As we face our future

So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. (Ecclesiastes 11:8)

So I wrote up this post yesterday about the legislative challenges to Samaritan Ministries. What I didn’t write up is that this is a trend that is appearing in many states. Massachusetts has already passed a mandatory health insurance law. Other states that are moving on this include Maryland, Colorado, Illinois, and several others. In total, I believe that there are at least ten states that are pursuing this option aggressively, and various states are also considering this. Things are moving quickly and, if these laws are passed, we could find ourselves closing our doors.

2007 could very well be the defining year for Samaritan Ministries.

We’ve always known that something like this was a possibility. We knew that if the government ever socialized health care, we would be suddenly unemployed. But that would have to be a long, gradual process; we’d know that it was coming. To have it suddenly staring us in the face without warning is frightening.

And, for the first time, I’ve realized that I’m scared.

I like working here. I like doing what I do. I like being with other Christians, in a workplace environment where I am able to exercise my gifts and am treated like a real human being. I had thought that this would last forever. But now, the uncertainty of the future is yawning before me, and I know that this may not be true.

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

There are many things that I hate about living in a fallen world. Scarcity is one of them. There are never quite enough resources to go around. As such, there are always compromises to be made. If we buy this, then we can’t buy that thing over there. If I spend my time on this task, I won’t be able to spend time with that person. And so on.

I have five children. They all need to be fed and clothed and sheltered. Sometimes I feel that pinch. But, by God’s grace, of late, it’s only been a pinch. In times past, it has been worse. The other night, Crystal and I bought batteries. They were only a few dollars. But I remember times when a $3 purchase would have been the occasion of scrutiny. A wrong choice could have hurt us. A crisis could have broken us completely.

It’s easy to forget, in these times of plenty, that it is God would provides these blessings. He is the One Who has provided the food that I eat, the clothes that I wear, the roof that keeps me dry. He is the One Who provides for my family. If Samaritan Ministries has to close down, does that change? Hasn’t Samaritan Ministries been just a tool that God has used to care for me?

If I were to lose my job, has anything really changed?

But that’s the struggle, isn’t it? Right now, Samaritan Ministries is the buffer between my family and need. I can see Samaritan. I cannot see God. Who will I trust?

Yet I know that God will not disappoint. He hasn’t let me down yet, which is truly amazing, considering how big of a screw-up I am. So I will look to Him with faith, faltering though it is. And maybe I will learn to trust Him more through this.

When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the LORD your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. And when you draw near to the battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the people and shall say to them, “Hear, O Israel, today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, for the LORD your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.� (Deuteronomy 20:1-4)

It’s important that you know that Samaritan isn’t giving up, just because things look bleak. Even while I’m typing, the upper management is meeting to discuss our plans to fight the passage of these laws. I don’t know all the details, nor would I tell you if I did. However, we’re gearing up for a fight. We’re fighting for our members’ right to practice their Christian convictions. We’re fighting for our jobs. We’re fighting for our families.

But they are much bigger than we are. And, let me tell you, we’re feeling that. Simply the scope of the assignment is daunting. How do you monitor the legislative developments in fifty states, let alone try to lobby all those legislators? And there’s no time to mess around. For example, Illinois is apparently trying to pass this law by the end of this legislative session. For those keeping track at home, that’s within the next three weeks.

They have the lobbyists. They have the organization. They have the money. They have the ears of the rulers.

We have God.

Now, if I had the kind of faith that I wished I had, I would look at this and say, “Ha! That’s not even a fair fight! My God can kick your butts in His sleep!” And, you know, some days, I do think like this.

But right now, I’m not feeling it. I’m seeing the horses and chariots lining up on the other side, and I’m looking around at the few of us on my side, and I’m just not seeing it.

I know that I’m not the only one here who is feeling this way. Pray for us. Pray that we will keep the faith. Pray that, as we face the enemy, we would not panic. Pray that we would have confidence in the power of God, and that we would pursue this fight, secure in the knowledge that He is with us in the heat of the battle.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Recently I read a book about Mormonism entitled Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer. One of the things that I noticed was the sharp divide in Mormon thought between Mormons and Gentiles (i.e. everyone else). And, in Mormon thought, the Gentiles could pretty much take a flying leap into hell, for all they cared.

I believe very strongly in the divide between the Church and the world. And yet, I wonder if, at least in part, we as Christians need to fight the world because we love the world. The wisdom of the world will destroy it. “For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness,’ and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.'” (1 Corinthians 3:19-20) Only by pursuing God’s wisdom will the world actually flourish.

Let me apply this thought to our current situation. The mandatory health insurance plans that are being proposed are stupid. Leaving aside any issues of the proper role of government, simply consider the economic argument. Individuals are going to need to pay for health insurance. How will they afford it? Businesses will be forced to provide health insurance for their employees. Where will they get the money?

I’ll tell you where they will get the money. They will stop buying other things in order to afford it. Individuals will spend less on food, or clothing, or entertainment, or consumer electronics in order to afford the high costs of health insurance. Businesses will hire fewer people and increase the prices of their products in order to afford the costs. Of course, if individuals have less money, how will they afford the goods and services that business will be offering them? Debt? But will they be able to afford the debt?

