was, Abraham could be relied upon. I just wonder how many people in all of mankind’s history had God’s trust.
It is interesting that in some of the Psalms, God is described as one who not only goes before us, indicating security, one who leads, but also One who goes beside us indicating equality—our Friend.
It is from God that we learn what a friend is like. He set the standard. This sermon is not devoted on how to become a friend, but just to point to its importance in regards to stabilizing life. Friendship is not a method of using others, but a way of appreciating and respecting others for what they are. Since there is a limit to the number of close friends that any one person can have due to the constraints of time and the business that one must take care of, I am sure that it is God’s intention that it be within the family, and primarily between husband and wife that friendship is developed and flourished.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 [Heading: The Value of a Friend] Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. [To escape the ramifications of the death of permanence, promote good friendship. The reward will be stability.] For if they fall [during times of adversity], one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm[ You see, there is a sharing there that gives life to both.]; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
So when the currents of change impact, and they will, the marriage and the family will close ranks, they will support one another so that no one or all be swept away. Friendship is a stabilizing influence in all of life.
The lead article in the June Forerunner, “The Flood is Upon Us,” warns us that we are already well into a Satan-orchestrated device, a flood of distractions aimed at providing us with a confusing and endless array of choices and accompanied by an accelerated, out of control wave of change that tears us away from the noble stabilizing anchors so that we might be swept away to our destruction.
The advice that was given in that is that we focus our attention on the Kingdom of God, we focus on attention on building our spiritual house. If we do that, we will not be swept away.
We are going to be forced to live, we are being forced to live in what we build. Build toward permanence.
So the antidote to the rapid rate of change that is taking place is to be aware of what is happening and to discipline oneself to consciously choose to make sure that there are stabilizing, unchanging, permanent areas of life that will keep us from being unsettled into making wrong choices and thus being swept or blown away.
So be goal oriented. Make sure of your values. Work to build habit into your life, build solid friendships. These things have a powerful tendency to stabilize us and anchor us because they are part of the permanence of God.