Thought for 2021 (Jan 2021)

January 2, 2021

in Fellowship News

And do this, understanding the present time: the hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. Romans 13:11

Thoughts on New Year’s Eve

We were having a nice little walk at Mill Hill Nature reserve, Sandra and I.  The path overlooks the Adur valley with Lancing College shrouded in mist in the distance. It was a bit muddy after the rains and a little icy after the morning frost. But there’s an impressive view over the busy A27 to Shoreham, and beyond, to the sea.

Suddenly I found myself slipping sideways towards a bit of a steep drop into scrub.  My dear wife, in a valiant effort to save me, grabbed my arm, but, alas it prevented me from putting my hand down to steady myself as my knee slid into the mud. I found myself shouting, “No, let me go, let me go!”  Now, I don’t normally shout such things at my wife – or shout at her at all, I hasten to add – but it took a few moments for her to realise that it was better, in this instance, if she didn’t try to do a loving wife’s duty of trying to rescue her wayward husband, but instead to let him slide gently to the ground.  And do you know, she laughed! – thought it was funny – well, yes, I suppose it was really. I wasn’t hurt, my cords just have a muddy patch on the right knee. So we both laughed while I struggled and staggered to my feet!

Frankly, it would have been better if we’d not tried to take that path – there was a better one further up, but that’s life isn’t it? People are so often on the wrong path, looking down and following their own ideas.

Talking of mud, reminds me – we’ve been reading Pilgrim’s Progress and are into the second half, where Christian’s wife and children are now travelling the road to the Celestial City. They are at the Interpreter’s house, where, among the people they see – and the explanation by the Interpreter as to what they represented – they see the man with the muck-rake. Let me quote from John Bunyan’s book:

The Interpreter takes them into a room where was a man that could look no way but downwards, with a muck-rake in his hand. There stood also one over his head with a celestial crown in his hand, and proffered him that crown for his muck-rake; but the man did neither look up nor regard, but raked to himself the straws, the small sticks, and dust of the floor.

Then said Christiana, I persuade myself that I know somewhat the meaning of this; for this is a figure of a man of this world: is it not, good sir?

INTERPRETER: Thou hast said right, said he; and his muck-rake doth show his carnal mind. And whereas thou seest him rather give heed to rake up straws and sticks, and the dust of the floor, than to do what He says that calls to him from above with the celestial crown in his hand; it is to show, that heaven is but as a fable to some, and that things here are counted the only things substantial. Now, whereas it was also showed thee that the man could look no way but downwards, it is to let thee know that earthly things, when they are with power upon men’s minds, quite carry their hearts away from God.

CHRISTIANA: Then said Christiana, O deliver me from this muck-rake!

We’ve all had a lot to distract us this past year, with Coronavirus perhaps at the top of the list. And the distraction continues as we start another year. The restrictions, with the dire warnings attached, have somewhat concentrated everyone’s minds just to circumstances here on earth. We are surely all very thankful for all the efforts of the scientists, the bio-chemists, the medics and especially the NHS, to see us through the pandemic, who really have gone beyond the call of duty much of the time. But, sadly, there has been very little encouragement, certainly in the media, to look to God to seek his help, and indeed his mercy. And while there are serious concerns over jobs in jeopardy, or even lost, and family breakups and breakdowns as a result of the pandemic, it is amazing how that everyone is trying to get back to the sort of things the world normally immerses itself in – Christmas frivolities, excesses, entertainment, hopes and dreams for a better new year. But in all this, don’t we see the people of the world looking only down like the muck-raker in the story – more concerned for the things of this world ‘and that things here are counted the only things substantial’?

As Christians, we too can get so taken up, though unintentionally, with the attitudes of the world. Do you find that happening? I fear I do. And I’m reminded so much from God’s word that instead of looking only at the things and circumstances around me, that I need to look up; I need to lift up my spiritual eyes to the Lord. On our ‘attempted’ walk the other day, we were looking up to the hills of the South Downs, but I found my feet slipping. How I needed to remind myself of Psalm 121, where the writer talks of lifting ‘his eyes to the hills’, but knowing that he needed to look beyond those earthly hills. He asks ‘Where does my help come from?’ And immediately has the answer: ‘My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth’. Then the assurance ‘He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you … will neither slumber nor sleep’. Very appropriate for me – and perhaps for you?

May the Lord deliver us from the muck-rake!

Steve Piggott


Jan 2021

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