The old ways. Do we want them?
Some of you are older (though I’m glad that hasn’t happened to me). And all of you are older this year than you were last. Was it better before? Do we have the right perspective about the way it used to be?
There is something charming about what things were like before smartphones and social media and so much public anger…..the pace of life, the emphasis on relationships, the steadiness of it all.
My mother knew such a charmed existence as a farmer’s daughter, at least the way she perceived it. She was the youngest of fourteen children, ten of whom lived until adulthood. People “visited” each other for entertainment. Church life was the main social connection for most, Family mattered; church mattered; community mattered. When their house burned down, it was rebuilt by neighbors in seven weeks (and lasted 80 years until it burned down again). They knew where papa was all the time, and mother was a nurturing and loving model to the family. The family actually enjoyed each other. They sat around at night by the fire, eating parched peanuts and telling stories. Work was rewarding and they felt it in the muscles and joints at the end of the day. It felt right. You knew you had done it just like those before you. Hard labor; God’s gracious harvest. Peace.
As life gets harried, such a metered life seems appealing, doesn’t it….at least to some?
But, more realistically….
- Life wasn’t just like this for everybody, and frankly, not all the time even for them. When babies and a brother died, when everything they owned went up in flames, when father was held up by a drunk neighbor, when a relative could not overcome his alcohol addiction and became a lifelong concern, they felt the loss and sting.
- Poor people suffered injuriously and there were those societal divisions that were ugly and shameful.
- What was in the heart of people still ruled their lives making even a peaceful setting a frightening or sordid place for many.
- People feared illness and death, just like today…and the doctor was miles away!
- Masses of people went to eternal judgment, as happens still.
- And going to the outhouse was a pain on a cold night!
What we long for, even if we don’t comprehend it, is the security and love of our Father. His love is the rest we enjoy in the midst of trouble. He is the steady and faithful One. This has been true for all time for believers in Christ. I have seen over time that going back wishfully to another period in our thoughts isn’t nearly as comforting as communing with the eternal Father now, the God of all time. Looking back isn’t as peaceful or strengthening as looking up.
I just spent an hour with a man whose life has been scarred by waves of trauma and hurtful, damaging relationships. Right now, in this period which he will one day call “the ‘ol days,” this man has seen the difficult and ugly side of relationships. He is coping in a way, exploring alternative views about belief, genuinely attempting to be happy while weighing his thoughts in a vast imaginative inquiry that seems to aim nowhere certain.
I want to say to him and to so many others, “take off the blindfold and see what is being revealed in the Bible.” But doing such a thing isn’t possible on his own. He seems unable to see that he is rejecting the beautiful for an unknown and theoretical illusion. It seems to me that he cannot make himself love the obvious. But in conveying the gospel we have the hope that God indeed can open the eyes supernaturally to cause even the most doubtful and confused people see the beauty of Christ.
What are we doing NOW to make these the best days of earthly life and to secure the best days of eternal life for others?
Let me say to those of you who are growing older every year and are believers — the time is short to improve the “good ‘ol days” and the eternal future of others. Proclaiming the gospel to others is worth our lives, and regardless of our personalities or social advantages or education or looks, or even our physical stamina — there is something for you to do to labor for the Lord “in the power of his might” in order to bring the gospel to others. It is even more important than who wins an election!
What can YOU do? It might be writing a sincere gospel letter to all your relatives, or finding a gospel zone where all you care about is people and the gospel (like a coffeeshop or workout place, or the playground where you take the kids, or a corner of the lunch room where you always sit), or sharing literature that will speak the good news to others, or supporting lavishly the work of others who put first the advance of the kingdom. Find a way. And in losing our life for Christ and the gospel, we will find it….and some will be gloriously changed.
I recently watched contemporaneous film footage of soldiers arriving by PT boats on France’s shore on D-Day. Many lives were ended there on that shore. But they died with a purpose. You also must live and die for a purpose.
Thanks for YOU. Your love and support and prayers have been amazing and we are so appreciative all the time, including this holiday season of the year. We are immensely blessed to be able to devote our lives to the work of the gospel and the building up of believers.
Jim and Pam Elliff (with Steve Burchett and Kole Farney)