Good morning friends. I had a most devastating dream last night that so filled me with fear that it ended my sleep for the rest of the night. This is very odd for me because I have been blessed with an ability to sleep with a train running through my bedroom. The dream played on some fears and insecurities that are currently popping in and out of my life; fears and insecurities which God is using for my good as I seek Jesus for greater support and encouragement. This dream has caused me to wonder what a Christian life should really look like because we add so many more things to our lives than what is required. In fact, we choke our lives with the unnecessary.
As some of these thoughts and questions rattle around in my brain I should not be surprised to see the Spirit deal with some of them with this morning's Scripture reading:
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:15-17)
Obviously as I look at this from the perspective of my dream I may be seeing it differently than you are reading it, but I see here the elements of a simple Christian life. These three verses seem to strip away so much of the unnecessary and give to us the simplicity of our life in Jesus, aside from the mission that we have been given.
The first thing the Spirit brings to my attention is the fundamental need to be a person of praise. Notice he uses the word "continually". This is not reserved for Sunday or mid-week meetings because praise is a constant activity of our heart. Praise is an overflow of thanksgiving, it is a product of joy, it permeates our entire being. Praise also keeps us focused throughout our day on the fact that God is in control of everything. Understanding this will put many of our fears of our future to flight and fill our day with a peace that we cannot obtain from any other means. Praise should be a natural and continual thing in the day of a follower of Jesus. Oh of course life will have its surprises and we will be challenged on most days but these can never be excuses for setting aside our attitude of praise. In fact, such an attitude will often carrying us about the circumstances so we can see and respond clearly.
We are also told that our life should be filled with doing good, clothed in a spirit of generosity. I remember a simpler time when my days were filled with doing good. To be involved in such a positive way in people's lives was thrilling. It seemed that one good thing led to another and before the end of each day I would have the realization that God had used me to plant many excellent seeds in people's lives. Then I allowed things into my life that seemed to suck that attitude right out of my day. It became about schedules and time management and trying to squeeze the very last second out of every minute. I don't think God is honour with this attitude toward our day. I think he is honoured when we set aside our schedules and our busyness for other people. I think he is honoured as we share our lunch with someone who forgot theirs. I think he is honoured when we stop to look around, to see the needs of our neighbours, and when we decide to do good in that situation. God is honoured when we put others first.
Then we have the third element of a Christian life; submission and obedience. Most people would readily agree with me if I was to talk about our submission and obedience to God but that is not exactly what I am bringing up here. The Scriptures say:
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.
To obey and submit to God is one thing but it is something entirely different to do the same for those who God has given authority over us. For those who are concerned about abuse God puts in a clause there to warn those people of authority; they will have to give an account of what they did with that authority. Of course we need to do more than be mindless followers. The Scriptures tell us to check our leaders but we do so with respect. We need to keep in mind that God has promised that his blessings will flow in a life of obedience. It goes as well for our obedience of the authority he has put in place.
Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
When we become a burden to that authority there is no advantage to us. If we keep getting into trouble, disobeying the Word, wondering away from Jesus, we end up wasting and using up the resources of our very human leaders. But when we see ourselves in partnership, when we support and encourage them, when we listen to their wise council, we make their work a joy and we benefit from that. They will have more to give, to share and we will prosper because of it.
This is what it looks like when we strip everything else away and are left with three very basic elements of a Christian life. Our life is filled with an attitude of praise. We are a people who do good all day long and who are generous in every situation. We are a people of obedience, ones who support and encourage our leaders so they in turn will have more to share with us. Of course we are not limited to this when it comes to our service to the Lord but if we bring it down to these three and then slowly add so we are not overburdened then we have done well. I think we need to de-clutter our very complicated lives so we can get back to what is important. Now is as good a time as any other to consider what is filling up our lives and to decide to throw out what has been sucking the joy out of us. After all, it is Spring.