Are You in the Same Boat?
Picture a beautiful sunny day with a cool breeze blowing. Imagine a little old rowboat that you often take to a small lake to get away. You sometimes stop by the shoreline to read, maybe fish, or just relax. If you were to take that same boat down to the beach, put it in the ocean, and begin paddling with the oars, before long your arms will tire. After going some distance, you will wish you had not ventured so far from your original destination. You need a different boat!
There is always room for change and new ventures in life. It is time to set your sails. If you were going to venture out into the ocean, you may need a motorboat or a sailboat to go to new places, see and experience new things. Life does not have to be so humdrum day after day, but only you can make the choices to change your circumstances.
Like having the right boat or changing your normal routine from getting in a rowboat in a lake or taking a sail on the ocean, we can change our situations by the way we respond to life’s difficulties. How can we do this? By the words we speak. They play a key role. Pay attention to what people say and see what kind of life they have. Often they make their own problems if they are constantly negative. If people say, “God is bringing me through this and I am looking to Him and trusting Him,” their situations often turn around a lot quicker.
If you say, “I can’t stand my life, it is boring,” or “I always have troubles, I have no money, no friends, etc.,” the odds are that you have exactly what you are proclaiming over your life. If you speak God’s word over all your problems, His word will not return void. God says it will accomplish what it is set out to do.
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8)
I try to live each day to the fullest and I thank God for giving me opportunities. I actually have a fruitful life. Maybe at times it is too full and I need to drop an activity or two. But I do what I can to change my situations and make the best out of some unavoidable ones. It usually works out. I do different things, so there are no ruts. I take mini-vacations and find quiet moments to get refreshed by venturing out and enjoying all the benefits of God’s kingdom. But most of all, I decree and declare good things over my life, family, and friends.
I realize we have trials. They come in seasons because we are not promised those sunny and cool breezes every day, sailing along without a care. We are promised that Jesus will hold our hand and walk with us when the sunshine turns to rain, when instead of feeling good we are in pain. He will carry you in His arms.
Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms. (Psalm 68:19, NLT)
The only thing we can do in difficult moments is ask the Lord for His help, go to His Word and begin to speak life into what seems to be a hopeless situation. You can chase those clouds off your mind and set sail for a different journey. If you’re in the same boat day after day, purpose to do something different. Speak good things from God’s word over your life and expect a turnaround.
My high school chemistry teacher used to always talk about the “acid test.” The acid test is a sure-fire way to identify a substance. The Bible reveals that the acid test of the Christian life is love. Love is not simply a virtue of the Christian life; it is the Christian life. It is the oxygen of the Kingdom. There is no life without it. Everything — the spiritual gifts, prophecy, knowledge, wisdom — will come to an end, but love knows no end. It goes right on through the portal of death and into eternity. Paul said that if we
…have not love, it profits [us] nothing. — 1 Corinthians 13:3
On the very evening before His crucifixion, our Lord gave us a “new commandment” that supersedes the others not only in attitude, but also in action.
A New Rule
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you”
A casual reading of this text might tempt the reader to pass over two very important words. For one, this is a commandment. It is not a suggestion or a mere option. It has behind it all the authority of the Godhead. And it is a new commandment. Although the language of the New Testament reveals that this commandment is not new in time (God’s love has been around forever), this commandment is new in its expression. It is fresh; it is the opposite of worn out.
Until now, on the very eve of the crucifixion, the best we could do was to live on the level of the old commandment. This old commandment is found in Leviticus 19:18 and referenced in the Great Commandment. That is, we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. This self-love is a love with limits. It is often conditional on such matters as time or conduct, situations or social standing. It can lend itself to selfishness because it speaks of a self-love. It can also be changeable and fickle.
But real love is expressed by a new rule. For thirty-three years Jesus gave us a picture of how real love was to be evidenced. Up until then, the best we could do was to live on the level of the old commandment of self-love. In essence, Jesus said, “For over three decades now I have shown you real love. I am about to leave you, so before I go, a new
commandment I am giving you. No longer are you to love one another as you love yourself, but ‘as I have loved you.’”
A Natural Reaction
“as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
We are totally incapable of loving like this on our own. The only way this can become a natural reaction for us is to experientially know the love of Christ in our own hearts. This new commandment changes things. No longer are we to love on that self level. Now, we are to love as Jesus loved us — unconditionally. Once we receive His love, we are to release it to others in the same way He loves us. Talk about revolutionary thinking, here it is personified.
In order to love others on this level, we must know the kind of love Jesus loves us with.
His love is unlimited. Paul said to the Romans that nothing
…shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Romans 8:39
To the Ephesians, he expressed it as the “width and length and depth and height” of God’s love (Ephesians 3:18). Not only is Christ’s love to us unlimited, but it is also unconditional. It is not conditioned upon time or conduct or situations that may be in play. In fact,
God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. — Romans 5:8
His love is also unselfish, so much so that it took Him all the way to the cross. And of course, we should note that His love is also unchangeable.
As the writer of the Hebrews said,
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. — Hebrews 13:8
Thus, as we beat out our love relationships on the anvil of our own personal experience, we will love others with a love that is unlimited, unconditional, unselfish, and unchangeable. That is, if we love others as Jesus has loved us.
What is the result of this type of love? The very next verse is explicit:
By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. — John 13:35
Perhaps John put it best when he said,
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. — 1 John 4:7–8
This longtime recipient of Christ’s love added,
We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. — 1 John 3:14
Yes, love is the Christian life. It is the oxygen of the Kingdom. It is the acid test of our own discipleship. God did not write in the sky or send a tract in order to reveal His love toward us. He sent His Son. Love did that. He demonstrated His love to us.
As you memorize this verse, meditate on the fact that the Bible reveals a picture of real love to us in everything Jesus said and did. Our challenge is now to obey the “new commandment” by loving others on this higher level of love, in the same way that Jesus loves us.
Scripture includes many examples of righteous men and women who were influential in their generation. One of them was Daniel, who was a godly influence not only on his friends but also on kings. Even as a youth, he was committed to obeying God’s law. Consequently, when Daniel was offered food from the Babylonian king’s table, he requested vegetarian meals instead, to comply with Jewish dietary restrictions. His commitment to the Lord outweighed any fear of reprisal for rejecting the royal provisions. And God protected Daniel by giving him favor with his overseer.
Although most of us won’t have an opportunity to influence global leaders, our example can impact a workplace, neighborhood, home, or future generations. As was true of Daniel, a godly example is rooted in obedience to Scripture because it’s the source of wisdom. In a world that is tossed about by upheaval, fear, and uncertainty, our confidence in the Lord stands out and influences those around us.