The wife of a friend of mine really loves Christmas. The Christmas tree goes up immediately after Halloween and stays up until late February. That’s a full one-third of the year! I like a nice Christmas tree too, but a month is enough for me.
Some people live a Christmas tree kind of life. They insist on extravagance, excess, lots of glitter and show, missing out on nothing. It’s an attempt to have the perfect life. Hardship and sacrifice don’t exist for them, for it doesn’t fit their lifestyle. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with some luxuries and comfort, but is that the point of living? Is that what Jesus died to give people?
We can learn from the mistakes of ancient Israel in Amos 4:1-3, where the wives of powerful men prodded their husbands for cash to spend on endless luxuries. They stooped to cruelty and extortion to get it. Amos warned that their spoiled and lustful ways would soon come to an end.
Is a life really worth living if it never experiences hardship, or doesn’t have to fight hard for good purposes, or is rarely kind to others? Something valuable is missing if we always insist on putting ourselves first, and always own the best.
Paul warned Timothy, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Tim.2:3-4). Soldiers have everyday lives too, but they’re not to become so entangled by it that they become ineffective. In this text, I don’t think Paul was simply trying to get Timothy to work hard. Suffering hardship wisely infuses life with wisdom and value. This is just as true for preachers as it is for anybody else. Life is not for selfish indulgence; sacrifice and service must play its part too.
Enjoy your Christmas tree, but don’t insist on a Christmas tree kind of life.
– Tim Johnson
The past few weeks have seen many upsetting things happen in the world. Terrorist violence in London, England, outraged people around the globe. Our national budget promised to plunge us into tremendous debt, sparking worries in the financial sector. Similar anxiety took place in the United States with the realignment of their finances, possibly leaving the poor and elderly in difficulty. It seems that every week brings new worries and surprises. Many people tend to throw up their hands and give up.
When young Daniel was taken to Babylon, he and is Jewish friends faced a barrage of upsetting events and changes that would cause any normal person great stress. I’m sure he longed for home, but Jerusalem had been destroyed. New uncomfortable responsibilities were demanded of them, and soon their lives were threatened by a demanding king who insisted on an interpretation to his dream. Like many people today, Daniel could have thrown up his hands and given up.
But he was smarter than that. He got together with his three friends and spent time in prayer to God, who promptly gave them wisdom. When his appointment before the king arrived, Daniel stood before him with the confidence that only faith can bring. One of his first statements is something we always need to remember: “However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.” (Dan.2:28) The king had demanded something impossible, “however, there is a God in heaven.” Daniel’s life had been threatened, “however, there is a God in heaven.” They had been forced to move to Babylon, “however, there is a God in heaven.” Do you see the point? When things seem hopeless and people can’t see beyond the clouds above, we need to remember God. He’s still in control; He gives wisdom generously; He promises to look after His people; He has a plan.
Yes, our world regularly seems bent on falling apart and nobody seems to have adequate answers. God is not acknowledged, and few seek His compassion. That’s when we need to remember what Daniel said: “However, there is a God in heaven.”
– Tim Johnson
We’ve all been encouraged with the great characters found in Hebrews 11. The people listed there lived their lives by faith, which is the focus of the chapter. In moving terms the author describes the courageous nature of each of them and the heroic things they did way back in history. While some of them became famous in the Old Testament, many lived out of history’s view. It didn’t matter if anyone was watching them, they lived and died for the Lord anyway.
One statement in verse 38 stands out, although it’s only parenthetical: “…men of whom the world was not worthy.” How could people who were forced to “wander in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground” be considered so great that the world wasn’t worthy of them? Surely such people looked miserable, stressed, poor, and weak. What made them remarkable is that they endured hardships because, in their circumstances, it was necessary in order to be faithful. They chose the hard road because it was the only road to heaven. God considers people like this to be the greatest in the world. Faith makes all the difference.
What a contrast to the people today the world considers great. Attention always goes to the fabulously rich, to the outrageous, rebellious, immoral, and the reckless. The world likes people like this and gives them honour. But God views people of faith as the cream of the crop.
Don’t spend your time worrying about getting rich or trying to look cool and reckless. You might get some attention, but God will only shake His head. He wants you to live for Him in a way that will move you to sacrifice and endure hardships – if that is necessary – and to make the right decisions for yourself and your family, no matter the social repercussions. If you do, in God’s view, the world is not worthy of you.
Read Hebrews 11 again. Could your name fit in there?
– Tim Johnson
In our busy lives our relationship with God often becomes dull in our minds, especially when we experience stress and hardship. We look at others and think they are happier, healthier and have more fun. But God wants us to know we have a very special relationship with Him that we should value, and find great encouragement. Continue reading