July 15th 2007
I want to share with you this morning something I have discovered in the course of my study..
As I look across history at those Christians who have led amazing lives.. I see one common theme; regardless of gender or age or where they might live.. one theme binds the great Christians..
A focus on heaven more than on earth
As Colossians 3 :1-2 says,
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Now how practically do we do this?How do we have a heavenly focus?
And given where we all are right now.. how do we do this from within SL!! Lol So perhaps, not an earthly or VIRTUAL focus but a heavenly focus.. how does one achieve this?
Well in my brief message to you I want to explore the how.
The key, I want to suggest today, is to have a relationship with the Bible
As CEO of the Bible Society in NZ I have a particular interest in this.. and I was recently startled to discover research that showed a majoirity of Christians who didn’t bother engaging with or reading the Bible.
But before I discuss that let me share with you a story…
In the 18th century there existed an appalling practice.. where the rich and influential would sail to Africaand steal between 35,000 and 50,000 Africans for the slave trade. It is hard to imagine how this could have taken place..
Well a small group stood up against this appalling practice. and one of them was William WIlberforce now the focus of a movie called Amazing Grace..
William entered parliament at the age of 21 and by his own admission spent a couple of years just enjoying himself, and then he was struck by the dire state of slavery and in 1789 at the age of 30 he submitted his first of many resolutions to abolish the practice.All 12 resolutions failed dismally;and in fact it would take another 18 years before he was successful. And just three days before his death it was finally abolished.
In one instance the vote was very close.In 1796 it was defeated by just 4 votes. And yet Wilberforce knew he had 10 votes in his favour that hadn’t turned up.Where where they?Well they had been given free Opera tickets by those wanting to keep the slave trade alive.
THEY WERE AT THE OPERA
Well this more than anything else completely devastated Wilberforce.He fell into a deep depression.. and thought of giving it all up.It was then that he wrote a letter to his dear friend John Newton. John was the author of the hymn Amazing Grace and a former slave trader, who became a pastor.And the words that John wrote back to William re-affirmed his resolve..
In short Newton gave Wilberforce perspective.. perspective on the issues that he faced.. HOW?
Through quoting from the Bible…
Let me share just a very small amount from that famous letter:
He shared the story of Daniel.
“It is true,” Newton stated, “that you live in the midst of difficulties and snares, and you need a double guard of watchfulness and prayer. But since you know both your need of help, and where to look for it, I may say to you as Darius to Daniel, ‘Thy God whom thou servest continually is able to preserve and deliver you.’ Daniel, likewise, was a public man, and in critical circumstances; but he trusted in the Lord; was faithful in his department, and therefore though he had enemies, they could not prevail against him.
“Indeed, the great point for our comfort in life is to have a well-grounded persuasion that we are where, all things considered, we ought to be. Then it is no great matter whether we are in public or in private life, in a city or a village, in a palace or a cottage. The promise, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee,’ is necessary to support us in the smoothest scenes, and is equally able to support us in the most difficult.
“Happy the man who has a deep impression of our Lord’s words, ‘Without Me you can do nothing’—who feels with the Apostle … likewise a heartfelt dependence upon the Saviour.”
These simple words from Newton snapped Wilberforce out of his state and sharpened his resolve to fight on.In short he gained much needed perspective that wereinspired by the Holy Scriptures.
And each of us experience stress in some shape or form.Stress is the gap between our expectation and the reality of a situation.
So what we expect and what we actually receive.. the gap between them is stress.
So I get in my car to drive to work and I expect clear roads.. and the reality is that they are full of cars.. a 20 minute journey takes me 4 hours.High stress ensues.
How then do I reduce that stress?Perspective.
I see the issue differently. What was once insurmountable becomes insignificant.
I have recently experienced inordinate amounts of stress.I have a tough job and as you may be aware I have been putting 20+ hours a week into developing this project.. and I could go on!! But I recently gained perspective on all this and received wondrous freedom as a result.
As Psalm 119: 45 states:
I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.
And the perspective came from a very unusual source!
The books of Numbers -not the usual ‘go to scripture’!!It is full of very dry lists..
Such as :
From the descendants of Benjamin: All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. The number from the tribe of Benjamin was 35,400.
Page after page of this..
And yet it was these very verses that gave me perspective.. and in this,provided me with a glimpse of a heavenly focus.
As I meditated on these verses: Psalm 119:99 reads,
I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes.
As I practiced what I call the Deep Quiet:sitting with the passage.. away from distraction..
I realised that order is good. I am an organic.. entrepreneurial type who finds detail limiting and yet as my life become more and more busy.. I needed the order, the structure.
I gained a new perspective.
People will say that the Bible is a book of answers or some sort of rule book.I want to give that a little spin…
The Bible gives us perspective on life, it facilitates the encouragement in Colossians of having our focus on heaven.
How does it do this? