By Mike Glenn
The old preachers tell a story about a little boy who heard the circus was coming to town. He begged and begged his parents to allow him to go and see the circus. Finally, his parents relented, gave the little boy the dollar needed for the ticket and told him to come right back home when circus was over. He was so excited that he was unable to sleep, and as soon as his parents would let him, he ran into to town.
“Sit right here,” a nice policeman told him. “You’ll be in a great spot when the circus comes to town.”
Sure enough, in the middle of the morning, the circus unloaded from the train and began its grand march down the middle of Main Street to the big circus tent on the outskirts of town. And the parade was grand, indeed. There were ladies riding ponies, clowns in cars and acrobats riding on elephants. The little boy had never seen anything like it in his life.
As the parade passed before him, the little boy realized the parade was coming to an end. So, dutifully, he walked up to the last clown in the parade (the one walking behind the elephant with the shovel), and the little boy gave him his dollar thinking he was paying for his ticket.
And he went home.
He never saw the circus. He only saw the parade. Like many of us in life, we get a feel for what’s going on, but we never really engage in our lives. We see a lot of previews about what life could be like, we just never see the main event. We pay our money and go home way too soon.
And nobody misses the main event more than Christians – especially evangelical Christians. Go to any evangelical church and you’ll hear a sermon about how Jesus loves sinners. The sermon will end with a deeply felt plea to accept Jesus into your heart and believe He died for your sins. “You can leave today,” the pastor will say, “free from the guilt of your past mistakes.”
All of that is true. All of that is good. The problem is the message stops too soon. Like the little boy who goes home after the parade, we have no idea there is more. There is.
Yes, Jesus does forgive us for our sins. Yes, Jesus does cleanse us from all unrighteousness, but there’s more. The reason Jesus does all of this is so we can be of useful service to Him and His kingdom. You have heard it before – we are saved FROM and we are saved FOR.
Most of us never get that second part. Our worship services are filled with celebrations of how we were once lost, but now we’re found. We were blind, but now we see. Years and years after our initial conversion, we’ll still be celebrating how Christ forgave a sinner like us. I get it. It’s a message that never grows old.
And He invites us to come along and do His kingdom’s work with Him. In fact, we are created for such a mission. We are giving gifts by the Father to be used in His church – gifts of prophecy and prayer, healing and teaching – all given to build up His church.
You probably know a few people who understand the reason why they were born. They are some of the happiest people you’ll meet. What’s more impressive is their joy isn’t affected by the outward circumstances of their lives. It’s why the Apostle Paul could sing in the Roman prison. He was working for Christ, working with Christ doing the things Christ shows us are important.
One of the dearest saints I’ve ever met was dying of heart trouble. His heart was literally wearing out and there was nothing more the doctors could do. Every time I visited him, it was a little harder for him to get around, a little harder for him to breathe.
But he never mentioned any of that when I was with him. I would ask him, “How are you doing?” His answer was always the same, “Blessed.” His smile would spread across his face and he would say again, “Blessed.”
How could he be blessed? He was dying. I knew it. He knew it. His wife who sat there with us knew it. If I was in his situation and someone asked me how I was doing, I wouldn’t say, “Blessed.”
What was the difference between my friend and me? Well, for one thing, my friend was living deeply in his “for.” If you were around him for very long at all, he would tell you how he had felt called to pray for people very early in his ministry. No matter what capacity he served, praying for people filled his time. That never changed. Even in his last breaths, his last heart beats, he was living in his “for.”
“I can’t do much else,” he would say, “but I can still pray. So, I talk to Jesus about my friends. He talks to me about my friends”.
“What does Jesus say about your friends?”
“Mostly, He reminds me how much He loves my friends. I tell Jesus I love them too. Loving my friends is something we do together.”
And he would smile.
There’s nothing like knowing Jesus has forgiven your sins, but that’s just the beginning of the story. Living with Jesus in your “for” is where the real joy is found – a joy so strong it will make you smile with your last breath.