As we were blessed with the opportunity to travel around the Bahamas during the holidays, I was reminded once again of the privilege of residing in a land where most needs are met without exception. The economy on the islands of the Bahamas is suffering. Tourists are spending less, and in the words of one elderly man, “Our livelihood is dependent on them.” Another young man explained the situation in these words, “America sneezes and we catch the flu.”
One resident of the islands gave my wife and I a horse-drawn carriage ride around Nassau, which allowed for some interesting conversation. He shared a brief story of his life and how he made his living by driving his employer’s carriage around the city all but one day a month. Then my wife asked him the question that I thought I already knew the answer to. “Don’t you get tired of tourists?”
I hope I never forget the joyful and appreciative response of this young man! With no hesitation, he claimed, “No ma’am, I could never tire of tourists. That would be the same as saying I’m tired of eating, or of having a roof to sleep under.” My wife and I quickly agreed this man was deserving of an added bonus for his attitude alone.
Isn’t it interesting how my wife and I assumed something… that could not have been farther from the truth? We considered his service to us as a burden upon him, while he saw it as a blessing. Is this not exactly how God desires we serve Him?
I think so. I think that maybe some of those tasks we despise are blessings in disguise… waiting to be unveiled? Maybe… hopefully, I’m beginning to understand Paul a little better. The Apostle of Jesus who through trials and suffering could remain thankful, joyful, and optimistic, the one who learned to be content in whatever state he found himself, saw everything positively.
How could he and the young man driving the carriage do this? How can they look beyond the burdens of life’s necessities and see them as privileges instead? Possibly by seeing forests rather than trees? The carriage driver came to terms with a reality of his life. Eating was a necessity, and tourists could be seen as a provision. Therefore, even though the hours were long, and sometimes the pay was minimal, it was a good thing, and he was thankful.
It’s a little more complex for Paul. The reality is just as true (actually much more so), but sometimes not as visible and tangible as the case of the carriage driver. Paul was given life. Not just any life, but the Life found only through Jesus Christ. Paul had been given the abundant life!
Paul didn’t merely have knowledge of God and the things of God; he was captivated and controlled by God and His truth. The truth of this life in Christ had captured his very being… and there was good reason.
In the fifteenth chapter of his account of the gospel, John recorded Jesus’ ‘secret’ to a successful and joyful Christian life. He told his disciples the key was – “abide in Him.” This would be their instruction to prepare them for the carrying of the gospel that would include much suffering and persecution. Just abide in Jesus.
I read Jesus’ words and I must admit they seem awful elementary. Concordances, commentaries, dictionaries, and a whole host of biblical resources line the walls of my study describing every facet of the Christian life, and Jesus says, “Just abide in Me!”
The Greek term used here by Jesus means to make one’s home in. He was instructing His disciples to take up residency in Him and stay there. Isn’t that what we all really need? Continuing His instruction, Jesus made it known that unless His disciples were abiding in Him, their efforts would be futile and empty. He said, “Without Me, you can do nothing.”
I wonder how often we take on tasks by our own efforts and strengths that had no possibility of success? Compounded still, by Jesus’ own admission, we can’t even display the characteristics of a believer without His strength. The fruit of the Spirit is on a limb beyond our grasp. Love, joy, peace,… gentleness, self-control… can’t be achieved by human effort. Oh, the world has a cheap knock-off version of each of these, but none that honor God.
So how do we abide in Him? How do we live in Christ? How do we turn the world upside down with attitudes and mindsets much like my carriage-driver? By learning of Jesus, and praying and praising and worshipping and… keeping our eyes on Him.
After encouraging the readers to faithfully run the race that was set before them, the author of the letter to the Hebrews instructed, “…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (12:2).
We keep our eyes on Him… we abide in Him, and the rest just comes naturally. Just ask our friend with the horse and carriage.
Light of the world,
You stepped down into darkness,
Opened my eyes, let me see,
Beauty that made this heart adore You,
Hope of a life spent with You.
Here I am to Worship, Tim Hughes