What is your ultimate goal in life?

“And so we will be with the Lord forever.”
1 Thessalonians 4:17 (NIV)

One of England’s greatest philosophers in the 20th century wrote “…my soul is a habitation of unyielding despair”. This dark, fearful comment is all that many people have to guide them through life and deal with the struggles common to us all. They think that all there is to existence is found in this present life. Death is the end of it all for humanity.

Despair means to lose all hope, to believe that nothing will rescue or deliver us from imminent danger or destruction. When a person is depressed they may not be able to identify a reason for the sorrowful state of mind. But the person who is in despair has thought through the alternative ways to approach the problem and has come to the conclusion there is no solution.

Despair is then the more frightening problem to have in life. A depressed person may have hope of a better day down the road. The person in despair believes the road ends in a brick wall and there is not a ladder to climb over it. There is no one more hopeless than the person in despair.

Now we look at the Christian’s response to the person in despair. Those who trust in Jesus know that there is a ladder to use to get over the brick wall that confronts the traveller through life. They have trusted in Jesus as their Saviour Who will lead them all the way home to the eternal presence of God.

Christians recognize the futility of life apart from a relationship with our Creator. We know that this life is not all there is to existence. That is what marks the difference between a Christian and the person in despair. Believers in Jesus look forward confidently to a better world and to a remarkable future. People in despair think this life is all that they can hope for. So, if this life really is all a person can hope for, then it is a mess because of the problems we all face.

Small wonder the philosopher despairs and builds his life on that sad view of things called “despair”. He believes death ends everything for him. Christians on the other hand are confident that death merely changes the venue, it brings them a whole new world to live in where all the problems of this life are gone forever.

The believer in Jesus is not concerned to get all they can out of this life. If circumstances rob a Christian of health, wealth, or whatever is desirable here and now, they can patiently wait for their real goal in life to appear. The real goal of the Christian is the world to come, not this present world.

We have our eyes fixed on eternity and all it possesses. For the believer the future is to see the One who loved us and gave Himself for us, Jesus Christ. We desire faith to give way to sight. We desire the present sad world to go away and the world of light, glory, love and truth to come. Our great hope is to see Jesus and be like Him.

What is your great goal in life? Is it only for the things of this life? If so and if you have a long term disability, poor health, no money, or some other issue, then you will never achieve happiness. If your goal is the life to come then you can cope much better with the hassles of this life. What is your ultimate goal in life?

Things Go Better With Christ

“If anyone would come after me,
he must deny himself and
take up his cross and follow me.”
Matthew 16:24

There is a movie of a very brave young woman who lost an arm to a shark while surfing. The story goes into detail about the struggles she went through to come to terms with her new situation. One scene is of her and a youth worker in her church talking about her new life style. The injured teen, with tears in her eyes, asked how her accident could be part of God’s plan for her life. The youth worker gave an honest and appropriate answer by saying she did not know.

The movie goes on to demonstrate how the young lady not only survived but in God’s grace became a model for others with serious injuries to emulate. The courage she displayed and her submission to God’s unusual will for her life has blessed many with similar issues.

Some people have been sold a bill of goods concerning what will happen to us when we repent and believe in Jesus as our Saviour. The popular myth out there is that when someone becomes a Christian their life will suddenly become all joy and happiness. They are encouraged to believe that Jesus is the great pain pill to remove all our hurts and pain. Jesus is portrayed as a celestial Santa Claus whose sole purpose in existing is to find out what we want in this life and provide it for us.

This sad misrepresentation of what it means to follow Jesus has turned a lot of people off Christianity. It has also caused certain ones who have begun the Christian pilgrimage to stumble badly.

When we are urged to “follow Jesus” in order to have an easier lifestyle we are very mistaken concerning what it is all about. We need to follow Jesus simply because it is the right thing to do. Jesus ought to be served by all of us regardless of any profit we might have from the relationship.

Hopefully my readers are in that class of followers of Jesus who walk with Him just because they know they ought to do so. Any benefits that might come our way because of our allegiance to the Lord are certainly most welcome but are never the reason for loyalty to Him.

This is the meaning of our verse today. We must come to faith in Christ in a spirit of self denial that goes as far as death to our own ambitions in life. A cross in Jesus’ day was an instrument of death, not a burden to carry through life. A cross ended the cross bearer’s life,   it did not make life a long sentence of torment until death finally came.

So we cannot say that life will most certainly go better with Christ. By Jesus’ definition, our life will end. Isaac Watts the first great hymn writer of the modern church put it well when he wrote:

My dear almighty Lord,
My Conqueror and my King,
Thy scepter and Thy sword,
Thy reigning grace I sing:
Thine is the power;
behold I sit in willing bonds beneath Thy feet.

Have you come to Jesus to die to yourself in order to live for Him?

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Matthew 5:44 (NIV)

His name was Joseph Scriven and he was born in Ireland September 10, 1819. As a young man he studied at Trinity College Dublin and graduated with his B.A. in 1842, the same day his brother William graduated in medicine. His father was a soldier, mathematician and carpenter. His mother was a musician and read poetry to her children when they were young.

Joseph, as a young man was engaged to be married but his fiancé drowned the day prior to the wedding in 1843.

Heartbroken he finally emigrated to Canada and was tutor to the children of various families. He settled in Port Hope area on the north shore of Lake Ontario. He met a young lady Elisa Catherine Roche. He was 39, she was 22 and they became engaged. She took ill and died before the wedding on August 6, 1860.

Scriven was associated with the evangelical Christians called Christian Brethren. He did some preaching in their Gospel Halls and also on street corners or wherever he might find a group of people.

His kindhearted manner was usually welcome by the neighbours where he lived. He would volunteer to chop the needed wood for those who could not do it for themselves. If payment was offered he would always refuse.

