Monday, February 15, 2016

That's Livin', Man!

For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. (1 Thess. 3:8)

I don't know when or where I got it, but some preacher told the (certain apocryphal) story of a rich man who was buried in his big, red Cadillac convertible. As the car was rolled down into the huge, deep ditch, with the corpse at the wheel, someone yelled out, 'hey now, that's livin', man!'

Whether in irony, jest, or blind seriousness, it brings up the question as to what real life is, and we have a clue in the Apostle's statement about some co-workers of his returning to him from the more northern parts of Greece. Timothy (and Silas, too, it seems, see Acts 18:5) brought news that the Thessalonian believers were staying the course in their faith in Jesus, despite severe testing and persecution; it was as though Paul could breathe again.

Sounds peculiar, doesn't it, coming from a man who also asked a rhetorical question (for emphasis!) 'who can separate us from the love of Christ?' (Rom. 8:35). And what about Phil 4:6, 'do not be anxious about anything'!

I guess balance is the key. Some things did concern the great missionary greatly: 'And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.' (2 Cor. 11:28) People were apparently his great concern, people for whom he had so often put his life on the line, people whose eternal destiny was wrapped up in trusting the priceless message of salvation which he had brought to them at great cost.

I don't claim to have been a part of any ministry that achieved what Paul the Apostle's did, but I think I have discovered what 'livin' is, and it ain't a Cadillac! In fact, as we sometimes putter around the country in our old van with nearly 180,000 miles, I'm very grateful to the Lord for the experience of knowing it is He who sustains us and brings us home, not a nice, new vehicle.

But compared to my friend, 'Raymond' that I wrote about last time, I'm a novice in the faith (in fact I'm probably still a novice, apart from any comparisons!). A few days after I wrote that last blog piece, suddenly he calls me. I had been nearly three months since he called, and I was worried! 

Raymond was upbeat; he had gotten moved. Still in solitary confinement (OK, they don't technically call it that, but when you cut through the jargon, that's what it is), he gets two envelopes and two stamps a month. Maybe. He used one last month to write to his mother, and one to write to me. (This month he hasn't gotten any yet.) But they were really nice and pushed the telephone up on a small cart close to his window so he could use the phone and call me. A week later, he called me again.

The interesting thing was, that first call came about five minutes after I had walked in the door from spending an hour fasting and praying for Raymond together with another ReachAcross board member. I had not been especially encouraged during that time of prayer (though the hour passed quickly)--I'm a doubting Thomas if there ever was one! 

As far as I know, Raymond is still there in solitary. He gets out a few hours a day though now to walk around, that is unless some inmate in the prison doesn't do something stupid (like stab another inmate or hit another inmate with an ax. Where do they get these things?--usually smuggled in as contraband by guards who work for nearly minimum wage and really don't much care whether they get caught or not.) They can be locked down for days on end if the prison warden decides to, or doesn't have enough staff (no prison in this state has enough staff, by the way).

So what's 'livin'? Knowing God through trusting in the saving power and presence of Jesus, according to John 17:3: 'And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.' It's the joy that keeps you going when you've been betrayed and falsely accused. It's the confidence you have in spite of the fact that you haven't consistently lived up to God's moral standards, and have never quite done what you should have done.

And evidently it is also the hope that prison cells, lock-downs, and trying circumstances beyond our control are not the end of the journey.

And the assurance that our lives are making a difference in those of others.

Thanks for praying for Raymond!  He still needs it!

For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy. (1 Thess. 2:19-20)

U.S. Director

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