Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

by Jeannette Haley

And, there I was, innocently bouncing happily through my ordinary day, kind of like the Duracell pink bunny, when somebody asked the question. Shocked into a frozen silence, no doubt my widened eyes and dropped jaw gave mute evidence that my brain had just gone into the blank zone. Maybe “blank zone” doesn’t quite do it justice. No, I’d say it was more like my mind got sucked into a black hole in space.

To prove my point, I can’t even correctly recall who asked me the question; however, the incident itself is still floating around in its own little orbit, taunting me every time it manages to flit past my consciousness. If I could only have had enough suave intelligence to blurt out some classy answer such as, “I dunno,” that would’ve been good enough. But, oh no. Being about as bright as the dumb bunny aforementioned, I had to try and explain my answer to the question.

That was mistake number one. In fact, if I had simply ignored the question in the first place, I may have risked appearing rude; but, rudeness may, in some aspects, be far preferable to the alternative. After all, rudeness can be overlooked. Well, at least once. Perhaps the person really didn’t hear the question. I am stone deaf on one side you know. And, everybody has their “off days,” so perhaps that would justify being rude. Besides, ignoringthe question is definitely not as rude as flat out stating, “That is none of your business!”

The problem is, in my case the answer to the question falls somewhere in the gap between ignoring it altogether, and slapping someone with the “None of your business” quip. Besides, people, being what they are, (and that includes myself as well) will automatically dive to the bottom of the pond to try and find what terrible secrets lie hidden in the mud that the person never, ever wants anybody to know. However, that not being the problem in my case where the question is concerned, I had to come up with an appetizing answer. Besides, being told that something is “none of your business” simply serves to wake up the curiosity of others who have never really given much thought to “your business” in the first place. Thus, with my brain in “park” and my mind in “drive” I aimed for the middle of the road.

I recall instinctively knowing that the person who asked me the question enjoyed a spicier “life menu” than I did. His taste pinnacled in terrain I had only viewed on TV from the safety of my spot on the couch, and his appetite for adventure and action ranged far beyond the outer reaches of my limited “culinary life radar.” Nevertheless, the question had been asked, and it remained silently suspended in the air like an alien spacecraft with it’s unbearable spotlight aimed at me. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. It was time to come up with an honest and truthful answer to the question.

      Desperately hoping my brain would thaw out from its trip into outer space, I tried to flip through the pages of my mental English dictionary, searching for adjectives that would somehow, some way rescue my feeble attempts at describing a “meat and potatoes” existence in mouth-watering terms. By this time, resentment at the questionbegan to claw it’s way up my spine like an angry cat claws its way up a tree. After all, it wasn’t fair, given my age. Maybe fifty years ago I might have had a better shot at answering the question; on second thought, probably not.

Why do most of us want to appear “normal” by the world’s standards? In my case, it’s simple: I fear rejection, and fear being misunderstood; therefore, being cornered by the question was a perfect opportunity for me to suffer both. You see, the question contains the dreaded, and most often exaggerated “E” word. That word is,excitement. By now you may have correctly guessed that the question is “What do you do for excitement?”

I suppose the “E” word means different things to different people, but, when the question originates from a person of the world, you have a general idea of what his or her idea of excitement is. Since the Bible tells us in no uncertain terms that all liars end up in the lake of fire, there was no way I could compete at the top of the “E” ladder by spinning a yarn that included bungee jumping, sky diving, ultimate skiing and snowmobiling in avalanche country, deep sea diving, big wave surfing, alligator wrestling, car racing, four-wheeling, attending every sporting event there is, and traveling to exotic places that hate white American women. Even though I live in northern Idaho, I don’t fit in with the campfire group made up of hunters, fishermen, hikers, explorers, trappers, and survivalists whose experiences are the stuff of legends. Just for the record, some of my ideas of excitement are having time off to read a well-written, inspirational book, walk the dog, beach comb, rock hunt, paint a picture, listen to good music, play the piano, write, watch an inspiring dvd, learn new things, or eat out. Listening to an anointed sermon such as Rayola preaches is also exciting to me, because it thrills my soul to hear truth, be personally challenged, and brought closer to God. That also goes for reading the Bible.

Perhaps 1 Corinthians 2:14 will help shed some light on the dilemma I find myself in whenever someone asks me the question. It is written, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” So, how did I answer the question? The answer to that is, I recall answering it rather vaguely. Lame would be another way to put it. How does one find the words to explain to a non-believer or a nominal, carnal “Christian” the true excitement involved in the Christian’s “E” words? Worldly excitement is no comparison to these three “E” words—eternal, spiritualexperiences and enlightened?