Scriven often attended the local pubs in Port Hope on Saturday evening when men would come out drunk to stagger home. He passed out tracts talking about Jesus to anyone who would take them.

One evening three men coming out of a tavern decided to beat him up. After leaving him bleeding on the ground they walked away laughing at their efforts with the religious man. As Scriven watched them depart he noticed one of them was without a coat to protect him from the cold night air. Quickly he got up, ran to the man without a coat and gave his own coat to the man who had beaten him a few moments earlier.

Joseph was known to write poems from time to time. On the death of his fiancé Elisa he wrote a beautiful piece concerning her place in heaven with Jesus. On another occasion he wrote the hymn we now know as, What a Friend we have in Jesus. Scriven never intended it to become the remarkably successful hymn that it quickly became. He only intended it for his mother and a few friends who were suffering.

Scriven was a wonderful example of the words of his most famous hymn. He led a tragic life and died under strange circumstances. However his words live on for those who suffer as he encouraged us to take all of our sorrows and distress to the ever loving Jesus.

Have we trials or temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness,
take it to the Lord in prayer.

Jesus is the greatest, most helpful Friend any of us can have. Come to Him today and be friends with Him.

Revenge or Forgiveness?

“It is mine to avenge; I will repay.”
Romans 12:19

I recall the time when I met with a friend of mine. This person had been dreadfully abused as a child and it was a difficult road to freedom for my friend. Many counselling sessions had occurred to help relieve the person’s tormented mind.

Then this individual heard the Gospel and God opened their heart to respond to Jesus’ invitation to come to Him and receive rest. As the months passed after the initial encounter with the Lord the person grew in understanding about forgiveness. At first, the victim was highly offended that the criminal might be able to receive forgiveness from God.

Then, a year or so later it occurred to the victim that sending a Bible to the perpetrator in jail would be a good idea. In spite of the terrible nature of the crimes committed, the victim now desired the man to discover God’s forgiveness.

It was an amazing time for me to sit in that coffee shop and hear the genuine compassion and concern expressed by the victim for the convict. I recalled how much this same victim had previously hated the man for his evil deeds. I knew that I was witnessing a miracle of love and forgiveness where disgust and rejection had previously reigned. Revenge had been replaced by forgiveness.

In our verse for today there is another idea about the latter end of evil people. For those who refuse to repent and seek forgiveness through Jesus there waits a day of reckoning that should be feared by all. The individual who had hurt my friend so severely will face his Creator in judgement if he does not seek forgiveness.

I could never persuade my friend to go from seeking revenge to seeking forgiveness for the person who had done so much harm. I waited for the Lord to shift the person’s heart from hate to love.

Perhaps one of my readers to day has horrible memories of evil done to them in the innocence of childhood. It may be impossible to erase some things from your memory. Yet there is One Who can help you find healing and comfort if you place yourself in His care. In different ways He was abused and tormented. As He was being nailed to the cross He was heard repeating over and over the words (Luke 23:34),

“Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.” 

This amazing Person is able to heal broken hearts. Psalm 147:3 (NIV) says,

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” 

He urges us to come to Him and find the healing and comfort we need.

If we submit to Jesus He will finally bring us to show compassion to our enemies and we shall pray for good to come to the ones who have hurt us. Will you come and find the strength and hope that was lost through the evil of the past? Jesus never turns away any who come to Him.

Too Heavenly Minded?

“For me to live is Christ and to die is gain”
Philippians 1:21 (NIV)

There is an old saying that is still used occasionally and it goes like this: “He is too heavenly minded to be any earthly good”. The statement sounds interesting to the uninformed person. However, a brief look at the history of the church contradicts the idea that people who are “heavenly minded” cannot have much to contribute to this life.

Those who have read the history of England will tell you of many evangelical Christians who did so much to transform their society.

John Howard, who lived in the 1700’s was a wealthy man who spent much of his fortune to give relief to the suffering of prisoners. He spoke to the British Parliament about the abominable conditions in the prisons and was honoured for his tireless labours.

An international society was formed some years after Howard’s death to help prisoners. The society still is working in many countries today.

We all have heard of William Wilberforce (24 August 1759 – 29 July 1833) who did so much to free slaves. Like John Howard he was motivated by his “heavenly mindedness”. We could go on but it is clear that being heavenly minded can have a profound and positive effect on how people live in this world.

However, there is more to this “heavenly mindedness” than the desire to improve society. Being heavenly minded can also assist those who suffer as they draw near to the Lord and recognize that this world is really not their final home.

There is a tremendous benefit for those who suffer when they get their minds off the present and on to the future. The future is when Jesus takes them to their eternal home with Him. I fully accept that there is enormous pressure on people in pain to stare at the present and ignore the future. Suffering grabs our attention and seeks to prevent us from considering that there is a better day coming.

Those who have terrible ordeals in this life need help to lift their eyes off the immediate situation and look farther down the road to what the Lord has in store for His people in heaven. I have had the immense privilege of helping wonderful Christian people in tragedy by teaching them what is ahead when Jesus lovingly wraps His arms around them when they die and lifts them to the home prepared for them.

I possess a letter written to me just over 10 years ago by a young mother of a six year old daughter. This young woman was dying in hospital and frightened because she knew her days here were short. I visited her weekly and showed her from Scripture how God helps His people as they go through the valley of the shadow of death.

She went from fear to faith and in her final weeks was eager to go and be with Jesus. She became very heavenly minded and thus learned how to handle the enormous problem of dying young. Her painful last days became joyful as she anticipated entering the country where she would forever be with the Lord.

Are you heavenly minded enough to endure the sorrows of this life? Or do you need to get into the Bible and learn more about the glories that await those who believe in Jesus?