Though it’s been a week since my quick trip to Japan, I have been taken back time and time again in thought. Sometimes I am taken back to a very encouraging conversation with the Sendai Evangelical Free church’s Pastors Yoshida and Kadotani. I continue to be inspired by their drive and passion to reach out with the life-changing message of Jesus. I am challenged and charged up at their faith and how they take risks to move forward with their God-given plans despite the sparse resources and knowing God will provide for what He wants done.
One other notion that has returned to me many times over this past week is how alive and actually thriving many of the Japanese pastors and church members are, and even missionaries seem to be. They are energized, encouraged, and sure, a little tired from all the difficult and strenuous relief work. But you can see in their eyes that twinkle of empowering joy, you can feel the excited energy as they talk of what God is doing and what they anticipate Him doing even though they may have suffered some personal loss. I mean, you would think they would be depressed, deflated, barley surviving or just simply surviving, yet a great majority of the people I met were not just making it day to day, not just living…they were thriving.
Now, yes, many people (and some pastors and Christians) that faced this ominous disaster are struggling and doing their best to survive, but there are many that are thriving. As I listened and explored this intriguing reality some thoughts and Scripture came to mind. First is…
1 John 5:12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
The ‘life’ mentioned is not just eternal life but the quality of life now. That those who have a relationship with Jesus don’t have to just survive in life but can thrive even emotionally rising above their circumstances and experience joy and contentment regardless of what happens. The Apostle Paul talked of this in Philippians chapter 1 as he found joy even when he was imprisoned. He was able to thrive in the awful place of jail (regardless of the unfairness of his imprisonment and the injustice of the whole thing) because God’s purposes were being accomplished. And this was not the only time he would be treated unfairly, yet what caused him to thrive was a choice he had made on the focus of his life:
Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Not that he had a death wish or was all into dying, but he said this:
Philippians 1:22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me…
If you read the rest of the verse and the verses that follow Paul was torn because he longed to be with Jesus, yet he knew his time was not yet over. As long as he had breath he was going to live/thrive in all that Jesus is about. He was going to make the choice to not wallow in the negative circumstances of the day, but seek to fulfill God’s purposes despite them and even use them for God’s glory.
Paul did struggle and he was not ‘Mr. Sunshine’ all the time. He dealt with his heartaches, he asked for help, and leaned on others for comfort. But he chose not to just live; no, to THRIVE in life.
What about you? I heard of someone who was struggling with their health and the frustration of it all was moving their focus off of God. They were not thinking of how God loved them, and regardless of their disabilities God still had a unique call on their life. This struggling soul was so focused on their pain and their suffering they were getting lost in it and just wanted to give up until they started to remember that they were not owed an easy life, God was still the same and they were going to force their focus back on Him…and they began to thrive.
John 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.
Eternity starts now.
This Sunday at Cypress Church we will be talking more about this idea about being Alive In Jesus. I sure hope you can join us and get involved in our spiritual growth campaign called “More Like Jesus.” Already people are amazed at how they are growing in their faith. The campaign includes Sunday mornings, Community Life Group times (small group studies), and a personal devotional that has an interactive Bible Study specially designed to help you learn from God’s Word. They all take some effort, but it’s well worth it. Let’s thrive together.
Seeking to Thrive in Jesus with you,
P.S. A lot more information about the campaign is on our web site http://www.cypresschurch.net. Why not check it out?