About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
Each September while growing up as a child in the 1950's I'd anticipate the arrival of the Sears Christmas Catalogue, known today as the Sears Wish Book. Within days the tantalizing pages of the toy section would be worn and frayed. Visions of a red fire truck, a black and white police car, a Meccano set, a doctor's kit, and more, would franticly frolic in the playground of my mind. I'd wish. I'd hope, and I'd wish some more.
The transformation of the
Sears Christmas Catalogue into the Sears Wish Book was a masterpiece of
marketing that was intended to turn our wishes into corporate profits. Retailers
have since jumped onto the "wish list" bandwagon as is seen on
their online stores. Amazon
entices us to record our wishes in a personalized wish list. Click
on "my account" at the top right hand corner of Amazon's home
page. The drop down menu
will include "my wish list".
There, with a few taps of your fingers, your wishes are saved
into Amazon's memory. Once
visualizing your list, Amazon knows it won't be long before you click
"buy now". It's
simple. Click a wish.
Click "buy now". Your
transaction is confirmed and your wish arrives at your door within 3
days. To make it more
attractive, there's free shipping for wish purchases over $25.00.
You'd think I knew what I'm talking about, wouldn't you.
There's no exchange of hard currency from one hand to another,
but there is an exchange of money. It's
just not as visible in cyber space, something that retailers love.
Years ago my friend Glenn
Shaver pointed out to me that the word "I" consumes much of
our conversational vocabulary. "I",
along with the word "wish", is spoken more times in daily
conversation than what you might think.
I think wishing expresses
a measure of discontentment. The
Bible speaks to this when it translates the Greek word
"autartos" as "content" in the New Testament.
"Autartos" suggests an inner comfortableness with who
one is and what one has. The
Apostle Paul seems to have possessed this inner comfortableness of
contentment. In Philippians
4:11 he said that he had learned to be content in whatever circumstance
he encountered. Note that he
learned to be content. It
didn't come natural to him. Contentment
doesn't come natural to us either, and the seductive world of
advertising uses our weakness for its benefit.
Paul suffered greatly
because of his association with Jesus.
His life was an ongoing struggle just to survive.
In 1 Timothy 6:8 we learn that even if he had nothing else but
some food and the clothes on his back, he was content.
I would go as far to say that as Paul's head rolled off the Roman
chopping block and into a bloody mess on the ground, he was the perfect
picture of peaceful contentment. As
his earthly existence faded into obscurity, he would have emerged into a
world of tranquil serenity. He
would have knelt at the feet of his Lord and Saviour where he'd find
In Philippians 3 we learn
that Paul exchanged what he would have once called the good life for
Jesus. The presence of the
Spirit of Jesus in his body was the source of his inner comfort. Paul
was thus comfortable in who he was and what he possessed.
This gave him a quiet confidence that enabled him to stand firm
in the midst of controversy, conflict, and crises.
We don't know if Paul
wrote Hebrews 13:5, but it sure sounds like something he would have
written. "Keep yourself
from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God
has said, 'never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.'" This
admonition warns us that the frustrating and addictive cravings that can
easily accompany the love of money are quite capable of stealing every
last scrap of godly contentment we possess.
There's no doubt that
Paul possessed an inner comfortableness, but did he ever wish for
anything? Surprisingly, he
did. "I wish that all
of you were as I am" (1 Corinthians 7:7 NIV).
Paul wished that everyone was free to serve Jesus as he was.
"I wish I could be with you now (Galatians 4:20 NIV).
Paul wished that he could be with those who needed him most.
"As for those agitators, I wish they would go all the way
and emasculate themselves" (Galatians 5:12 NIV).
Paul vehemently opposed those theological traders who taught that
circumcision was necessary in order to be saved.
He wished these agitators wouldn't just cut the foreskin from
their penises. He wished
they'd go all the way and slice the whole thing off. "I
could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren"
(Romans 9:3 KJV). This wish
can't be realized, but if it could be, Paul wished that he could lose
his salvation if that would save his fellow Jews.
You may think I'm
splitting hairs, but of course, I don't think I am.
Words are important. They
give verbal expression to what's in our hearts, or so that's what Jesus
told us in Luke 6:45. We're
human. We do wish, and we
probably always will, but that doesn't mean we can't wish less.
Let me kindly suggest that when my heart verbalizes a wish for
anything other than the kind of things Paul wished for, I'm not fully
content with having Jesus in my heart.
Don't get me wrong. There's
nothing inherently wrong with improving your lot in life, but, addictive
cravings apart from inner contentment leads to frustration that wars
against our souls.
The days are fast
approaching, and in some cases have already arrived, when conflict with
an anti-Christ culture will rob us of the life we've come to enjoy.
Like Paul, in order to survive, Jesus will have to be the only
source of contentment with who we are and what we possess. In
the meantime, there's no law against wishing to know Jesus better than
we presently know Him. Let's
put Jesus at the top of our wish list.