Jean Paul Sarte once wrote, “Man can count on no one but himself. He is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.”
That’s one view of life…a rather dismal view. If this is the backdrop against which life is painted then there is no purpose, no reason beyond just the few years that we spend here. This is all we have and all there is. This view casts us as orphans into a strange and foreign place.
But there is another view…a contrasting view. We’re not orphans on our own, but we can be adopted into the family of God. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans chapter 8, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him” (vs. 14-17).
The fact that Christians are adopted into the spiritual family of God provides a sense of security, and acceptance, and well-being.
Spiritually speaking, there is only one of two families to which we belong – the family of God or the family of Satan. Jesus declared, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24). He put it another way in this statement, “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters” (Matt. 12:30). True discipleship is not a “both-and” proposition; it is an “either-or” one. Either one is a servant of the Lord or he is not. There is no in-between. Have you obeyed the gospel of Christ in being baptized and, thus, been adopted into the family of God? If not, why not?
The poet has written,
I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where.
But long years after in the heart of an oak,
I found my arrow still unbroke.
Once you shoot that arrow, you might lose track of where it is, but that doesn’t mean that it ceases to be. And years later you might find it “in the heart of an oak.”
There’s another mystery. When I share my hopes, my dreams, my thoughts with another person and the years pass, I might forget or lose track, but that doesn’t mean those thoughts no longer exist.
When you share life with a friend, it lasts and endures and might even show up again, like that arrow.
Solomon said, “Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, for you will find it after many days” (Eccl. 11:1). A person never knows the ultimate impact of a thought or deed. At first it might not even by noticed, but later it has a tremendous effect. No wonder the apostle Paul urges us to “be careful how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise” (Eph. 5:15).
I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth I knew not where.
But long years after in the heart of a friend,
I found my song from beginning to end.
A note was placed in the hollow of an old oak tree by an orphan which read, “Whoever finds this, I love you.” Probably the child was lonely and was seeking the companionship of someone who cared and had an interest in him. He had been abandoned by his parents at an early age; thus, he knew the value of genuine love. Every day he would watch to see if someone found the note and would respond to it. Eventually, someone did and it changed his whole life.
Let me tell you another story. A message was put (not in the hollow of a tree), but on the beams of a cross with the message from God, “I love you.” The apostle John wrote, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). The grandest truth in inspiration is the statement made by Paul, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
In the more than 2,000 years since the message was first delivered, many have read it and their lives have been changed forever. The message reinforced their sense of value and purpose. It established a new direction for their life and filled them with joy unspeakable. It provided hope to those who had lost all hope and reinvigorated an otherwise meaningless existence.
Perhaps that same thought may hit just the right person, at just the right time, in just the right place. And the person who reads the note may be you; maybe for the first time. Maybe for the thousandth time and it was just what you needed.
If you are like me, one of the first sections of the newspaper I read is the comic strip section. I enjoy reading the comics because you will find in many of them a humorous, yet penetrating, perception on life. Some are just plain funny.
You take Snoopy, the lovable and affable dog. He is a brave soul. He has a good heart and goes after what he wants with “gusto.” Sometimes his quests backfire on him and he gets into more trouble than he bargained for.
But Snoopy is always trying to be something that he is not – and it creates problems. Sometimes he tries to be a ferocious lion in the jungle. His attempts to do so are not really that convincing. At other times he pretends to be a WWI pilot soaring in the heavens and conquering every foe as he sits atop of his doghouse with his pilot’s hat on. There are times when he portrays himself to be a tennis ace capable of defeating any opponent.
It’s fun to read about his fantasies, but it isn’t real. Aside from the fun of playing, Snoopy needs to be Snoopy…a lovable dog. He’ll be accepted and loved just as he is by those around him.
When I start playing games with my life and try to pretend to be something or someone whom I am not, I need to look at Snoopy and see how he looks in his fantasy world.
The possibility of change resides in every person. The apostle Paul recognized that by God’s grace he was what he was (1 Cor. 15:10). That’s one thing, but to pretend to be something we are not is another thing altogether. That’s just plain hypocrisy.
It’s good to have dreams and hopes, but Snoopy needs to be Snoopy (not a lion, or a flying ace, or a tennis pro). And I need to be me and you need to be you.
In the book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, a little boy, Alexander, has one of those days when nothing goes right.
He wakes up in the morning and the gum in his mouth has dropped out and is in his hair and on his bed.
He gets out of bed and trips over his skateboard. While dressing, his sweater falls into a sink full of water.
After a terrible day at school, he has a horrible visit with the dentist, and a no good stop at the shoe store.
At supper, his mom served lima beans and spinach. Yuk! There was kissing on TV and Alexander hates kissing. His bath water was too hot and he got soap in his eyes. He had to wear his railroad-train pajamas to bed – he hates them!
It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for Alexander. Do you ever feel like Alexander? And, what do you do? Perhaps it’s time to laugh.
Sometimes it helps to maintain a sense of humor in the midst of unfortunate circumstances. Solomon said, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones” (Prov. 17:22). It is said that humor strengthens your immune system, boosts your energy, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress. Laughter is far more contagious than any cough, sniffle, or sneeze. When it is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use.
Have you had a good laugh today?
