Phil Bassett delivered this devotion to his students last week. It is a timely word of truth for students and parents.
I have a question for you: Do you remember the disciples?
You probably remember how many of them followed Jesus, right? 12. And I bet you can remember the names of at least one—if not three of them? Peter, James, and John. Can you remember some of the things they did? They knew how to fish; they “bullied” little kids, and they argued who was the greatest. Sound familiar? Some of their actions were selfless and heroic, while some were downright embarrassing. They were human through and through.
But other than fishermen, have you ever considered what the disciples were? Does anyone know what a disciple is? A disciple is a student, so all the disciples were students, and to be a student means to have a teacher. Their teacher, of course, was Jesus. But even with such a teacher, the disciples still had a lot to be anxious about.
Do any of you remember when they accepted the call to follow Jesus? How did that decision go down? They heard him call, dropped everything, quit their jobs without turning in a two weeks’ notice, and left without packing or saying goodbye.
Now fast forward to Jesus’ actual ministry.
By Luke 12, at least, they’ve been following Jesus for a while—and how would you describe the job? Cush? Six-figure salary? Lots of perks? Ample vacation time? Of course not.
They traveled town to town, often on foot, sometimes spreading out in twos to see if anyone they found would shelter them. They often had to fish for their food and search out a water supply. In addition, they were usually rejected, if not persecuted, by the local authorities. Then there were the masses—the hungry, sweaty, and utterly desperate crowds of people—and they just flocked to Jesus. Sometimes they tore open the roofs of houses to get to him. Given that information, can you imagine what one of the disciples’ main jobs was? That’s right.
Crowd control. They had to keep order amidst the chaos of thousands of impoverished souls. And there were only 12 of them.
So they didn’t know where they would sleep at night, where the next meal would come from, how the authorities would treat them, or if the masses would trample them—all this for following a crazy carpenter god-man from Nazareth nowhere. The disciples had a lot to be concerned about and were probably not so sure about what they signed up for. Jesus’ classroom comes with a steep learning curve.
You, also, are students, and in the last five months, you have been given a 1000 reasons to be anxious. It’s been 160 days since we last had school in person, and things feel different—our world, no doubt, is different. We don’t know if we’ll get sick or continue to stay well; we don’t know things like how long coming to school will keep us from seeing our grandparents; we don’t know if we’ll get to experience athletics or fine arts as they once were—or even if they’ll last once they begin. On top of that, we don’t know if we will ever make it out of the unrest our country is currently facing—or if you will get to have that future you always assumed would be yours until 2020 disrupted everything indefinitely. It’s a lot. It’s what all of us feel or have felt at some point during these last five months. And it’s left me unsettled—often, even, ungrounded. Perhaps it has done the same to you.
It’s into those circumstances—to students such as ourselves—that Jesus says these words. From Luke 12:22, Jesus.
22 ...said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek hiskingdom, and these things will be added to you.
I have drawn some principles from these observations and written them in the first person because I want you to believe they are true of you.
I have a Father, and He knows me.
You are not a stranger. You are not an afterthought. You matter.
I matter to God the Father more than the rest of His creation.
In other words, you are the object of the Father’s attention, and more than that, your growth is the purpose of his plans. So you can rest assured: whatever your circumstances, God is working for your good.
My anxiety may feel strong, but it has no power over me.
I love that Jesus chooses time as the outcome to evaluate anxiety. He says, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to the span of his life?” We may not be able to control the feeling of anxiety; in fact, it will harass us in the here and now. But this passage teaches us that our anxiety has no power over our will to act.
I am not guaranteed tomorrow, so I will live for today.
It’s more desirable to worry about tomorrow—to avoid the present either by longing for the past or looking ahead to the future. I hope every day that “social distancing” and the like will all go away. By doing that, I can at least feel like I have a measure of control over my circumstances.
COVID and Quarantine have also been a teacher—a stern one—and one thing it has taught me—is this:
We are not in control, and we are not guaranteed tomorrow.
All we have is today. As difficult as it is to give up control, we have to say: “This is all there is, right now. What can be done with it?”
Today, students, I ask you and myself to do just that. To give up worrying about tomorrow, to give up longing for the way it used to be, and accept reality. I do so in the hopes that we can give our whole selves to this learning environment and find out just what is possible within it.
So, let’s live for today.
Let’s take advantage of every moment we have together this year. Let’s live fear-free—carefully, of course. As much as we are able, let’s check our anxiety and speak the truth at it because we have a Heavenly Father who has already taken care of our tomorrow.