MAN CANNOT LIVE BY CHOCOLATE ALONE
Easter eggs replace mince pies in the local store in early January.
This is what replaced mince pies on January 1st in an anonymous supermarket in Stafford – a longing for Easter, or at least a desire to flog loads of chocolate eggs as we all hurry on this season to be over.
So, is this an act of prophetic faith in resurrection and new life by the shops or just a desperate need for the certainty of the next marketing moment?
Prophecy is given to us for when we are in uncertainty, loss and anxiety, or so stuck in our own certainty that we don’t realise how deadly living like that really is. In the Bible it is not so much predicting the future as showing what will happen if the corruption and sadness of our hearts does not get healed. Prophecy gives us a chance to look up, to think again, to hope, to believe and to live in it's words of life and truth.
Of course, it would be really good to know what’s happening next, but God is bigger than the future. He isn’t desperate to know what’s next – he will overcome and bring about truth and kindness whatever happens. I have been watching The Queen's Gambit – a drama all about playing chess. The champions win not because they can see the future, but because they know the permutations and combinations and can always respond well by bringing about their own plans rather than just reacting to the schemes of their opponents. That is the difference between being brilliant and being so insecure/bad/stupid/lazy that you have to cheat.
So, what kind of prophetic gift do we need to exercise right now? We certainly need revelation and wisdom. Not the prediction of a President: in a 50-50 race it’s not too hard to give that a go, but neither is it an important prediction anyway. Jesus said that people cannot live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. We need God’s words to us – to give us hope, direction and a future; to breathe life into us so that we may not only manage our way through this virus but even be bringers of light, life and salvation.
I think of Joseph in the Old Testament. In fact, I think of cat-worshipping pagan Pharaoh, who had a dream about fat cows and thin cows. Something stirred in his imagination that gripped him. He had a sense of what was coming and that a strategy was needed – so much so that he invested a lot of time and energy in interpreting the dream. Joseph had not had the dream, even though he was a God follower, but he prophetically gave a steer to it's meaning. And not only that, he gave wisdom about what to do: in the full years to save up, so that in the lean years Egypt could manage the famine and rule and serve its neighbours economically too.
God loves to speak – to form us, to help grow our wisdom and faith, to surprise and delight us and to help us navigate salvation for our world.
So, what is important for us to pursue in the next few weeks and months? How to manage our mental and physical health. How to manage our children and relationships. How to manage our finances. How to manage our grief and loss. How to bring life and live as diligent citizens of both earth and heaven.
We therefore ask God to fill us with the Holy Spirit so we can handle both his written and breathed word correctly and boldly. It is good to start small – how do I live, who do I call, what do I say, what do I let my mind think, what do I do with my time? To help us with these questions we can ask, what does the Bible say and how can I read it, guided by the Spirit? We can also investigate our imaginations when we pray or worship, when we have some solitude, when we meditate, when we wake up from a dream. I think this is what Jesus meant when he said that we need to live by the word of God. In a time of such crisis like the one we are in at the moment, no amount of chocolate (sadly) can bring us joy, gladness and satisfaction.
Every one of us can follow the simple whispers and prompts of the Spirit. And it is good to share these, especially as we experience the power and assurance of God when we put our faith into practice. We may not become the Prime Minister or President of the most powerful nation on earth in our time, like Joseph did, but we will bring salvation to ourselves, our families and to those around us.
What is the word for you this year? What Bible verse is bringing you assurance and provocation? What are the images, happenings and ideas that have caught your attention? Look up first and then – with those Spirit-filled eyes – look at the life ahead of you with renewed hope and faith.
You cannot live by bread/chocolate alone – you need the word of God too – so what a relief that we can do both!
Martin J Young