In the wild and (sometimes) wonderful days of the ’60s, young people would frequently flag down motorists for a ride. I have to say that I enjoyed many fascinating conversations with my hitchhiking travel companions. They were always ready to talk and occasionally wanted to “bare their souls.” And I loved being a “listening ear.”
In response to my regular conversation opener, “Tell me about yourself,” one young man replied, “Tell you about myself? I’m trying to find myself!” I responded, “Oh, I can help you there. You’re sitting right next to me!”
He gave a wry grin, shook his head and said, “I wish it were that easy.”
The miles flew by as we talked and as I told him…to his surprise…that I thought he and King David of Israel shared some remarkable similarities! I explained.
One quiet night, probably sitting on the hillside outside Bethlehem, David was overwhelmed with the immensity of creation and asked the question, “What is man?” The hitchhiker and the shepherd were both looking for “themselves” or perhaps more accurately were pondering their identity.
The hitchhiker did so out of feelings of confused emptiness. David, the shepherd, out of a sense of insignificance and frailty in the presence of created wonder.
But the shepherd had answers, which he recorded in Psalm 8. He begins by saying, “You [that is the Lord Jehovah] made him [that is generic ‘man’].” That’s where to start! Self-identity begins when we embrace the fundamental fact that we are “made,” not that we just “happened.” We’re not accidental — we are intentional creations!
An intelligent God made us for an intelligible reason, which we are capable of discovering and embracing. To accept this concerning yourself is to open up vast vistas of possibilities for eager discovery and endless pursuit.
Moreover, David says the Lord Jehovah cares for him. So we are not only thrilled to know we are created, we are warmed to the core of our being to learn we are cared for! God is not to be regarded as an inventor/engineer who makes things and then moves on to something else. He is a mindful, caring, deeply compassionate Father of the mankind He has made. And we are His precious children.
Since Charles Darwin’s day, we are regularly encouraged to think of ourselves as a “little higher than the apes.” David knew nothing of that. In this Psalm, he goes on to say that we are “a little lower than the heavenly beings.”
Now that is a much healthier perspective! In fact, God has “crowned [man] with glory and honor” and put him to work in the role of “ruler over the works of [His] hands.” So now we discover we have profound significance in the eternal purposes of God!
There is at least one little corner of the created order in which you have been ordained to have influence according to God’s purposes for that piece of His handiwork! Allow that to sink in! So put all that together, and answers about identity appear with startling clarity. We are intentionally created, deeply cared for, constantly on God’s mind, established in the created order to exercise influence to further the purposes of God. That’s who we are!
I don’t see as many young people hitchhiking these days, so I don’t have quite the same conversations. Now they’re driving their own cars and listening to the radio. So we talk to them that way! And they download their programs onto their iPods or other players, so we tell them about who they are that way. Or they bare their souls on Facebook. So guess what, we meet them there!
The same goes for the old timers, too — anyone who has questions about their identity. In fact, wherever there are people and we have the means to reach them, we want to continue doing it through the auspices of Telling the Truth!
Why do bad things happen to good people? This is a question many people ask, particularly when we see tragedies occurring around us. In the ancient world, the general thinking was that if you were good, God would bless you in material ways for being good. So if something bad happened to you, the community would think that you had done something bad to deserve it. When Jesus was questioned about such things—whose sin caused which disasters—His response was countercultural and personal.
In this message, Stuart helps us gain new insight on the parable of the unfruitful fig tree and shows us how to respond when calamity strikes.