A Letter to Josh
by John UpChurch
Giving advice always seems such a dangerous task, balanced between two equally foreboding chasms: impersonal aphorisms that do little to instruct on the one hand and, on the other, a fruitless attempt to reach into your future based upon my past. After all, you already have the best book of instruction on all matters, a book you’ve already read countless times. How could I really add to that?
But since I’ve learned quite a bit vicariously from stories other people have shared of their own mistakes, I hope I can do the same for you. In other words, I hope that I messed up so you don’t have to. As always, lay down the prayer as you consider these thoughts. Seek God for true wisdom because He’s got the monopoly on that. I’m just trying to pick up the scraps.
First, beware the gradual loss of your joy and wonder. Attacks on our faith rarely come as a frontal assault—more often they grow like ivy, slowly covering our defenses and blocking out the light. Day by day, the joy you’ve known slips away, and bitterness fills the cracks. Make it a habit to praise God for something new each day. It’s much harder to lose your joy when you’re looking for reasons to be joyful.
Second, lead by serving those who follow you. This became a cliché in the church because it’s true. We lead others best when we serve them and do the things no one else wants to do. Jesus came as a missionary to our world and served the sick, dying, and hungry. He cleaned nasty feet, touched lepers, and made mud pies to heal a blind man. He didn’t have to. He didn’t need to. He wanted to. Joyfully serve and show others what loving people with reckless abandon means. (Did you notice I put that joy thing in here again?)
Third, don’t be surprised by sin. Sin isn’t a popular term. It’s not politically correct, and many people prefer to act like sin is just a social program away from being irradiated. But sin will smack you in the face from time to time—both your own shameful failures and the failures of others. When that happens, you may be tempted to be discouraged. Don’t be. God knows our sinful nature and loves us until we’re clean. That’s what really matters.
Fourth, remember your calling no matter what happens. You may already know or suspect God’s call for you. Keep that calling in mind. After all, there’s a reason Paul had to remind Timothy of his calling—it’s easy to question when times are difficult. Go where God calls. Go scared if you have to (and you may), but go.
Fifth, God’s not finished with us yet. Sometimes news stories about war and death may make you think that God’s finished with humanity. Web articles may make you feel like you’re the only one left who hasn’t bowed to Baal. And TV shows and movies may make you wonder how things could get so bad. But God’s not finished with us. And He’s never surprised by anything.
And, finally, love. Above all else—and this may sound elementary—love like you have no time left to love. Love by giving your life away. Love by pouring time and energy into others. Love by sharing what you have. Love by putting God first.
Wherever God takes you, I know He will faithfully bless and provide for the dreams He’s given you (and will yet give). You’ve only just begun to see how hard and rewarding it is to take up your cross daily.
But—and this is something you must remember—it’s definitely worth it.