Page 64 was a Sunday and it was a Sunday that I had the privilege of preaching, which is always enough to make it a favorite day for me. I suppose if one lesson of the day was more predominant than all others, it would be the need to keep a proper perspective on circumstances while continually moving forward at whatever pace is manageable. As I was getting dressed for the day, the sounds of Susan in a seizure carried up the stairwell. That sound is one that will grab a parent’s attention rather quickly as attention turns toward her needs while everything else just blends into the unseen. As I worked with her to help her stay safe and to comfort her, there was no thought in my mind of anything else I ought to be doing. I have learned perspective though. The first seizure she had twenty-some years ago put my mind in such a panic that I passed out on my way to the phone to call 911. Now it is a part of life for all of us — an unwelcome part, but a part nonetheless.
Eventually the seizure passed and we all got ready and headed to church in Dowagiac where I would share the morning message at the North Wayne Mennonite Church. As I have opportunity to preach there each month, I’ve been working on a character study series that I’ve entitled, “Living As the Lord’s Servant”. In this morning’s sermon, we looked at the character of Samson from the book of Judges. For most people the story of Samson begins, and perhaps ends, at the strength that he had been given which was lost as he abandoned his vows to God and allowed his hair to be cut. In keeping with the theme of the series, the purpose of the message was to examine what we could learn from Samson’s life that would help us live as the Lord’s servant. While strength is a characteristic that we see in Samson’s life, I think his example goes beyond that to help us learn how to live with ZEAL. Here’s the condensed outline as you consider how living with ZEAL could help you lives as the Lord’s Servant.
- Zero Tolerance. While Samson obviously failed when it came to some of his life decisions, he was raised and taught his entire life to have zero tolerance when it came to allowing evil in his life. The Nazarite vows that became a part of his life were designed to develop, and keep, a life of purity. From even before birth, he was set apart to be devoted to God. The tough part of this aspect of zeal is that the zero tolerance is meant to be applied to evil, and specifically to not allowing evil into our life.
- Eagerness. Living with zeal, by definition, contains an eagerness about it. In the context of living as the Lord’s servant, zeal means that we are eager to serve not only our Master, but all those that He would have us serve on His behalf. Our eagerness to serve ought to carry over into an eagerness to share the good news of Jesus whenever we have an opportunity and whenever we can make an opportunity. When it comes right down to it, how many of us avoid living with zeal because we are not eager to serve and not eager to share about Jesus?
- Action. We probably all know people who get excited quickly about a lot of different things, but rarely get involved in any of them. Samson was a person of action. While some of his actions may make us scratch our head and wonder what was going on, his pursuit of God resulted in action on behalf of God. While his parents, and probably everyone else, objected to his action of taking a Philistine wife, the Bible says that the idea to do so was from God as a way for Him to confront the Philistines who had been ruling over Israel — and ruling quite harshly. It is important to point out that zeal as a servant of the Lord isn’t about just doing something — it is about doing the will and work of God that we come to understand through time with Him in prayer and the Word.
- Loss. As difficult as the first three components of living with zeal may be, often the toughest part is realizing that doing so will include living with loss. Living with zeal as a servant of the Lord will often cause loss of friendships as we hold fast to a zero tolerance of evil in our life. It will cause a loss of “free time” as we grow in our eagerness to serve God and others. And it will bring about a loss of comfort and resources as we take action in caring for people in the way God would want us to. Sometimes our zeal in living as the Lord’s servant will even put us in situations that may cost us our life — at least our life here on earth. But when we live with genuine zeal as a servant of the Lord, whatever losses that exist from the world’s perspective are only temporary in comparison to the great gain of eternity with our Lord and Master.
After the church service we got lunch and some groceries at Sam’s on our way home. By mid-afternoon, the temperature was mild and we decided to head down to Potato Creek for a family walk and to look for some photo opportunities. We had just begun our first trail when I saw an eagle perched nearby. There was a lot of tree cover and brush between us, but I managed a few photos through the brush as he kept a close eye on us. Today’s photo is one of those shots as he seems to be trying to both figure out what I’m doing and express his displeasure at my interest in him. Susan walked the first mile loop with us and then we headed to a different trail where she rode the wheelchair for another two and a half to three miles. After a stop for supper on the way home, the evening has been spent writing today’s page before heading to bed to get some sleep before the start of another work day.
As I reflect on the day, here are some thoughts/lessons that stand out to me:
- Sometimes things are bigger in our mind than what they have to be simply because we don’t have enough experience to evaluate them accurately.
- When our children are in need, we tend to drop everything to care for them. How much more do you think God cares for His children?
- Left on our own, we are more likely to have zero tolerance for evil in the lives of others than we are to reject all evil in our life.
- Our level of eagerness to help others who are in need says a lot more about us than it does about them.
- What we do in response to God working in our life says a lot more about our belief in Him than any of our words can.
- Loss during this life on earth is inevitable. Trying to completely protect our self from all forms of loss will likely lead to greater loss in our relationship with God.
- Sometimes our expressions says more to the people around us than we realize.