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Surviving the Culture of Now

January 03, 2018
Dr. J.B. Hixson
Surviving the Culture of Now BLOG

Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret—it only causes harm. (Psalm 37:7–8)

You’ve heard of the tyranny of the urgent?  These days an even bigger issue is the tyranny of the now.  With pervasive connectivity and cloud-based data, it has become almost impossible to unplug and simply do nothing.  And because of the constant clamor of seemingly inescapable technology, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the pressures and stresses of life.  The more demands there are on our attention, the more there is to be stressed about!

This has always been the case.  Distractions lead to anxiety.  Focus leads to peace.  King David certainly knew this.  He had plenty to distract Him from his task of leading God’s nation.  He faced enemies from within, enemies from without, pressure to provide for his own people, personal demons, and more. There were plenty of things to raise David’s blood pressure. In Psalm 37 David reminds us how to survive the distractions of the now and replace them with steadfast confidence in the One who transcends time.

The principles in Psalm 37 have never been more timely.  How can we overcome the rings, tweets, beeps, buzzes, chimes, vibrations, notifications, alerts, and blinking lights that demand our attention right now? To understand David’s thoughts in Psalm 37, we need to go back to Psalm 36, which was also written by David.  Psalm 36 is a Lament Psalm.  It expresses distress or sorrow over some issue, and asks for divine help. In Psalm 36, David addresses the wickedness of evil people and pleads with God to intervene.  His description of the wicked is apt: “there is no fear of God before his eyes.”  (Psalm 36:1)

Psalm 37 advances the thought of Psalm 36.   Psalm 37 is a Wisdom Psalm.  It emphasizes themes like right living and the contrast between the righteous and the wicked.  In Psalm 37, David urges the righteous not to let the apparent good fortune of the wicked upset them, but to continue to trust in God’s ultimate justice.

In Psalm 37:7, David encourages us to “rest in the Lord.”  The Hebrew word “rest” means “to be quiet.”  It is the same word that David uses in Psalm 62:5 when he says, “My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.”  It is tough to “wait silently” when our smart phones are constantly demanding our attention right now.

Although smart phones appeared on the landscape of human history only recently, the problem of distractions is nothing new.  Even the disciples of Jesus, who knew nothing of technology, were prone to miss the voice of the Lord amidst the pressures and diversions of the Greco-Roman culture.  On one occasion, God the Father had to literally interrupt Peter while he was talking to get him to listen to Jesus.  It’s a fascinating scene.  Take time to read about it in Matthew 17.

I find it interesting that only twice in the New Testament does God the Father speak directly and audibly from heaven to earth.  And both times He says the same thing: “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.”  But the second time God makes this statement, He adds two very interesting words: “Hear Him!” (Matthew 17:5)  This is because Peter was so busy talking, that he missed the presence of the Lord.  Wow!  Think of that…God had to literally interrupt the first Church leader in order to get a word in edgewise!  I guess some things never change.

The rings, tweets, beeps, buzzes, chimes, vibrations, notifications, alerts, and blinking lights that demand our attention right now are definitely a distraction.  And they certainly do not have a calming effect.  Indeed, usually they stress us out.  So what’s the solution? How can we survive this culture of now?

King David was spot on when he said that we need to “wait silently” for the Lord.  For David, perhaps that meant setting aside his harp; for Peter it meant holding his tongue; for us…maybe it means turning off our smart phones.  When we wait silently for the Lord, it changes our focus.  Instead of looking down at a small, handheld device, we can look up and turn our attention to the Lord.  With this new perspective, suddenly, all of our problems begin to look very small.

This is why David goes on to say, “Do not fret.” (Psalm 37:7) The word “fret” in Hebrew means “to become hot.”  It is a figure of speech that describes the process of “growing hot with anger.”  It is similar to the English idiom we use when we describe becoming angry as “making my blood boil” or “growing hot under the collar.” It’s true…when we get angry, we got hot.  Our blood pressure goes up.  That is why when we want someone to calm down we often say, “simmer down.”

Do you want fewer distractions and less stress in 2018?  Do you want to survive the tyranny of the now?  Wait silently on the Lord; simmer down; and set your mind on things above by staying in the Word of God.



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