      “Eternal” speaks of eternity. It is realm so far removed from the temporal existence on this earth that no mere mortal can ever fully comprehend or imagine what it is like, or what it involves. Any excitement that the world has to offer, no matter how splendid, wonderful or incredible is temporary and fleeting, while works that count for eternity will never vanish. “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward” 1 Corinthians 3:13, 14. How can any earthly excitement compare with: “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” Ephesians 2:4-6? What can be more exciting than knowing Him,“and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” Philippians 3:10? How can a person who looks to the world for excitement possibly understand the eternal joy that awaits those who cherish these words: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” Colossians 3:1-4?

“Experiences” in the spiritual realm may not bring physical thrills and chills, but there is no way to compare them with any excitement this material world has to offer. Spiritual experiences are on a much higher plane than physical and emotional experiences because they involve the spirit, and have a lasting and eternal impact on a person. The word experience occurs three times in Scripture. The first is in Genesis 30:27 where Jacob’s father-in-law, Laban, said to Jacob, “I have learned by experience that the LORD hath blessed me for thy sake.” Here was a man who was known as an opportunist to the core, yet he had learned from experience that the LORD had blessed him for Jacob’s sake. Laban’s experience far exceeded the vain experience that comes from worldly excitement and entertainment, but instead was priceless in its wisdom.  The second can be found in Ecclesiastes 1:16, “I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” In this verse we see that Solomon considered his experience of wisdom and knowledge as great. He recognized, respected, honored, and was thankful for the invaluable experience he had received from God. He prized it above any worldly experience he may have enjoyed in spite of the fact that he was the richest man that ever lived.

      The third verse in which we find the word “experience” is in Romans 5:4, “And patience, experience; and experience, hope.” Again, this word is in reference to spiritual growth, character, and godliness. Since experience, to the carnal mind, is joined at the hip with excitement, whenever the question is posed, the idea of experience is automatically assumed to be part of the equation, making it doubly hard to respond to the question. It’s basically like two people trying to communicate in two separate languages.

What about the word “enlightened?” How can being enlightened possibly compare with the hair-raising excitement that death-defying stunts and sports offer? In Job 33:27-30 we read, “He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light. Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with man, To bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living.” “Enlightened” in this verse means, “break of day, glorious, kindle, give, show light, set on fire, shine.” What can be more exciting than being enlightened by the awesome reality and glory of God, who has the power to not only create life, but to bring it back from the grave?Psalm 18:28 carries this wonderful promise, “For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.” In Hebrew, enlighten in this verse means, “to glitter; to illuminate, lighten, cause to shine.” Again we must ask ourselves what this world has to offer that is more exciting than being able to experience God’s light penetrating the darkness that lies in our hearts and minds? How can you explain to an unbeliever the joy and wonder of experiencing God’s words when they give light to your understanding? “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” Psalm 119:130. In Ephesians we also read concerning enlighten, “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 1:18-20)

Concerning the question, it usually comes at you when you least expect it, from someone who lives from one stimulating event, or high, to another. You can generally find such people traveling on the broad path of death and destruction that Jesus warns us of—people who have no clue, no interest, and no desire to find the narrow path of light and life for their wandering feet. Sadly, there is a growing number of people who consider themselves to be Christians who are on this broad path, not only in their self-serving lifestyles, but in their churches as well. What we find in most churches today is a staggering loss of interest in anything that goes beyond the “milk stage” of Christianity. People, especially the younger generations, are forsaking the “old time religion” for churches that offer excitement, entertainment, and extreme experiences bordering on the profane and the occult. Like drug addicts they live from one exciting high to another. Such people with a “form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” merely give Christ lip service, tacking Him on to their worldly lifestyles as they run from one form of vain excitement and entertainment to another.

It’s one thing to occasionally enjoy worldly events that are neither “right” nor “wrong” in and of themselves, and quite another thing to live for them altogether. Since we, as followers of Christ, are called upon to redeem the time, for the days are evil, shouldn’t we pause to ask the Lord where He wants us to spend our time, energy, and resources? After all, we who truly belong to Christ have been bought with a price. We no longer belong to ourselves. Galatians 5:24 states, “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”Therefore, if we would live satisfying lives that have the touch of eternity, spiritual experiences, and enlightened minds and spirits upon them, should we not strive for godliness with contentment which is great gain? (See 1 Timothy 6:6)

In conclusion, even though unbelievers and carnal “Christians” may have exotic and titillating answers to the question, as believers, our excitement concerning the empty tomb of the risen Christ should far exceed anything they may temporarily feel. After all, what is more exciting than knowing that the crucified Lord of glory not only took our place on the cross, paying in full the debt we owe, but He also rose from the dead, so that we who are in Him by faith will likewise receive an immortal body at His appearing? What can the world offer that brings more everlasting joy than the knowledge that Jesus is coming soon to establish His kingdom on this earth?

If you are discouraged by the darkness and destructive events taking place in this world, and feel that your sacrifices of praise and good works are insignificant in the scheme of things, remember this, “my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” 1 Corinthians 15:58.

May your joy be full, may your cup run over, may He cause your face to shine, may you be anointed from above, and may the hope that is within you be a powerful witness to others of the resurrected Christ in your life. Amen.