Rise and Fall: Revisited
The Cycle: Kingdoms rise and fall. From Babylon to Rome to the Soviet Union, nothing in this world lasts. Moreover, it’s not just kingdoms that rise and fall but it is businesses, fortunes, famous people and even churches. Every aspect of life is precipitated by a rise and then a fall. Sometimes the rise is spectacular and the fall disastrous, while other times the rise is slow and steady and the decline equally as such. Regardless of the pattern, the truth remains that everything in this world will rise and fall at some point. This might sound severe, but it’s the truth of how our world works. Yet, when a person comes to grips with the non-infinite nature of life on earth it puts a focus on the eternal, and when you have a focus on the eternal it sets a pattern for your life that transcends worldly cares. Unfortunately, becoming eternally focused is such a counterculture ideal that it is rarely followed. Instead, many people chose to glorify their own works and build towards what will not last. They gather and chase after tangible goods or wield power to dominate others. Yet, every time men of history rise to the apex in the world it’s followed by a fall…and over time they are left to the ashes of history. Here are a few images to display how the sands of time have swallowed the monuments of men who once ruled vast areas of the world. Now their monuments are found in the dirt and mire.
News article caption: The towering tribute to Ramses the Great, the most powerful ruler of ancient Egypt, was discovered under a muddy pit, sandwiched between two tower blocks. Sewage water and dirt have been scraped off the huge structure, as it lay sideways in the Matariyyah neighborhood, northeast Cairo.
This cycle of the rise and fall is not only for the ages of antiquity but even now in the times we live. Ask any young person who Jimmy Stewart, Judy Garland or Clark Gable are and they likely won’t know. Ask them about modern-day actors and they will know. But given time, the same thing that happened to the old-time actors will happen to the current ones as well. Likewise, AT&T, Kodak, Sears and Ford have fallen, and now, Tesla, Amazon, Apple and Google are on the rise. Previously, the United States fought for the ideals of freedom and democracy against the advance of communism, but now there is an incredibly strong movement to politically morph America into a socialist/communist society and precipitate a dramatic “reset” or fall. The point of this exercise is to show the pattern of the rise and fall, and if you stop to think about it, you can probably come up with a thousand more examples at a micro and macro level. Another important note is that the fall of major kingdoms, political systems, governments, etc…are usually preluded by cultures that exhibit excessive, prideful and immoral behavior that glorifies itself and its achievements. It’s no stretch to see that this is what is happening in the world today.
Modern Day Ramses: As a modern-day society we might not be erecting massive statues to ourselves as Ramses did, but the theme of greed and pride is still alive and well. We consume and we know not to what end. Jesus perfectly illustrates this in a parable that highlights the folly most people follow. “Then He said to them, ‘Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.’ And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” — Luke 12:15–21. Jesus gives us an example of someone who is earthly focused and finding their purpose only in consuming and gathering, but the thought of eternity is void in his life. God calls this person a fool. David speaks about this same subject in Psalm 39 and faces the issue head-on rather than hiding and ignoring the reality of eternity. “LORD, make me to know my end And what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am. “Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; Surely every man at his best is a mere breath. “Surely every man walks about as a phantom; Surely they make an uproar for nothing; He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them. “And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You.” — Psalm 39:4–7.
Gospel of Gathering: Most of what is preached today is a reflection of our cultural appetite. We consume and we want a blessing to consume more. It doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want to provide for his people, but one must honestly look at the motivation of prayer and why we have not when we ask (James 4:3). The question we must ask ourselves is: Isn’t there more to life than gathering things that will be left to the ashes of history? We don’t need to go to extremes and live in the forest because the world is too consumeristic, but we do need to contemplate the truth of eternity as believers. Therefore, examine yourself and ask — What is the end that I am working towards? Is it eternal or am I just building some more barns to hold my goods like the man that Jesus warned us about? In the book, The Pilgrim Church (historical highlight of church history), there is a section of a written exchange, documented from the 2nd century, between a man named Diognetus and an unknown Christian apologist. Diognetus inquires about what these Christians are and how they live. The unknown Christian apologist gives an eloquent response that tells of the eternal mindset of believers at that time (echoes of Philippians 3:20 and Hebrews 13:14). He writes “Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language”, living in such places “as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers…. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives… they are reviled and bless”. This is truly the type of Christian life that needs a renaissance in our time.