The Blessing of Having Something You Will Miss

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

Psalms 30:5, KJV


High School graduation was last night, in our small town. This year's class was about average, numbering twenty-two strong. There is a part in the graduation ceremony where the kids have an opportunity to take a rose to someone who has been particularly meaningful to their school years. It might be a parent or grandparent. For many it is a coach or a teacher or one of their principals who helped them get through challenging times. It is a bittersweet moment and there are often a few tears shed during this part of the ceremony.


Last night was no different. As soon as many of our young ladies got back on stage after they had ventured out into he auditorium to pass out their roses, they had to make a quick stop by the box of tissues near the podium that are kept on hand for just such moments. I mention that it was the young ladies who made a beeline for the Kleenex box because it is typically they who shed the most tears. Scientists will someday discover that girl's hearts have actually developed by the time they enter grade school, while boy's hearts are rarely fully developed until sometime in their late seventies.


Anyway, I digress, for the point I wanted to make is this: Our blessings are great indeed when we have relationships that are so dear that we grieve when we see the closeness of these friendships coming to a time of diminishing. It is at those moments that we realize what we have. We might have taken these relationships for granted - and that is natural. After all, these people have always been there, and it seems like that's the way it will always be. But then there are moments like graduation that remind us that some relationships (at least in their present form) must come to an end. And that makes us sad. Maybe to the point of shedding a tear or two.


And that's okay, because it shows that we are not only human, but that we are decent humans. 


I believe that it is at times such as this that we begin to realize just how blessed we have been by the people God has placed in our lives. But it is also at these pivotal points that we are likely to become overwhelmed with the realization that these blessings are about to change. The "kids" who have been part of our herd for most of our lives are about to go their separate ways. The teachers and administrators and coaches that caused us so much aggravation while at the same time providing us with our greatest support, are no longer going to be part of our daily existence.


And our parents and brothers and sisters? These will prove to be the hardest partings of all, for we will be moving on and they will be staying behind. Often champing at the bit to take over our bedrooms the moment we head out of that door for the next stage of our life.


As we process all of these realizations and emotions at graduation, it can sometimes become overwhelming to the point that unexpected tears will begin to flow. If they do, this is a good time to remember just how blessed your life has been, for a life that contains relationships so precious that we will grieve them when they end has been a wonderful life indeed. 


And it is good, at times such as this, to remember one of God's greatest promises: Weeping may remain for the night, but joy will surely come in the morning!  

The Blessing of Being Content With What You Have

Keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have, for He has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Hebrews 13:5, ESV


One of my favorite cartoon strips is Calvin and Hobbes, featuring a boy named Calvin and his best friend, a tiger named Hobbes. In one scene we find the two observing a falling star. They both make a wish upon the star and Calvin tells Hobbes that his wish was something along the lines of great wealth and becoming the supreme ruler of the the universe. He then asks his friend what he wished for, to which Hobbes replies, "A peanut butter and jelly sandwich." Calvin is incredulous and thoroughly berates his friend for blowing his chance with such a stupid wish.


In the last panel we see Hobbes contentedly munching on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, while Calvin is "stewing" in his discontent. Hobbes then utters the classic line, "I got what I wished for."


So why am I talking about a silly cartoon, and especially one with such a seemingly ridiculous ending at that? I hope that the answer is somewhat obvious, for in this fictional "slice of life" moment, we have a microcosm of what so many of us seem to be missing. It is not power and wealth or even fame that will give us true contentment in life. It is the satisfaction that we take in the small and simple pleasures that make up our lives. And for Christians, this means that we take these satisfactions as part of our daily service to God and Christ.


We don't need to be scrambling for things that will make us great, nor do we need to seek after things that we mistakenly believe will make our lives carefree. If we are honest, we would have to admit that most of us wouldn't mind at all being so rich that we can do whatever we want, whenever we want to do it. But this is an entirely selfish "wish" because we are rarely motivated to get wealthy in order that we might spend our riches in our service to the Master. Instead, we wish for vast sums of money so that we might live a life of indulgence. 


And this is a lousy mindset. 


In Ecclesiastes 2:17, Solomon makes the great confession of what his lifetime of pursuing wealth and pleasure resulted in. In this passage he says, "I hated life." How could that be? Wasn't Solomon the wisest man the world has ever seen? Indeed, he was. Isn't it true that he was one of the richest and most powerful men of all time? This is also true. So how come he was miserable? The reason was that he was seeking temporary and selfish pleasures. And while it is true that he took some satisfaction from the things that money could buy, this happiness turned out to be both fleeting and shallow. So when he looked back over the expanse of his life, he realized too late that he had wasted it on the wrong things: He had pursued the physical over the spiritual and it left him empty and bitter.


So, what can we conclude from all of this? One lesson is that we need to be more simple in our perspectives as to what will truly make us content. You have to admit that life can be filled with countless daily joys - from enjoying a beautiful sunrise, to appreciating our family and friends, and even to savoring an occasional peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And we need to do these things before it gets too late, for the main focus of the passage we read above is to understand that God will never leave or forsake us, so we are then free to serve Him to the best of our ability and to be content with what we have while we are engaged in that service.


