In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, are you focusing on the foreground or the background?
There was an old, Scottish professor and preacher by the name of James S. Stewart that made the distinction between the foreground and the background of life. He used a painting as a metaphor and talked about how the foreground in the picture are the elements of life that are right in front of us. They can easily overwhelm us as they cause us significant amounts of stress.
But there is also the background of life, those things in the painting that are beyond us and sometimes go unseen. Stewart called those the invisible spiritual realities that are all around us.
Now, we need to be clear that these two things are not divided. We should never have an unbiblical divide between the sacred and the secular, the physical and the spiritual. Remember, Jesus is the eternal Word made flesh, the divine and the human in one. Just like the foreground and background are two parts of the very same painting, so the seen and the unseen, the physical and the spiritual, make up the portrait of our lives and our world. But, our trouble too often in life is all we see, all we focus on is the foreground of our immediate problems, and we’ve lost sight of the unseen divine eternal background that’s meant to put everything into proper perspective.
Our foreground right now is that the World Health Organization officially declared the Coronavirus (COVID-19) to be a pandemic. Our foreground right now is the frightening possibilities coming from the news reports that we’re hearing about every day. Our foreground right now is the virus and all the effects this still might have on our society, economy, and day-to-day living. This is the foreground. But we must remember—it’s only the foreground!
THERE IS A BACKGROUND!
There are divine spiritual realities and promises that are meant to put all of this into the right perspective. In Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus recognizes both the foreground and the background of life. He’s not dismissing the foreground of our immediate cares and needs, but he’s wanting us to see that’s not the whole picture. He wants us to see our needs in light of the colorful dynamic background of God’s Fatherly character and kingdom. And it’s in the light of that background, Jesus teaches us to do two things: The first is something to avoid; the second is something to pursue.
The first thing we’re told is, “Do not be anxious” (Matthew 6:25). The second thing we're told is, “Seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33). So, he doesn’t just give us the negative, he gives us the positive. This is always the way true Christianity works. It doesn’t just tell us to put off, it tells us to put on. It doesn’t just tell us to say no, it always gives us a bigger and better yes.
When we only focus on the foreground, we get anxious, and we fail to seek first the kingdom of God. The background is the reality of God’s presence, peace and power . . . even, and especially, in the chaos of the foreground. So, don’t be anxious, because you are seeking first God’s kingdom. That background will anchor your soul when the foreground seems unbearable.
(Adapted from a sermon by Jeremy McKeen, Lead Pastor of Truth Point Church in West Palm Beach, FL.)