“Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: When he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” 1 John 3:2-3
The witness from the ancient book that we love is that one fine day we who have a covenant relationship with Jesus will be transformed to look exactly like him. That change begins in this life as we live, under his influence and infilling, one moment after another. It happens incrementally, but it happens to the faithful follower of Jesus.
Listen to a description of two men. Both are men that I know, but I have hidden their identities …
The first man, I’ll call Cary, has Hollywood good looks – athletic and charismatic. Men want to be him, and women want to be with him. Wherever he goes to speak and give his Christian testimony, people stand to their feet and cheer. He wears the latest fashion – tattoos, skinny jeans and short-sleeved T-shirts with rolled-up sleeves to show off his muscular arms. He has written several best-selling books. He is on everyone’s watch list as an up-and-coming preacher.
But long ago his love for applause has replaced his love for the Savior he so eloquently talks about to an adoring crowd. The subterranean pressure of performance is getting to him and he drinks a glass of wine every night just to be able to sleep. People don’t know it, but that glass of wine is turning into a problem and he sneaks a glass during the day to just calm his nerves. No one is the wiser.
He doesn’t remember when it happened, but now his faith is something he does to be noticed. And people still flock to see and hear him and get his autograph. Cary is headed for a crash somewhere in his life. Intuitively, he knows this, but it doesn’t stop him from filling his schedule with more adrenalin hits for his darker self. His focus on the externals has won him a following but bankrupted his soul.
Cary doesn’t like the life he is living, but he is so far down the road it feels like he’s gone too far to go back.
And then there is a man I’ll call Ellsworth who lives by himself in the mountains of Colorado. He is stooped in the shoulders and unsteady on his feet. He can’t hear very well and uses a cane as he walks from his old truck into the church house Sunday after Sunday.
He carries a 4-inch thick King James Bible that has been marked up so much that it is hard to see where the personal notes and the typed words start and end. The bible is worn and tattered and the edges are stained brown from the oil, dirt and continued years of immersing himself in the yellowed old love letter.
He rarely speaks in church, save when he is asked to pray.
“Dear Lord Jesus, kind, loving heavenly Father,” he begins each prayer. And everyone leans in the direction of his soft voice that sounds like he is talking to an old friend. At some point during his prayer, his voice might break into a spurt of a laugh – “Hah!” – and then lilt down into a gentle sob.
His pastor leans on him for encouragement and often asks him to pray for the specific needs of those in the congregation. No one in the congregation knows that he has prayed for each of them by name and that of their children.
He can’t “do” much anymore, but then again Ellsworth quit trying to “do” for the Lord long ago. Now he just spends his days loving everyone who comes across his path and prays and prays and prays.
Leaving church recently he was heard humming to himself the tune “Nearer My God to Thee.” One of the verses in that hymn reads as follows:
“There in my Father’s home, safe and at rest,
There is my Savior’s love, perfectly blest,
Age after age, nearer my God to Thee.”
Then he climbed into his old truck and drove away – alone; dust trailing after him down the dirt drive at his church.
Brennan Manning tells a story about a priest from Detroit named Edward Farrell who went on his 2-week summer vacation to Ireland. His one living uncle was about to celebrate his 80th birthday.
On the great day, the priest and his uncle got up before dawn and dressed in silence. They took a walk along the shores of Lake Killarney and stopped to watch the sunrise. Standing side-by-side not a word exchanged and staring straight at the rising sun. Suddenly the uncle turned and went skipping down the road. He was radiant, beaming, smiling from ear to ear.
His nephew said, “Uncle Seamus, you really look happy.”
“I am, lad.”
“Want to tell me why?”
His 80-year-old uncle replied, “Yes, you see, my Abba is very fond of me.”
Live at rest in the Father’s love and you will find a joy from Him that might put a skip in your walk, no matter how faltering your step.
And please pray for Cary.
Joe Chambers is the pastor of Mountain Heights Baptist Church and can be reached at 425-446-1596.