What is it that we’re doing? What are we doing with our lives? Are we just breathing air, taking up space, occupying time, working to pay bills so we have a place to live so we can work to pay our bills . . . ?
I know all of you have had moments like these, where you wonder, “Is that all there is?” “Is that all there is?” Peggy Lee sang:
“Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is.”
For the Christian, that’s definitely not all there is – even in this life.
When I read the life of Paul in the book of Acts and in his epistles, I have 2 very different impressions of his life, 2 aspects of life that I try often to bring together in my own life and allow to bleed into the pages of Give Us This Day. On the one hand, I see a life of sacrifice, a life that is slowly being poured out as a libation before the Lord. I see, I hear, I feel and can almost taste the life that was spent in prisons and under threat from every corner. I see a life that is a living sacrifice acceptable to the Lord, a life that is truly cosmic in proportions because it is united to the life of the Lord of the cosmos.
On the other hand, I see a life of immeasurable worth, glory, and joy. I see a life that is positively incandescent and fluorescent, a life so bright that to stand in its penumbra 2000 years later is to be illuminated and inspired!
Ultimately, these 2 lives are 1: the life of suffering and sacrifice is a life that ends in glory and joy, even in this life.
Have you ever had that feeling of déjà vu? I’ve got that sense again that I should try to imitate Paul in his life, as he himself exhorts me. And yet I find that it takes the imagination of a poet and musician to interpret Paul’s life into my own.
Paul was privileged to see signs and wonders by the power of the Spirit of God that I have not been given. Paul sought to preach the gospel in a land where Christ was not named, something else I don’t feel especially called to do.
And yet I have vowed to dedicate my life to the most rigorous, the most sacrificial, the most joyful, and the most glorious undertaking known to man: the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ.
We all need a heroic cause to throw our lives into. Some find it in revolutionary causes; some put spikes in trees to injure loggers, or set fires or bombs to promote ecological goals; and some fight the battle of the bulge. Others ascend the corporate ladder; collect possessions; or conquer hobbies.
Mine is Jesus Christ. But to be a heroic Christian may not mean what you think it does. It doesn’t mean that we all quit our jobs, sell our possessions, and head off to Africa to be missionaries (at least partially because America is as much in need of missionaries as Africa!) And it doesn’t mean all seeking to become priests and pastors.
But it will likely mean radically re-thinking your life the way it is currently being lived. How much of your time is simply leisure or spent pursuing only your own goals?
Is there a quiet (or not so quiet) void in your heart and life somewhere? It may happen in particular stages of life, for example, when single, or an empty nester, or in retirement. It may happen to any and all of us. With what do we seek to fill that void? Where is the adventure in life left to us?
I find it in Paul’s life in Romans 15, and in a way that is Charles-size, something that, by the grace of God, I think I can manage. What I see in Paul that is obtainable for all of us, regardless of our station or stage of life, is to be a minister or servant of the Jesus Christ. That was Paul’s passion, and it should be ours too. In fact, it is your fundamental identity. Say it with me: “I am a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ!”
But there are many ways to minister to Jesus Christ, and most of them aren’t being missionaries where Christ hasn’t been heard. What Paul sought, as a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ, was to minister the gospel of God to the Gentiles, that they might be an acceptable offering to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit (verse 16; 12:1; 14:10). His simple and passionate goal was to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.And he did it in many ways that each of you can access. Let me list some of them, for easier access.
- He spoke from his heart about the grace of God in his life and in the world. Surely, you can do that, in your own way.
- He enjoyed the company of the saints (verse 24). Some of my most joyful moments have been in the company of the saints, and not necessarily on Sunday mornings. Paul hungered to spend time in the company of his beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord (verse 22-25, and throughout his letters).
- He distributed alms to the poor church in Jerusalem. Isn’t it possible that there is someone in your life who is poor financially or in spirit that God is calling you to assist?
- He strove together with the churches in prayer (verse 30).
Several summers ago, I returned from a mission trip to Belize. Every night, 30 of us gathered together to ask ourselves where we saw God at work that day. Often, where each of us saw Him seemed small. One that was particularly notable because of the number of times it was mentioned and because of the humor content was the following: “I saw God in being able to hammer a nail into the wood today.” It seems odd that this is where many would see God. But you would have had to have experienced the wood in Belize. It was so dense it wouldn’t float. A lot of the teens tried hammering the nails in, only to find that halfway down they kept bending them. The men swaggered in with the attitude something like, “Here – let me show you how it’s done, kid.” And they’d bend the nails, too.
It seems odd, but God was in those nails and in that wood. It was particularly meaningful to me, remembering that our Lord was a carpenter.
Why did we see God in the nails and in the wood? Because we spent a week getting rid of the distractions – you know, the “real life” back home that each of us leads, the life replete with “real work,” an infinite menu of food and TV shows and music and ways to communicate that separate us from one another. That real life.
Because we went with the simple attitude that we were servants of the Lord Jesus Christ and were going with no preconceived notions of what He would have us do but would simply stand at attention and do whatever was asked of us.
We gathered together every night to encourage one another and report back what God had done. The drama and adventure, the agony and the ecstasy, of the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ is all right here, because God is right here. We didn’t need to go to Belize to see God: He was right there in Fort Worth (where I was working at the time). But we were all too busy doing our real life to see and hear and feel Him.
I’ve rambled on long enough. You get the idea. You are a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. How can we more joyfully and gloriously strive together to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, acceptable in His sight?
Prayer: Lord, here I am, your servant, offering myself to you as a living sacrifice! Take me and use me in any way that is most pleasing to you. Help me to jettison all of the dead weight in my life that anchors me to this world and holds me back from coming to You. Breathe new life into me by Your Spirit so that in my life I may seek Your life and find joy and peace. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
- How true is it for you that you feel like there must be something more? Knowing that this something more must be God, what might it specifically look like in your life?
- Find a partner (or partners!) to go on the Christian adventure of discipleship with. Seek out someone who is willing to seek a more adventurous, joyful, and passionate Christian life, and conspire together for the Lord and His Kingdom!
Resolution: I resolve to seek the Lord’s face and listen to Him until I hear one way He is telling me to be a more faithful and joyful servant.
Holy Cross Anglican School, Belize – Photo by Fr. Charles Erlandson