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Here’s Your Sign: Living Realistic But Optimistic

April 13, 2020

One of the greatest joys in my life is traveling to over 100 countries in my ministry. Each country and each continent are unique in their way. People ask me, "What is your favorite country?" My answer to them is, "It depends on what you mean. If you want beauty, go to New Zealand. If you want food, go to Argentina or northern Italy. If you want history and architecture, go to Europe. If you want amazing people, go to Singapore or Malaysia." In my mind, every country and continent has something which is uniquely theirs, and I recognize and admire that distinction. That’s God's diversity in action. It's a celebration of differences, not just tolerating differences.

If you were to ask me, “Ed, what is the most amazing continent you have been too?” My answer is Africa. I have visited 22 countries in Africa. My first trip to Africa was in 1981 to South Africa and Ghana. Some Africans think I am American by birth, African by culture. After hearing me speak, Africans come up to me and say, "You cannot fool us! You may be white on the outside, but you are black on the inside!" That's the biggest compliment I could ever receive.

Another aspect of Africa that is uniquely African is its wild animals. Having been on many Safari's, I’ve learned heaps from just watching the animals and their interaction with each other. Have you ever heard a lion roar who is close to you in the middle of the night? I have. It's terrifying. Remember that old song about the lion sleeping tonight? Believe me - it's a good thing when the lion is sleeping, not hunting.

Here's a lesson from Africa. It's about how impala interacts with a lion in the wild. It's a timely lesson for us. I have observed what I am writing about today many times. Here's your sign.

Watch how an impala acts when a lion is near. The impala knows there is danger but doesn't freak out. It doesn't run 30 miles away, overreact, cringe, or die from fright. The impala is vigilant. It distances itself from danger. But it keeps on grazing, staying in the herd, and living a healthy life. The impala keeps on keeping on. It's aware of the danger but also aware that life must go on. Assuming the impala is healthy, most times, the only impala that gets eaten by the lion are those who are ignorant or arrogant. Ignorance is being unaware. Arrogance is being aware, but not being wise or careful.

I believe the impala is a living example for us of what should be our position concerning Coronavirus. Be aware, be vigilant, but don’t let Coronavirus put you into a deep freeze, cowering in your living room chair. Don’t be fearful, don't be fearless; be alert, not asleep; be careful, not careless. Don't be frantic, but don't be complacent. Don't obsess, one way or the other. Most of all, don't be ignorant and don't be arrogant. Let's be realistic but optimistic.

Today, we see many people living at the extremes of either paralyzing fear or unbridled arrogance, neither of which has an assurance of a good outcome. Here is something a pastor in Tennessee wrote about how he lives with Coronavirus. To me, his approach is like that of the impala. It's a good strategy for when the lion is not sleeping tonight.

“I trust God, and I wear my seatbelt. I trust God, and I wear a motorcycle helmet. I trust God, and there are enough life jackets in my boat for everyone on board. I trust God, and I use oven mitts with hot dishes. I trust God, and I lock my house at night. I trust God, and I have smoke detectors in my house. I trust God, and I take my prescribed medicines. I trust God, and I will follow the best guidelines to share the task of flattening the curve. Acting with caution and wisdom does not indicate a lack of trust in God."

I realize many well-meaning, enthusiastic Christians would say the pastor who wrote the statement above, doesn’t have faith or trust in God. While I appreciate the zeal for the Lord they are expressing, it doesn’t take into consideration the Lord, at times and seasons, wants us to be realistic but optimistic. That's not a lack of trust or faith. It takes trust and faith to be realistic but optimistic.

Let’s go on with life in an intelligent, discerning, and optimistic way. Don't let fear run your life. Worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around the center of fear. Let God run your life. There are lions in the jungle, but God is there also. "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong." (I Corinthians 16:13). In other words, live realistic but optimistic.

Curiosity killed the cat, but it also landed on the moon and walked on water. Which will we focus on, the dead cat or the moon? It doesn't always have to be negative.  

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Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com