Today’s Thought and Text of Encouragement:
“Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, my Help and my God.”
“Hope is like the lark on the battlefield. It will not sing in a gilded cage. It cannot soar in an atmosphere of religious luxury. But brave souls, exposing themselves fearlessly for God and their fellow-men and fellow-women on the battlefield of life, hear its song and are made strong and glad.”
Today’s Study Text:
“I have glorified You down here on the earth by completing the work that You gave Me to do.”
“Learning To Pray Like Jesus – Part 3
Completing Our Work”
“God is the center of life. He’s why we exist. He’s whom we serve.”
Dennis and Barbara Rainey
Who do I work for?
Is my work a job or is it service?
If my “work” is to be serving God, how can I incorporate heavenly service into all that I do?
“You may not be involved in full-time ministry. And yet if you are a believer, your basic job description is the same as mine. It is to be full of the Holy Spirit and to pour yourself out to others in love…trusting in the spirit to make that possible.”
“Serving Christ will cost you.”
Having just come through the holiday “shopping season” as it is referred to by commercial marketers, I think we can agree that not having to be bombarded with the jingle-jangle of constant advertisements, which try to convince us we cannot live without some gadget or some toy, is a welcome relief.
It is with the remembrance of holiday shopping in my mind, that I found this short poem to be rather thought-provoking:
“Nobody warns, ‘So many shopping days to Easter!’
No costly gifts, no monetary loss.
Easter seems too easy.
It is – if you forget the cross.”
Joseph T. Nolan
It was something about the last line, “If you forget the cross,” which stopped me in my tracks for it seems the cross, many times, in one way or another, presents a hurtle that is tough to climb over.
As we continue to learn to pray like Jesus, we find in John 17: 4, our study text for today, Jesus makes a point of telling His Father, “I have glorified You down here on the earth by completing the work that You gave Me to do.” I believe we can all take heart when a job is well-done. I know that I like to feel a sense of accomplishment when I finish a task – and when I’ve done my best. The Apostle Paul, near the end of his life, in writing his second letter to his son in the faith, Timothy, was able to leave this record behind:
“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”
II Timothy 4 6,7
In his way, Paul was telling Timothy that he had completed the work God had given him to do, just as Jesus shared this same message with His disciples.
And exactly what was Jesus’ work? We get an idea from the words Jesus spoke when on the cross, with His last gasp of breath, He said the words, “It is finished.” The cross, this final act of love, summed up the ministry of Jesus – and further, the cross brought to you and me, an example of just how far and to what lengths God would go to redeem His children.
But Jesus’ completed work on the cross did not just share heaven’s message. There is an imprint which is left in your life and mine, too, for we have been invited, as children of God’s Kingdom, to “take up the cross and follow Jesus.” This cross that is given to us may be one which is thrust into our hands at a moment of grief or sorrow. Perhaps at a time when no one else is available. Dr. Luke gives us an example of cross-bearing when he relates that as Jesus was led away, an individual named Simon, a Cyrenian, “coming out of the country…on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus” (Luke 23: 26, K.J.V.).
In a touching story shared by Tom Gordon in Readings From Iona, he tells of an experience he faced personally and then relates how the story of Simon carrying Jesus’ cross became much more personal for him after this experience:
“The door of Sam’s room had been left open by the nurses. His family’s distress was obvious – his wife holding his hand, his daughter with her arm around her mum, his son staring out of the open window – as they waited for Sam to die. I wanted to go in and meet this family in their sorrow. But I had nothing to offer, no clever words to say. I only glanced into the room as I passed, a spectator of their pain and grief…
Eventually, I felt compelled to go in. I was scared, ill-equipped, tongue-tied, out of my depth. But for a moment or two, and throughout the day, I offered what I could – a stumbling word, a shared silence, a comforting touch – each time overwhelmed by the pain of it all and my uselessness to make it any different.
Sam died that night…later that morning, the family came to collect Sam’s belongings…and asked to see me, to say thank you for my help during yesterday. My help? I murmured some words of protest. But Sam’s wife persisted: ‘No, you did good yesterday…you came into the room – and I know how hard that was for you’…My own inadequacies had been transparent…But with the compulsion to go in and the fearfulness of being there, in the transition from spectator to participant, something good – of God – had taken place.”
Then he continues by relating what he had learned in helping another bear their cross to the story of Simon the Cyrenian: “Simon, too, looked through a wide-open door and witnessed a journey…and he too…was forced to enter the drama. What good could he possibly do?...The good is God saying, ‘Thank you, Simon,’ or ‘Thank you, (your name here), for being there when you were needed and others turned away. When the ultimate is beyond you, but you still step over the threshold into the distress and pain God says, ‘Thank you.’”
When you or I respond to our Father’s call by taking up the work He has given us to do, even when it means carrying a cross that weighs heavy on our back, we can look to heaven and say as Jesus did: “I have finished the work which You have given me to do.”
Several years ago, in my personal reading, I came upon the brief story of a Godly woman named Mary Penington who was a very devout Quaker at a time when persecution fell the lot of those who did not fall in line with the teachings of the Church of England. Mary was not only frugal but in her life had wisely become quite an efficient manager with her finances, acquiring a number of pieces of land in the process.
In what was a blow to those who were faithful to the dictates of their consciences, most of Mary’s acquisitions were confiscated and she found herself with little in the way of earthly possessions.
As she penned in an autobiographical piece she wrote regarding her life, “By taking up the cross, I received strength against many things which I had thought impossible to deny; but many tears did I shed, and bitterness of soul did I experience, before I came thither.” However, as she found out, she fulfilled the purpose she was given and finished the work God had put into her hands.
In 1971, Brian Wren penned these thoughtful words: “When I go along the road, I shall lift a heavy load. I will carry a cross for you. You will learn to carry it too. When you follow the Leader, you will learn to carry it too, if you follow the Leader.” May our words today be, “I have finished the work You have given me, even when it means I’m carrying the cross.”
“May I be willing, Lord, to bear
Daily my cross for Thee;
Even Thy cup of grief to share,
Thou hast borne all for me.”
“Forgive us that with the Cross as starting point we have made of Christian faith a bland and easy-going way of life.
Forgive us that our preference runs to Bethlehem and Joseph’s garden, to poinsettias and lilies, and away from Golgotha, with its rusty nails and twisted thorns.
Forgive us that we are more willing to be instructed or reformed than we are to be redeemed.
Open us, each one, to ever new and deeper meanings of our Savior’s passion”
Ernest T. Campbell
“Then said Jesus…’If anyone desires to be My disciple, let (her) deny (herself) disregard, lose sight of, and forget (herself) and (her) own interests and take up (her) cross and follow Me – cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, dying, also.”
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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