So, we will fix that by putting an artificial cap on insurance premiums. But then, doesn’t that hurt the ability of insurance companies to pay out claims? They do actually need the premium money, after all. So then, the government will give credits to the insurance companies to compensate them for the premium cap. But where does the government get that money? From the taxpayers. But where are the taxpayers going to get that money?

How does this solution actually fix anything?

The wisdom of the world is folly. By pursuing this plan of action, the states are actually hastening the meltdown of their economies. It’s a recipe for recession, and they are eagerly embracing it.

As we go out to fight, we need to see that, partially, we are trying to save the world from itself. We need to love these people enough to try to save them from their stupidity. We may not be able to do so, and we do need to care for our families and our members first. But still, one of our motives needs to be to display the love of God to these people by trying to stop them from hurting themselves.

Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth. If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves on the earth, and if a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie. He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap. As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything. In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good. (Ecclesiastes 11:1-6)

Will I have this job in a year? I don’t know. So, what do we do in the meantime?

The Bible tells us. It says to be generous. It says to pursue plans. It says to continue to be diligent in doing our work.

It would be quite easy to allow this threat to paralyze us. I read about a lawsuit involving IBM (if I recall correctly). The article that I was reading noted that IBM let the lawsuit dominate its corporate culture to the point that, even though they didn’t actually lose in court, they were effectively neutralized anyways.

On both a personal and corporate level, we need to avoid doing this. Instead, we need to continue working on providing quality service to our members, laying plans for the future and pursuing them. We need to do so in humility, knowing that God may suddenly change everything. But, really, is that any different than normal?

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him–a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

While we are all affected by this, some of us are closer to the front lines than others. Since I work in IT, I’m in a support role anyways, and I anticipate that this will not change much. However, some of us will have to address this issue full-time.

Of these, James is the man on point. He is the one who will be leading the charge. He will be assembling and leading the team of people who will be trying to oppose these measures. This will mean a lot of long days and difficult nights. This will mean a great deal of travel, potentially with very little warning. This will mean that James will be spending a lot of time living out of a suitcase, rushing from capital to capital as he tries to gain an audience with those in power.

I know that there are parts of this task that excite him, but, on the whole, I know that James would much rather be at home with his family. This next year will require much personal sacrifice by him and his family.

And so, a special word to James: we are with you. I am with you. I can’t do your traveling for you, but I will be there to pick you up when you are down. I will help carry your family when you need to be away. I will pray for you. Together, looking to almighty God, we will persevere and, by God’s grace, we will prevail.

The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6)
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? (Psalm 56:3-4)

Suddenly, the future is a scary place. Suddenly, the foundations are being shaken. Suddenly, everything is different.

Except for God. He hasn’t changed a bit. We may have been caught off-guard by these developments, but He wasn’t. Indeed, this is all part of the grand and glorious story of the retaking of this middle-Earth by the conquering hero, Jesus Christ. And, in the end, when the last battle has been fought and the last enemy lies broken before the throne of Christ, we will look back at it all in amazement.

First, we will be amazed how it all worked out. It will be incredible to see the delicate interplay and counterbalance, played out through space and time. We will feel the wonder of having seen the Master spin the greatest tale ever.

Second, we will be amazed because we were actually able to have a part in it all. Somehow, at the end, we will see how all our efforts were woven into this grand epic that was unfolding around us, even the petty things that we thought were unimportant, and we will realize how privileged we were to live in the place and time were God placed us.

But, most importantly, we will be amazed that Jesus pulled off His victory with a team of scrubs like us. We will get to the end, and Jesus will give each of us a crown, saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And we will look back at our lives and know for certain that we did not do well, but Jesus used us anyways. And, in unison, we will remove the crowns that He has given us and cast them before His feet. Because we will know that we are not worthy to wear them, but He is.

So, until that day, I will continue to persevere. I will battle my fears, remembering that God is near. I will continue to do my duty, confident that God uses all things to His glory. And I will reach out to those around me in love, striving to be faithful until the end.

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2 responses to “As we face our future

  • Steve

    Seth, when I am faced with situtations like yourself, (and trust me I am in one right now), I always take faith in the idea of surrendering to God. We can’t begin to try to understand all of him or his plans, we can know his love, and we can have faith in his love, and that I think is part of surrendering. Whenever a door closes and I think why? or why now? I think of things like in Lords of the Rings when Frodo asked that, and Gandalf replied, ours is not to ask why now or why us, but to do what we can with the task that has been given us.

    I have also thought that during the darkest days, I ask why, why this, why close this door to me? Looking back on that time, I see that another door was opened to me when one closed. I was so tied up in the first door closing that I didn’t *see* the second one opening. Just take heart that it is during the darkest days that we are closest to God for he does not forsake us, but loves us.

    My prayers go out to you and your family – Tokyo Steve

  • HLB

    Seth,

    Thank you for your honesty. I can see your faith shining. Well done!

    Dad

    ‘And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.â€? … Even so, come Lord Jesus!’

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