“Good morning, brother. How are you? Are you well in the Lord?”
“I am well, thank you, without Him where would we be?”
I witnessed the exchange above between two friends prior to a Sunday Morning service of worship. They always say the same thing to each other and give the same response, but the response as a question got me thinking.
Without Him, where would I be?
As a member of The Salvation Army my thoughts immediately turn to the marvelous stories of redemption and restoration we get to witness as lives are rescued from the clutches of addiction and abuse — and certainly it is easy to to think “there but for the grace of God go I”. I am most grateful that my upbringing and environment shielded and protected me from that predicament.
But there is another place we might find ourselves that appears to be the polar opposite of wasting and addiction and in the eyes of our society is deemed “success”.
Jesus had an encounter with such a person and it is very instructive for us:
Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” “Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” the man asked. And Jesus replied: “‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?” Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Matthew 19:16-22 NLT
The scripture implies that Jesus was very saddened by this whole incident, because the young man had such potential. He was a law-abiding citizen. He was obviously smart. He must have been a good manager. He was morally aware and seemed to be focussed in achieving “the most good”. He was good at being good! The problem as pointed out by Jesus was that he was too attached to the earthly rewards of goodness! His success was holding him back!
Jesus' recipe for success? — abandon all that stuff and throw in with Him and his mission!
An old aphorism says that “virtue is its own reward”, but that can be very deceptive once we become enamored of virtue for its own sake.
Jesus said: “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?Is anything worth more than your soul?” Matthew 16:26 NLT
Let us be careful that we don’t evaluate our spiritual health in terms of where we are not! It is quite possible to appear to be very spiritually successful and still in danger of not maximizing God’s glory in our lives.
The antidote to both ends of the “success spectrum” is to make sure that we are focussed solely on Jesus and his will, not on the trappings of success or evidences of failure.
“Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.” Colossians 3:10-11 NLT
So, the answer to my question of “Without Him, where would I be?”, has to be “in the wrong place, regardless of how it seems to the rest of the world! “
“And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT
Let’s keep the main thing the main thing!
Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black
P.S. if you’d like to read previous ruminations of mine they can be found at https://www.salvationarmyconcordca.org/chronicle/?category=Bible%20Study