You’ve heard the old Chinese proverb: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step.” When we look at where we are and where we want to be, it can be overwhelming and discouraging because the distance between them may seem to be so vast. If it appears that there is such a great chasm between them, we might take the easy way and just put off or dismiss beginning to do something about it. After all, where do I start? When I have so far to go, where do I begin?
The old proverb offers the answer. It’s simple and it’s profound at the same time. I begin with one step. Oftentimes our problem is that we want to bite off more than that, don’t we?
It is not by happenstance that the Christian life is described as a walk (2 Corinthians 5:7). It is not a sprint, but a walk. It is not a mad dash, but a steady and progressive walk. We are urged to “walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).
So, where am I today? And, where do I want to be tomorrow – and next year? What can I do and where can I begin? I can begin today, right now, with one step.
The safest place in the world is said to be an underground vault in Iron Mountain, just up the Hudson River from New York City. It was formerly a mine shaft, but now has vaults which are lined with thick walls of concrete and steel. The vaults are covered with two hundred feet of solid rock on all sides. Many large New York banks and national corporations use it to store important records and other valuables. It is even supposed to be safe from atomic attack. PEOPLE WANT SECURITY!!!
I recall that Daniel felt safe in the lion’s den. However, the king who had him thrown into the den was unable to sleep that night (Daniel 6:18). The three Hebrews, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, were thrown into a blazing furnace of fire with no effect on their body, their hair was not singed, their trousers undamaged, and they didn’t even have the smell of fire upon them (Daniel 3:19-27). Paul and Silas were falsely charged, beaten with rods, and thrown into prison; yet, they prayed to God and sang hymns of praise (Acts 16:22-25). The great security of each of these men was their relationship with God. Isaiah wrote, “The steadfast of mind Thou wilt keep in perfect peace because he trusts in Thee” (Isaiah 26:3).
Have you feared anything today? --- like admitting you were wrong? --- like sharing your faith with someone who might lash back at you? Can there be any place safer than where you are doing the will of God?
“O Lord, if someone misunderstands my intentions today…if I make a mistake and someone cuts me down…if someone close to me is critical, keep me from being afraid. Please live in me so that true love will be my only response to them. Thank you for the victories before they happen. Through Jesus --- Amen.”
Have you ever been embarrassed by the discovery that the buttons on your coat or shirt were in the wrong holes because you missed the first button? I’ve had that experience more than once in my life. It is especially embarrassing when you are attending an important meeting or are being introduced to someone for the first time.
Have you ever had a similar experience in some of the important relationships in your life? Perhaps some of the great challenges in your life did not turn out right because you started out wrong. Maybe you got off on the wrong foot with your employer on your first day at work. Perhaps you don’t command the influence you would like or you don’t produce the results you should because you missed the first button. Perhaps you started out on the wrong foot with a neighbor and now you rarely speak to one another. It may be that your marriage is not satisfactory because you started out wrong. Your home relationships are not what they should be because earlier you made some serious mistakes and it is now difficult to overcome them.
It’s so easy to blame circumstances, or education, or society, even our in-laws, or just about anything else, isn’t it, for the mess we find ourselves in right now? One of the best ways to handle the messes we get ourselves into is to openly and honestly admit our mistakes. Come clean with our own conscience and with other people and seek to do right.
Jesus Christ made this promise, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew. 6:33). Now, that is the real answer to the problem; that’s starting out in the right button hole.
Long ago, king Solomon was invited by God to, “Ask what I shall give you.” Solomon could have requested wealth, power, prestige, and honor among men. But, he asked for none of these. Instead, he asked that he might have an understanding heart that he might properly govern the people of Israel and discern between good and evil. It pleased God that Solomon had asked for this and he said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold I now do according to your word…I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days.” Solomon started out right. He put God and others before himself.
That’s the answer for you and me as well. In order for us to start out right so that we can end up right, we must put God first. Doing so will make us better employees, better neighbors and friends, better husbands and wives, and better children.
The wonderful thing about serving God is that we may mess up and get “our buttons” out of order, but we can start all over and he will help us get it right. We can never exhaust his grace or diminish his love for us. He is willing to forgive and help us start anew.
It’s amazing what can happen when we make God the priority of our lives! Seek his way, his wisdom, and his strength – FIRST! No matter how tangled or twisted or complicated our lives become, things have a way of turning out much better when we put God in the first button-hole.
Consider this long list of things --- they all have something in common: insulin, glue, fertilizer, dice, buttons, violin strings, soap, chewing gum, piano keys, etc., etc. These are only a few of the products made from a steer. The fats are used in explosives, toothpaste, candy, cosmetics and soft drinks. Even the horns, skin, ligaments and tendons produce a gelatin used in ice cream, cream cheese, desserts and photographic film. A 1,000 lb. steer provides only about 432 lbs. of beef, but every part of the animal except its “MOO” can be used for something.
There’s no telling what kind of tremendous IMPACT for good would happen in a community if the potential of every God-fearing person was put to use. Why would we ever say we don’t have what it takes? Consider these words from 2 Corinthians 9:8: “God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work.” All this is ready for you and me today, if we are ready. The response we need to make is to love God supremely and obey Him. We need to have a willingness to use what He has given us so that our efforts for good can be multiplied.