In the previous blog entitled “The Thankful One” we observed the lepers in Luke 17 receiving their healing and the one who came running back to thank the Lord. His life had just dramatically changed for the better. We also shared some blessings that incite our own thanksgiving to God: Our faith, our family, our friends and our fellowship. These are the great pillars of life when built upon the foundation of Christ Jesus.
Yes, how two-stepping happy we are bounding out the door feeling healthy, wealthy and wise. A good skip through nature, kissing cute chubby-cheeked babies, petting pets and singing in the sunshine. We’re rejoicing, praising and shouting thanks with attitudes of gratitudes. Life is good.
What happens when life isn’t good? What do we do when there’s “no fruit on the vines, the fields yield no food, and there is no herd in the stalls?” (Habakkuk 3:17) When our leprosy remains and death plays no favorites? When nature’s wind blows out the shine of the sun and drops destruction in our laps? Rejoice always? Pray without ceasing? In everything give thanks? These are the will of God in Christ Jesus for you and me. But how are we to live those things out when “every man at his best state is but vapor?” (Psalm 39:5)
Is not the answer found in the example of the patriarchs? “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:13) The Bible says they left the country they came from because they desired a better, heavenly country. “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” (vs.16)
Folks, we’re strangers, pilgrims, sojourners, tent-dwellers. This is no place to build houses, to construct cities. The reality of life isn’t cement, it’s pegs to pound in and pull out. We leave things here. We lose things here. Childhoods and innocence, precious times and precious people are right here…and then…they are gone. Today is the day we weep over the losses of yesterday. Unless faith opens our eyes to things afar off: To the promises. To the joy of the journey. To the pilgrimage where precious times eventually become precious monuments and precious people become precious memories. To a better country where houses and cities stand forever. To eternal gain. To everlasting reunions To the steadfast: “I go to prepare a place for you…and where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1-4) The always, the without ceasing, the in everything can only be realized when we are assured of the promises of God, embrace them, and sojourn in them.
Citizens of the world have no vision beyond the right here and right now and remorsefully watch time take everything away. They curse the heavens and bewail the brevity of life as it slips from their grasp. How can one rejoice, pray in faith or be thankful with hands once full and now empty? At the very end, empty hands are all they have left.
Do you have empty hands today? Please allow God to fill them with His promises. Then, and only then, can you rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and yes, in everything give thanks.