Gospel based priorities…
March 10th, 2019
I had a friend post a quote on Facebook …
“The most important thing is to enjoy your life – to be happy – it’s all that matters.” – Audrey Hepburn
Sadly, Audrey was incorrect.
Happiness is elusive and fleeting. The enemy uses it as an excuse for extravagance beyond means. The American Declaration of Independence sites…
We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable; that all men are created equal and independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I’m not in a mind to argue with the declaration, but I will note that while ‘preservation of life and liberty’ are noted as derived inalienable rights; the pursuit of happiness isn’t. What is defined as a right is the pursuit of happiness.
In other words, we have the right to seek happiness, but it’s not guaranteed.
I’ve been out of work for six months now.
In these months I’ve had the opportunity to look at my priorities. When you’ve liquidated what you can reasonably sell off to pay bills and are left with only unemployment, you find yourself examining every expenditure to determine if what little funds are available will be allotted to each.
We’ve faced server tight squeezes on car payments, the mortgage looms and while the lender has made a hardship accommodation to suspend the required payments, the sum of those missed payments are being tracked and it is expected when I return to work that I will settle up with them or arrange to pay off the payment gap that has ensued due to not having employment.
The important things
What has become clear is that none of this really matters that much because this temporal world we live in isn’t our long-term situation. What lay ahead is so much better than this.
It’s not that I don’t strive to keep the bills as current as possible and desire to be able to meet the obligations I have, but the real priorities have been made clear.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:11-13 (ESV)
The thirteenth verse is a favorite with a lot of disciples of Jesus, but unless you include the two verses before it the full impact of the passage isn’t as clear.
I take joy in understanding exactly what Paul’s saying here. Whatever our financial state, whatever the state of our health, whatever our physical surroundings, none of these affect our ability to do the important things God calls us to do.
To contradict Ms. Hepburn, the most important thing and all that matters is to surrender our lives to Jesus, give ourselves in obedience to him, and be his disciples. This is the most important thing.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)
A transformation that conforms us to the perfect will of God. That is what this life is all about.
We aren’t called to provide a sin sacrifice; Jesus did that for us, becoming our sacrifice for sin. He gave himself as the perfect sacrifice so we might have life.
The world is distracting, and this week I was distracted when the first six months of unemployment compensation ran out and a notice appeared in my mailbox. I found out after a period of panic that despite resubmitting my claim immediately, there would still be a one-week gap in the unemployment payments.
With the prayer of brothers in the Lord and my surrender of the situation to Jesus, peace returned where there had been fear and panic. This payment gap hasn’t been resolved; I don’t know if it will be. The important thing is that I submit my request to God, do what is in my ability to mitigate the situation, and trust him for my needs.
I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:18-19 (ESV)
I already have received more than I deserve. I have been given the Grace of my Lord and Savior and all I require is something I can give him, my surrender to his will for me. He will supply every need of mine, in accordance to God riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Not he might, not he could, he will!
What is it we need?
Considering the ‘important things’; surrender, obedience and being Jesus’ disciples; What do we really need to accomplish these important things?
His Grace – Foremost, absolutely. It is the grace of Jesus that frees us for good works, which we’ll find is part of being obedient to him.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:16 (ESV)
Without that burden of sin weighing us down, we are unencumbered and can be the example of Christ we should be. But the final function of his grace in us is not finished, we want the grace of Jesus to flow through us to others as well because the demonstration of that grace will speak volumes to those outside of his grace just what grace can mean for them.
His Forgiveness – Unconditional and complete. Perhaps this and the next need are the most difficult for us to channel to others. Jesus said…
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
Luke 6:37-38 (ESV)
“Forgive and you will be forgiven”. Our standard is Jesus. Admittedly, I doubt I will ever meet that standard. The weakness of the flesh will probably make forgiveness so very difficult, but remember we are talking about how God will supply all our needs in Christ Jesus, so one need we have is for Jesus to fill us with the ability to forgive. We can’t do it on our own, just as we can’t possibly do enough good to compensate for our sin.
His Love – Love in its fullness. His perfect love that overwhelms us and compels us to love others, even those that despise us and would do harm to us. If Jesus supplies his love to us and through us, then we can begin to see a way through his strength we can forgive those preparing to harm us as Steven did before his stoning. That pleading to God on the aggressor’s behalf was made out of love. Love so overpowering that it broke through the fear and impending pain and suffering.
Beyond that love is the ingredient we need most to do another thing that Jesus commanded us to do, which was to be not only his disciples but his messengers.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:34-35 (ESV)
The love that identifies us as Jesus’ disciples.
Each of us should have our deepest prayer be that the love of Jesus flows through us so much that it leaves no doubt we are his. May it be so prevalent in our lives that every day if we were being tried for loving other that there would be ample evidence to convict us in the highest degree.
The things of this world don’t matter. We all like nice things, we desire happiness and health, but if those things are not found on the path our Lord has provisioned for us, they really don’t matter at all.
What truly matters is our devotion to Jesus. Being the thankful recipients of his grace, forgiveness and love. Finding that obedience to his will for isn’t a duty, but instead, it is an opportunity to worship him and give him glory. Every day seeing clearer the footsteps he leaves ahead of us to be directly in the light of his grace.
That’s “What Matters”!
In His Grace,