Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. Ps 92:14(NLT)
Big toes crossed underneath the others, legs thin-skinned, injured from years of hard work in tobacco fields.
“I just love the Lord! He’s been so good to me. I’m ready to go anytime.”
By any global standard, Betty is not rich, not even noticeable in a crowd. But as I view this woman’s crinkled face in her simple kitchen I feel honor for her. She is truly bearing eternal fruit in old age.
My desire is to grow old like her. A worn-out body with a Spirit-filled soul.
Since I am careening down the other side of the proverbial hill, looking back, there is understanding. Not of everything, but events and thoughts and actions and words are colored over with the sage view of time.
But getting old is hard. And painful.
My desire is to finish well. We could take a few cues from Betty.
First, she said loved the Lord. It is easy to say, harder to implement. How I learn to love the Lord more is to make spending time with Him a priority. I can’t say I do this every day, but usually, I devote about 20-30 minutes first thing in the morning to read His Word and talk with Him. There is also time to listen. The more I know Jesus, the more I love Him.
She is grateful. We are a cynical society—and generally ungrateful. As I worked in our fields on our farm a few years ago, my thoughts went to a time of slavery and how they did not have a choice about when and how long they worked. I thanked the Lord for choices and when a cloud covered the blazing sun, I thanked God Almighty for clouds.
Lastly, she said she was ready to go anytime.
Paul said to be absent from the body means to be present with the Lord. In fact, Paul said being with the Lord is very much better!
Being ready to meet Jesus is a win-win situation.
But some of you may be hurting now. Whether it is growing old, or you or your family have been diagnosed with a disease, or a myriad of other reasons.
I am sorry, friend. My heart aches for you.
Meditate with me on these words from the Apostle Paul,
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV)
One last word—don’t let sin get in your way of finishing well.
Let’s pray that for each other.
See you in heaven.
It Looked Better in My Head
by John UpChurch, crosswal.com
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4
Your calling looks better in your head than in real life. Inside, safely tucked away in your synapses, the visions of what God wants to do through you come with puppies, double rainbows, and guilt-free cheesecake. It’s amazing how perfectly our brains can sand down the obstacles ahead, plaster over the voices of dissent, and generally build a future much like the highlights from someone else’s life.
With such a build-up, it’s easy to see why we get disappointed. After all, stories like these are all over:
- The country preacher has a vision to reach rural America with the gospel, to burn so brightly that a whole community is changed. But the church never grows. He sees nothing dramatic happen and finally moves on.
- A woman faithfully loves and serves her unsaved coworkers for years. She pours hours of prayer into the thing, hoping that at least one will really absorb what she’s been sharing with them. But all she seems to take with her when she retires are the pictures from her cubicle.
- A Christian missionary community, after years of serving the poorest in their adopted country, finally has a breakthrough when a local leader professes faith in Jesus. Days later, militants attack the area and murder the new convert, his family, and many of the missionaries.
And maybe something like that has hijacked your calling, too. You started out strong, pushing forward even when turbulence hit. You just knew God would work all things together for your good, and you had that verse, Romans 8:28, firmly planted in your noggin (and maybe scribbled on a Post-It Note on your mirror—just to be sure).
But along the way, the future you had imagined became more and more distant from the slog-it-out reality. You doubt that God was ever really in the thing to begin with, and, so, you try to forget that something ever happened, that something got you excited and charged up in the first place.
Don’t write off your calling just yet.
The thing about God is that He’s big, really big. And He sees much farther, clearer, and better than us. From our perspective, we can’t always see progress. But usually that’s because we’re trying to see the land ahead from a valley.
Some people take their faith for granted, thinking it opened them up to Christian beliefs but has no current relevance. However, the writer of Hebrews says that once we are declared righteous through placing our trust in Jesus Christ, we should continue to live by faith and not shrink back.
Living by faith is something learned over time as we see God’s faithfulness in both His Word and our own experiences. Consider the various degrees of faith, as illustrated by the following scriptural examples:
Little faith (Matt. 8:23-27)—Jesus’ disciples focused on a dangerous storm and cried out for help, yet Jesus questioned why they were afraid at all. Little faith struggles to believe that God is bigger than the situation.
Great faith (Matt. 8:5-13)—Though concerned about his servant’s ailment, the centurion recognized Christ’s authority over illness and believed He could do the impossible.
Perfected faith (James 2:20-23)—Abraham was so confident in the Lord that he followed through with a very difficult act of obedience. As a result, his initial faith was made complete and mature.
No matter how long you have been a Christian, God wants you to continually grow in faith. The only way to do that is by knowing and believing His Word.
“Remind everyone of these things, and command them in God’s name to stop fighting over words. Such arguments are useless, and they can ruin those who hear them.” – 2 Timothy 2:14 NLT
Their enemies didn’t understand them. But neither did their friends. These were the klephts, Greek warriors described as half-bandits, half-rebels. They caused frustration for many opponents, including Alexander the Great when his armies invaded Asia Minor in 334 BC.
What distinguished these warriors? They were a nuisance. Their goal was to confuse and distract their enemies through actions that seemed to make no sense.
Their unique fighting style often was met with ridicule. But many adversaries did not realize that klephts did not necessarily fight to win but often just to delay a decision. Seeking to provoke with taunts and insults, they often just ran when the enemy became close.
Many people today are like these klephts. They love to irritate and stir up trouble. They delight in spreading rumors and causing confusion. They disrupt the lives of others.
Paul warned Timothy that some Christians have this tendency. They tend to argue, to fight endlessly over words. But Paul knew that there was a time to take a stand and that some disagreements are healthy.
We sometimes become involved in disputes with no substantive purpose. Paul said, “such arguments are useless.” In fact, they even “can ruin those who hear them.” These kinds of arguments can split churches, divide friends, and even separate marriages.
Today, ask God to give you discernment into these tendencies. Don’t be devoted to useless arguments. Show love. Build unity. Strengthen the body of Christ.