Frank Smith had this thing that he called “the Russian Novel Phenomenon.” This refers (he said) to the dawning sensation -fifty pages into a Russian Novel- that you’ve lost track of all the characters (plus the names of their family members and their relative place in the Russian civil service) and you decide to give up.
Or you decide to breeze ahead anyway, and somehow things come into order, you begin to assemble the names, because you’ve made the leap-of-faith that that which is important will stick.
That’s the RNP, more or less, which serves as something of a metaphor for doing life. You just can’t micro-manage all the impossible details; you just have to shove forward in faith that all will come together and the chaos will resolve itself into a comprehensible perspective.
And to do this -in the words of Eugene Peterson’s masterly paraphrase of Luke 12- “Steep yourselves in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions.“
God really does have your back. He is your safety-net, your home… This is the only important thing, and everything comes into order around it.
In Luke 12, Jesus scans all the things that look set to drive you crazy and concludes with the two words that can forever transform your life as a Christian believer:
“Don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your inner life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more.”
25-28 “Has anyone by fussing before the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? If fussing can’t even do that, why fuss at all? Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don’t fuss with their appearance—but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?”
Fuss, fret, worry, argue, nag about the details all you like. It does no good. And there are simpler and more profound ways of thinking through life: “Steep yourselves in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions.” Get the basics sorted.
29-32 “What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.
33-34 “Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bankrobbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.” (Luke 12: 22-34)
It all sounds so careless, so hippy-dippy, so “Don’t worry, be happy.” But there’s an important difference between being care-less and care-free:
Carefree indicates freedom from anxiety or worry whereas careless indicates being negligent and irresponsible.
This is all to do with looking a little deeper than all the things that catch your attention: money, fashion, self-image, food. “People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works.”
“Even so, how can I really be free from anxiety and worry? Don’t you know how much I’ve got on my plate?”
The real question, however, is “How do you steep yourself in God-reality?” The oassage suggests three starting points:
By knowing God and how he feels about you. “My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” (Brennan Manning). “Don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?”
By refusing to be overwhelmed by schedules. “You count far more” than your list of appointments.Sidney Harris said: “The time to relax is when you don’t have time to relax.” “Be still, and know that I am God.“
By learning to give rather than to accumulate. “Respond to God’s giving.” Practise with “a cup of cold water in my name” and work up to huge, secret gifts, until you are fully conscious thar God’s supply can be trusted and that he longs to bless others through you.
I know it’s true. I give best when I give from that deeper place; when I give simply, freely and generously, and sometimes for no particular reason. I give best when I give from my heart.
And knowing God, and knowing who you are in God – this is the God-reality that creates the ability to be generous, to live life “givingly” (the way God does).
A few years back (2011), Craig Groeschel wrote a book with the intriguing title, Weird: Because Normal Isn’t Working. It is a book steeepd in God-reality ,God-initiative, and God provision.
Here’s the back-cover blurb:
“Normal people are stressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted. Many of their relationships are, at best, strained and, in most cases, just surviving. Even though we live in one of the most prosperous places on earth, normal is still living paycheck to paycheck and never getting ahead. In our oversexed world, lust, premarital sex, guilt, and shame are far more common than purity, virginity, and a healthy married sex life. And when it comes to God, the majority believe in him, but the teachings of scripture rarely make it into their everyday lives. Simply put, normal isn’t working. Groeschel’s WEIRD views will help you break free from the norm to lead a radically abnormal (and endlessly more fulfilling) life.”
And here’s one of his “weird” thoughts, based on this very passage:
“In God’s economy, you may even harvest a crop in places where you didn’t plant seed. When you’re generous, you will be blessed, whether it comes to you materially, spiritually, emotionally, relationally, or some other way. God obviously cares much more about what happens in our hearts than what happens in our bank accounts, more about our attitudes than our credit scores. Giving generously changes you. It frees you up, undermines the power that money and possessions can have over you, and it makes you more like Him.”
And isn’t that what we need the most?