Along the Path
This is the time of year when our minds and hearts ease away from the lightheartedness of summer and turn to the more serious business of the impending changes that winter brings. Here, on the east coast, that means leaf raking, snow blowing and ice chopping. But in between the summer sun and the blast of the north wind, we find a home-like comfort in clear blue skies, crisp morning air, and the vibrant palette of apple red, honey amber and a yellow that can offset an autumn sunset in a most magnificent way as the leaves, like the curtain in theater, are drawn up and away by the changing winds to reveal an even clearer vision of the heavens.
And there, in the middle of November, placed between the lazy summer sun and the harsh, winter winds, is Thanksgiving. It is the time of the year that even the world, with its frenetic pace, nerve-jangling noise and constant wrangling for sales and profits, can acknowledge is a time to draw close, come home and give thanks.
The season bears images of families around the table sharing a Thanksgiving Day feast, a toe-warming fire in the hearth, and a home filled with the smells of pumpkin pie and homemade cookies. It is a time of the year when even the hardest hearted individual can settle into an understanding of a thankful heart.
It reminds me of Paul’s letter to the church of Ephesus; After he had heard of the faithfulness of the believers in Ephesus- of their deep and abiding love for all of the saints- all of their brothers and sisters in Christ-he gave thanks to God and continued to pray that God would open their eyes more fully- enlighten their spiritual eyes and hearts- that they would be given five things:
A spirit of wisdom; A revelation of knowing who God really is in all situations; An understanding of the hope we have in Christ. An understanding of the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints; An understanding of the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe.
Regardless of where we are on our Path- whether you are a caregiver of a loved one who requires constant attention and care, or if you are someone struggling in illness, injury or disability, it is important to refresh yourself in the truth that you are a part of the body of Christ, and that your brothers and sisters in Christ love and care about you- where you are now and wherever God takes you on the Path. But know that along the Path, God is faithful to provide you wisdom-in everyday dealings; in the things of eternity and that it is His pleasure to reveal to you the depth of His character-his love, faithfulness, and care about every detail of your life-to have you get to know him more as you both travel along the Path He has set for you. And while it is easy to think only on this plane of existence, we must remember to lift our eyes up as we walk the Path- and consider the hope that we have in Christ- the redemption from a fallen nature and the hope of a new one. We have inherited a mighty inheritance- an eternal dwelling and until we finish the Path we are on, we have the comfort and strength in knowing that the God we love and who loves us with immeasurable might abounds with an exceedingly great power towards us- the same power that raised Jesus from the dead- that same power is at work in each of us. That, my friend, is an incredible truth.
So, as you walk along the Path God has chosen for you, remember that it is a season. Right now, it is autumn, a wonderful respite between lazy days and windy days. And as you raise your focus upwards, and see the naked trees, the bare branches, remember that the leaves are gone to allow the warmth of the sun and beauty of the heavens to shine through more clearly. And remember, too, that the harder things may get, the more His love and power abounds and the more those brothers and sisters around you will draw you close and love you more. And if you can, in the quiet of your day, give thanks. For the body of saints who love you, for the wisdom, growth, hope and power abounding to you every moment of every day.
Happy Thanksgiving. See you on the Path.
Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. 22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Ephesians 1: 15-23
I have a friend who posted a picture on her refrigerator of a woman in a bikini lounging beside a pool. She did that because she wanted to lose 20 pounds to look better for an upcoming vacation. Every day-actually every time she opened that refrigerator- she saw what she wanted to look like- the ultimate transformation- and she knew what she needed to do. She set to the task of doing cardio and weights and just about anything else she could think of to boost her metabolism and burn fat. She took action. She gave up cookies and cakes and ate lean protein and veggies. She made sacrifices, made choices, even if they went against what felt good at the moment. She would get on the scale every Monday. And, amazingly, on those weeks she lost no weight-or worse yet- gained weight- she stuck to the plan. She had confidence in the equation that says increased exertion, decreased calories equals weight loss. Eventually, she lost the 20 pounds. Eventually, she looked like the picture- well, not exactly like the picture- but you get the idea.
So, why is it so difficult for us to apply that same confidence, action, and steadfastness to our spiritual life? James, the brother of Jesus, instructs us:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2,3
My brothers and sisters in Christ, be completely filled with gladness when you fall into and are completely encompassed by various trials-for you will come to know as you go through the trials that they are testing or proving your faith and the relationship that you have with God and testing to prove His utter and complete protection and love for you. When trials come, and they will come, and we are completely encompassed by them- we are to call out to our God for his guidance, for His protection, His help, for His path out the problems. And when in His gracious love, he answers and shows us, and picks us up and embraces us, and shelters us- the reality of God’s active presence in our lives becomes more real. And because it is more real to us, we are more likely to run to Him and trust Him more fully next time. We become more steadfast, our faith deepens and our trust widens. But, more importantly, we undergo transformation- moving closer into the likeness of Christ. James reminds us that we should grab hold of that steadfastness in our minds- to own it- to continue in it, so that it may have its perfect work- that we may be found complete- lacking nothing. That these trials will each work to make us into the man or woman that God destined us to be; that with our minds steadfast on the love and care of our Heavenly Father, we know- we can see and we can understand- the plan, the image, the picture of what we are working towards.
Trials will come; we must remain steadfast in seeking His will, His guidance, His protection- we must run to Jesus and embrace Him-even as the trials encompass all of who we are- we are even more so encompassed by His grace and tender mercies. And in the end, we are changed. So, in the midst of the trials, understand His love is everlasting, look at the picture of what we will be- and count it all joy.
See you on the Path.....