In other words, we can either have a life that is jam packed with contentment because we are focused on the right things, or we can hate life because we are focused on the wrong things. The choice seems easy, when you think about it. What have you been wishing for? Which do you think will bring true contentment?


Do We Really Believe?

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6, NKJV


Do we really believe all of the Word of God, or just that part that we agree with? It may seem like a ridiculous question, but think about it for a moment: How many people don't believe in hell? How many people don't feel that sexual immorality as defined by the Scriptures is really all that immoral? How many people occasionally lie their harmless little lies and think that they are okay? How many people have a little too much to drink (get drunk) on special occasions? How many people believe that the world was created in 6 days, that the world was really flooded at one time, that Jonah was really swallowed by a big fish, and that the first man and woman really did live the exact life that is described in Genesis?


The point of all this is to show that many people who claim to trust in God really don't. Otherwise they wouldn't disagree with what His holy Word sets forth. They wouldn't overrule His judgments on right and wrong. They wouldn't decide that some event that is clearly stated as being true within Scripture is really a bit hard to swallow because it is not logical to their "educated" mind. And they wouldn't "play god" and decide what was true and what was not, because they would trust in the Lord with all of their heart and they wouldn't lean on their own understanding.


They wouldn't listen to so-called preachers and Bible scholars who have determined in their infinite wisdom that some of the things that God says are so, aren't really so at all. And they sure wouldn't lean towards "scientific" theory as being true and the Bible being false whenever the two conflicted. In short, they would trust in God enough to give Him the benefit of every doubt because they would understand that He is perfect and that His Word is flawless.


And if we did that - we who wear the name "Christian" - instead of being wishy-washy whenever truth came into disagreement with theory, then this world would not have so many problems. It has been my observation that the children of the world (Satan's children) are often more loyal to the lies of the devil, than the children of God are to the truth. And whenever this happens we get what we have today - a world that is filled with hatred and war and every type of sinful behavior that one could imagine.


So, what is the solution? I believe it begins with settling in your own mind whether or not you believe in the whole Bible, or just part of it. If it is just part, if your intellect just cannot come to grips with some of the Bible's teaching, then let me suggest this: Make up your mind! If you truly trust God, then logic will dictate that He would never have left us with an imperfect Bible. If in our mind we believe that He was too incompetent to leave us with His will, mistake free, then maybe we should just give up because we are surely placing ourselves on a superior intellectual plane than that which we view God as being on. And if we are arrogant enough to think that God made mistakes but we are smart enough to figure our what those mistakes are, then we really do think more of ourselves than we do of God. So, again, what is the solution?


The solution is to trust in God with all of our heart and to not lean on our own understanding. This verse is not saying that we are to be without understanding, it is just pointing out that God's way, whether we fully understand it or not, is worthy of the benefit of the doubt. If we believe that He is indeed God, and if we believe that the Bible is His Word, then we need to treat it that way. This will mean no more disagreeing with the Word of God. If He said something happened in a certain way, then we can be confident it did. If He says something is sin, then we can be assured that it is. And if He shows us where the right paths are, then we can be positive that if we travel these paths that we will find Him and eternal salvation.


I really do believe that when we stop straddling the fences within our own minds as to whether God's Word is completely trustworthy or not, then we can get down to the business of living in the way that He deems best. If we will do that we will have order and peace and hope. But if not we will have chaos and turmoil and despair. I'm not sure which one most people will choose, but I know that logic and reason dictate that completely trusting in God and His Word will always result in the best possible outcome. And that outcome will be Heaven!

Do We Really Let Him Lead?

The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul; He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for His Name's sake.

Psalms 23:1-3, KJV


If you were to take a poll of people's favorite Bible passages, the 23rd Psalm would rank near the top. If you were to ask people what passage gave them the most comfort, this would be one of the first ones they would think of. Yet the sad truth is that most people who are seeking the comfort that this Psalm offers can never receive it. Why not?


While I cannot speak for others, I can give the reason in my own life: It is because I don't always let God lead! Because of that, I do end up in want. Furthermore, I don't ever really get to those quiet waters that are guaranteed to restore my soul, and I often miss that good and righteous path, again, because I don't allow God to be in the lead.


The fact is that I have missed too many of God's blessings that I have longed for and so desperately needed because I have wanted to take the lead. I have spent a great deal of life "blazing" my own selfish paths, thinking that somehow I could obtain that peaceful state that we all desire. But the path that leads to those still waters that are promised to restore our souls can never be "discovered" by going our own way and asking God to give them to us. And the reason is that this place of paradise can only be found by following the Shepherd to it.


In other words, God's blessings are not for available for self-directed leaders, but only for those who are humble enough to follow the Father and the Son.


So, if you have sought the peace of the 23rd Psalm but always seem to fall short of it, consider this: Is it possible that you too have been asking God for these paths of peace while going your own way? If that is the case then your life has likely been far more unsettled than you have desired. The good news is that the solution is quite simple: Yield the lead to the Good Shepherd and follow Him. It's very likely that by doing so that you will finally find that righteous path that leads to those still waters that we all long for.