Summary: How cynical are you? How has it affected your faith?
I want you to think back a few years ago to when you were three-years-old. If three is a stretch for you, how about thinking back to being five? What were you like at that age? Do you think you were more or less cynical than you are today? If you are anything like me, you don’t have to remember much about being three or five to confidently answer this question. I know I am much more cynical today than I was when I was three or five or thirty—even though I was thirty just a few months ago—two hundred and sixty-two months ago to be exact! (If you are thinking of using your cell phone calculators to figure out how old I am, shame on you. If you must, at least do it the hard way with pencil and paper.)
If we were to make a list of prevalent attitudes that are destructive to our faith and our joy, somewhere near the top of the list has to be cynicism. Cynicism: is an attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others. Cynicism is, increasingly, the dominant spirit of our age. Cynicism makes us numb. Cynicism kills hope.
Cynicism has an unfair advantage in how it takes hold of our hearts because we are surrounded by cynicism and we equate cynicism with ‘being realistic.’ We have this thought that being cynical is what comes from knowing what’s “really going on.” It feels real. It feels authentic. It feels brave to look at our world and embrace the ugly, unsettling reality of our slow slide into the abyss.
We look at Greece’s economic melt-down and we’re not surprised. We look at the US’s inability to come back from its own economic nosedive and we shake our heads and know that we aren’t far behind. We look at the sad state of the family and the rise in crime and violence and put another checkmark on our “what else would you expect?” list. We look at how cruel, and crude and clueless people can be and we feel no shock or shame. We look at the increasing cultural hostility toward the church and we just accept it as the normal result of living in our morally relativistic age.
Paul Miller (A Praying Life: Connecting with God in A Distracting World) writes: “Cynicism is so pervasive that, at times, it feels like a presence. Cynicism is the air we breathe, and it is suffocating our hearts. Weariness and fear leave us feeling overwhelmed, unable to move. Cynicism leaves us doubting, unable to dream. The combination shuts down our hearts, and we just show up for life, going through the motions.”
Have you been affected by the culture of cynicism? If you answer “no’ to that question, I will do my best to believe you and not be cynical, but I am not sure I’ll be able to pull it off.
Today as we return to our Mountain Moments series, we are going to see how we can actually climb and conquer the mountain of cynicism.
Please turn with me to 1 Samuel 14:1-7
As you turn there, let me give you a bit of background. In 1 Samuel 13 we find that Saul was ruling as king of Israel. We also find out that Israel was at war with the Philistines. More than that, things were not going well for Saul. At the beginning of chapter 13 we are told that Saul had 3,000 men to stand against the Philistine forces made up of 30,000 chariots, 6000 cavalry, and infantry soldiers that were as numerous as the sands of the seashore. (13:5).
In verses 6 and 7 we get the Israelite’s reaction to the Philistine military buildup. "When the men of Israel saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. 7 Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear.”
Many in Saul’s army, when they saw what they were up against, either ran away or hid, leaving the best of the best of the Israelite army to stand “quaking with fear.” You’ll also remember that a few weeks ago saw that Saul waited for Samuel seven days in order to have him offer a sacrifice before the Lord, but as he waits, those who are quaking with fear start to disappear. Skipping over the details of Saul’s sacrificial faux pas, Saul ends up with 600 men hold up in Gibeah. Meanwhile the Philistines camp at Michmash, but the Philistines don’t just sit there. They send out three raiding parties into Israel and demoralize the people even more than they already were.