How can you control your fears in the crazy world in which we live? The key is self-control and sober-mindedness. Why? So you can pray. Peter tells us this is in 1 Peter 4:7:
The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.
I find living as if the end of all things is at hand is the very opposite of my natural instincts. Rather than looking at that dress I admire and thinking through how long that will be in style, how many years I can wear it, why I might need a new dress when my closet is full of dresses (some I haven’t worn this year). I just want it. I want it now. I am a good enough steward, though, to forgo the purchase if it can’t be accounted for in my budget. But does God have a better way for me to spend that money? If I am sober-minded thinking about the end of the things of this world, it will lead me to pray about my purchase and make the best choice. Sometimes I do buy the new dress and then take some of my unworn dresses to charity. Sometimes I just buy the new dress and enjoy wearing it. Other times, God helps me see that that new dress, lovely as it is, is not what I really want and I don’t buy it.
Self-control is the key to navigating a life with God. I have to fight my basic instincts to pursue comfort and indulgence in this world in order to pray and discover if that comfort is good for me or bad for me. I am not saying that we should all live in poverty and not enjoy beautiful clothes. I am suggesting a beautiful way of life and that is living sober-minded, recognizing that nothing in this world is going to last, except the Word of God and people.
My pastor, Dr. Jeff Warren, shared the best illustration to help me understand the message Peter was trying to get across to the church. When Peter says the end of all things is at hand, he doesn’t mean that he knows a certain day that Jesus will return. What he is saying is that every Christian should live his or her life as if the end of all things is at hand.
Dr. Warren was giving us the vision of our church as he explained that the church is like a family squished together in a station wagon on their way to their vacation. I am of the same generation as he so the illustration he gave was very personal. Every summer my family of six packed in our station wagon and drove through the night from Florida to Kansas, where we visited my grandmother and tons of uncles, aunts and cousins for a week. You can’t forget trips like that. Our family had one brother and three sisters, and I believe the journey was the hardest on my brother, who was regularly blamed for the turmoil going on in the back seat. Families today, if they do travel in a car for their vacation, have many more devices and options for being less miserable on the long journey. Yet with all our progress, it’s still uncomfortable. It has to be that way. Why? Because this world is flawed by sin. The church is filled with sinners. We need to accept that this way of life we have is coming to an end and God is asking each one of us to focus on Him to get through the journey from heaven to earth.
How do you focus? You pray! How do you pray? You become sober-minded. Sober up to the fact that every instinct in your soul draws you away from prayer. How do you gear your soul toward prayer? You use the gift God gave you—your control over your free-will to pray.
Start praying first thing in the morning—God, I know the end of all things is near. How can I focus on what you want me to do in this day? How can I work for you? How can I live? Am I supposed to give to that beggar at the stop-light, or should I just pray for him? Is he there to remind me that my church has a need for volunteers at the homeless shelter downtown? Is that where I can help the homeless best? The answers are waiting for you when you live knowing the end of all things are near, and you become sober-minded, using your self-control to pray.