The World Health Organization has indicated that, by the year 2000, alcoholism and related illnesses may be the number one killer in the industrial world, ahead of both heart attacks and cancer. In addition to cirrhosis of the liver, the alcoholic is even more likely to die from cancer of the esophagus or stomach, a brain hemorrhage, heart failure, a car accident, a work-related accident or suicide.
It was a Monday morning class after Homecoming weekend, and the professor was calling on a succession of students with the same question. The first answered, "I don't know." The second said, "I'm not sure." Yet another replied, "I can't answer."
When faced with the same question, the fourth student said, "Professor, I don't think I can add anything to what's already been said."
Though we may try to bluff our way through, the truth is that we're often in just that predicament: we don't always have the answers to the questions we face.
CHRISTIAN LIFE--Not boring
As the 7-year old Sunday School class was underway, one little boy suddenly exclaimed to the teacher: "Can we hurry up? This is boring!" Immediately the little girl to his left gave him a sharp elbow to the side and rebuked him: "Shut up. It's supposed to be boring!"
Too many people have that attitude about the Christian life. It's supposed to be boring and lifeless, they think. How different that picture is from the portrait Jesus paints of the abundant life He wants us to have!
Jean Vanier is the founder of L'Arche (the Ark), a community that lives and works with the mentally handicapped. Begun in France, L'Arche now has 53 communities scattered around the world. One of those is in Liverpool, and a woman from that group tells about a boy with Down's Syndrome named Johnny.
Though obviously handicapped, Johnny delights in simple things and reflects a radiant joy to those around him. He loves to go shopping, but not because he wants to buy things. Once in a store, Johnny goes up to each shopper and introduces himself, then moves about the store introducing the customers to one another. Though the shoppers are preoccupied with their buying, Johnny's goal is to have everyone know each other.
Eventually everyone in the store meets everyone else, having been distracted from their activities by a smiling, handicapped boy with a special agenda. As people meet and talk with one another, Johnny watches and smiles with glee.
If we are to experience community, it will take being torn from our busy lives and taking the time to meet one another. And it may take some Johnny's to help us do that.
One person told Dwight L. Moody: "I don't like the way you do evangelism." To that Moody replied, "I don't either. How do you do it?" The critic responded, "I don't do evangelism," to which Moody said, "I like my way better."
Criticism without an alternative is useless, and can be destructive.
DRUG ABUSE--Cocaine Use Increases
The use of cocaine by high school students took a big jump in the northeastern United States in 1984, according to a University of Michigan survey. While the survey showed that cocaine use among high school students has remained level at 16 percent since 1979, that figure jumped from 20 to 25 percent in the Northeast. It dropped from 12 to 9 percent in the North Central states, and stayed the same in the West (26%) and South (11%).
John Margolis of the Chicago Tribune speaks for many of us when he explains his "Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Principle," which is: "I have seen the future; it doesn't work."
Many of us share his anxiety about the future.
Mahatma Gandhi, the famous spiritual leader of India, was once approached by an atheist who hoped to create an anti-God society. Gandhi's comment was, "It amazes me to find an intelligent person who fights against something which he does not at all believe exists."
Someone asked Billy Graham how, with all the evil that exists in the world, he could still be optimistic about the future.
He answered: "I've read the final chapter of the book."
For every Christian, the ultimate source of hope comes from our knowledge that Christ has won the victory. We know how the story ends.
IDENTITY--Knowing Who We Are
Christian Herter was running hard for reelection as Governor of Massachusetts, and one day he arrived late at a barbeque. He'd had no breakfast or lunch, and he was famished. As he moved down the serving line, he held out his plate and received one piece of chicken. The Governor said to the serving lady, "Excuse me, do you mind if I get another piece of chicken. I'm very hungry."
"Sorry, I'm supposed to give one piece to each person," the woman replied. "But I'm starved," he repeated, and again she said: "Only one to a customer."
Herter was normally a modest man, but he decided this was the time to use the weight of his office, and said, "Madam, do you know who I am? I am the governor of this state."
"Do you know who I am?" she answered. "I'm the lady in charge of chicken. Move along, mister."
That was a woman who knew her position and wasn't about to be intimidated. Can't we as Christians recognize the significant position in which we stand because of Christ?
MARRIAGE--Many Living Together
As more and more young Americans postpone marriage, the number of unmarried couples living together has trippled since 1970, according to the Census Bureau. In 1970 the number of unmarried couples living together was about 523,000; that had increased to 1.6 million in 1980; and stood at almost 2 million (1.98) as of March 1984. The report, "Marital Status and Living Arrangements," also found the median age for marriage in 1984 to be 25.3 years for men and 23 years for women--the highest age ever for women and the highest for men since 1900 (when the median was 25.9).
According to the book In One Day, Americans buy 190,000 wrist-watches every day and throw away 200,000 television sets. We spend $700 million daily on recreation and entertainment, and buy 200 miles worth of men's neckties each day. The children aren't left out: every day Americans buy 55,000 pieces of Barbie-doll clothing.
OBEDIENCE--Necessary for Survival
Any person who takes flying lessons comes to the time when he or she must learn to fly the plane by the instruments only, rather than sight. Why is that so important? Some day that pilot may be in a storm and experience vertigo--the loss of the sense of equilibrium. When that happens, the senses can't tell you anything about where you're going--up or down, straight or to the side. At that point, the pilot must not trust his senses; he must rely on the instruments.
There are times in every life when we experience storms--spiritual, emotional--and we can easily lose our equilibrium. That's why it is essential to learn to follow the instruments God has given in His Word, even when it seems to conflict with what our senses tell us to do. We must learn to trust the Word.
PRECAUTIONS--Need to Take
James Reston quotes an old Russian proverb: "In this world, not everyone with a long knife is a cook."
The founder of McDonald's, Ray Kroc, was asked by a reporter what he believed in. "I believe in God, my family and McDonald's," he said. Then he added, "When I get to the office, I reverse the order."
Too many Christians do the same thing, giving God His due on Sunday but reverting to the world's values the rest of the week.
Ben Hayden tells about a Sunday School class being held about the time of Groundhog Day. The teacher was asking about the resurrection, and one little boy exclaimed: "I know what that is. That's when Jesus came out of his grave, and if he saw his shadow he'd go back in for three more days."
Here's an inscription recently observed on a T-shirt: "Lead me not into temptation--I can find it for myself."
Isn't that the truth for all of us? Temptations face us every day of our lives.
According to a report in the Washington Post, as many as 15 percent of American teenagers now between the ages of 16 and 19 are unlikely to lead productive lives as adults because they are already disconnected from society as a result of drug abuse, delinquency, pregnancy, unemployment and dropping out of school. This group totals nearly two-and-a-half million young people--up to half of the high school population in some large cities.