It’s no secret that our thought life impacts our actions and well-being. If we think that our life is worth living, if we believe that there is hope for our future, if we have plans and ideals that we strive for and people we love and care for, this tremendously influences our outlook on life. However, we all know how it feels when we run into a dry spell. How we negotiate such dry spells depends entirely on how we think about it, and this is what Paul addresses in his letter to his Greek friends in East Macedonia.
A few years back, I had a near-death-experience after an unsuccessful second heart surgery. For a while, I felt my life was drawing to an end. Naturally, this has had a profound impact on my psyche. Thinking I’d soon be gone, I wanted to leave a good impression, so in all life aspects I gave it my best shot. I was really wrapping up my life to get my affairs in order so-to-speak. However, this was back in 2014. Meanwhile, I’ve made it through another heart surgery, and here I am, still kicking. Eventually, I had to shift gears because my life was not about to end any time soon. At some point I had to resolve to give life another chance. Think about it: regardless how much time we have left, we have things working for us. We need to open our eyes, we need to get inspired, and as we keep thinking about these things hope rises in our hearts. A life without hope is no life at all. The Bible says very wisely (Proverbs 13:12):
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
The trick is not to lose hope. God for One never does, so we turn to Him for encouragement. God also uses people to encourage us. Whatever our outlook on life, let’s not forget, it’s never as dark as it seems. And after a long night – here comes the Sun and with it a brand-new day!
Persistence is key! Do the right thing one day at a time, and do it consistently. In other words: never give up this uphill battle of swimming against mainstream, even fighting against our own bodies; starting at a certain age our bodies have the natural tendencies of going downhill. All life is a battle, however, we need to fight without becoming cynic. It’s easy to become disillusioned. Persistently knock on heaven’s door. Persistently keep faith in God and in people.
If God had a mantra it would be: “Love God and Love People”. If John had to write the lyrics to faith’s anthem it would probably sound something like this (John 3:36): “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life”. God’s Son is the rock on which we stand in our day-to-day lives. Simon, whom Jesus nicknamed Rock, recommends in one of his letters (2 Peter 1:19):
“When you consider the wonderful truth of the prophets’ words then light will dawn in your souls and Christ the Morning Star will shine in your hearts.”
Holding on to these things, we’ll see light in the dark and have hope with every rising Sun. And Christ, the Morning Star, will shine in our hearts.
Paul seems to hate the notion that he lived his life in vain. To some degree we all do. I believe it’s a very elementary feeling that we hate death; some of us strive to leave a legacy behind in an attempt to defy death. According to the first chapters of the book of Genesis we weren’t wired to die. Death came after the fall of man, and to this day we struggle with the reality of our own passing.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul makes a point that our life will be worth our while if we zero in on our attitudes. A negative attitude seems to render all our doings worthless or even harmful. It’s much more gratifying to be 100% behind our actions, big and small alike. If we don’t notice the blessings right away, we will certainly see it looking back. A positive attitude makes a significant difference and also happens to be contagious. A great legacy to leave behind!
We all know that Jesus from Nazareth is no longer physically present. If that was the case, TV cameras and reporters were behind every street corner of His stomping ground; His ministry would be on the evening news; He would be the hot topic on social media. If people were climbing Sycamore trees to catch a sight of Him way back then, imagine what would happen if Jesus was physically present on planet Earth today!
Physical presence is highly underrated these days. A lot of my communication is via texting. It’s great to keep in touch with people in writing. It’s even more effective to actually pick up the phone and talk to the person. It’s quite another story to have a face-to-face conversation. My mother lives overseas, and we talk on the phone each week. In less than a month I’ll cross the ocean to hug her, which is far better.
Physical presence is powerful, but it’s temporary. We all die at some point, Jesus included. The news of His resurrection from the grave is tremendous. It means that He conquered death. Today Jesus is spiritually present as we go about our daily business, and we will meet Him in person after our physical death.
A lot of people, me included, get carried away at this point of the story. Sometimes our life on Earth seems so redundant, futile, and predominantly painful, that we lose sight of the blessings that come with being alive. We wish ourselves at the finish line; we think Heaven is where we are free from all the stuff that burdens us here.
While this is true, the other aspect is just as true, and here it is: Once in heaven, we are no longer able to make an impact. All that’s left are our memories. That is why Paul writes: “We are Christ’s ambassadors;” Since Jesus is no longer physically on Earth, this is where we come in, because guess what: we’re still around! Physical presence is powerful. Let’s appreciate it, because God does – why else would He call His children Christ’s ambassadors?
What can people do to us? A whole lot! People can uplift us, encourage us, but they can also mislead us, shame us, and even destroy us if we let them. People influence people, and no one is immune to that.
On the other hand, however hard we try, we can’t be alone either. God created us a human society; so whether we like it or not, we need to learn how to live well with one another. The key is prayer. When everything is said and done, ultimately not our smart minds move the world; it’s our heartfelt prayers that move it. God is the heartbeat of human history. He’s the provider of peace in the middle of a crisis and redemption in the most unfavorable of circumstances.
“Deep peace of the running wave to you. Deep peace of the flowing air to you. Deep peace of the quiet earth to you. Deep peace of the shining stars to you. Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you.” (Irish Blessing)
Do the right thing, especially when it seems to be working against you. Isn’t it ironic that self-interest actually does not have our best interest at heart? It’s a lonely society when people are just looking out for themselves. Even though it’s understandable why we think that way, especially when we are hard-pressed in a crisis; however, life is so much more than living in mere survival mode.
Try this today: be kind to someone you don’t know, and see where this takes you. It may make someone’s day, but it will certainly put a smile on your face too. That’s how we are wired by our Maker. Love others as you love yourself.
Go make it a great day!
Sean Hutchinson writes about elephant memory: “At The Elephant Sanctuary — a non-profit organization based in Hohenwald, Tennessee — in 1999, an elephant named Jenny became very animated when a new elephant named Shirley arrived. After looking into the animals’ backgrounds, workers at the Sanctuary found that the two had performed with the same circus for only a few months—22 years earlier. The elephants are able to use their whopping 10.5-pound brains to encode identification and survival details, imprinting the key data to their memory to be recalled later. But an elephant’s amazing memory comes only with age and experience—and older, larger elephants are often a target of hunters. “The tragedy,” says Lewis, “is that when one of these [elephants] is lost to poaching, the information dies with her,” leaving the rest of the herd at a disadvantage—and having severe consequences for the species as a whole.”
In the wild it is crucial to remember in order to survive. I believe the same is true spiritually. If we quickly forget about the good things the Lord has orchestrated in our lives, it’s just a matter of time that we feel disjointed and become dissatisfied. With advanced age comes advanced experience. All the more reason to look back and count our blessings! While the aging population has been driven to the margins of Western society, it is important to note that they do not play a marginal role in God’s kingdom. Leviticus 19:32 encourages us to value and respect the elderly:
“Stand up in the presence of the elderly, and show respect for the aged. Fear your God. I am the Lord.”
On the opposite side of the age spectrum Paul wrote to Timothy, a young fellow believer, to not underestimate himself because of his young age (1 Timothy 4:12):
“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”
So let’s not fall into the trap of thinking less of ourselves because we belong to a certain age group. Instead, let’s think about the good things the Lord has done for you and me. Let’s make it our daily habit to praise Him!
“But time makes you bolder; even children get older, and I’m getting older too.” Steve Nicks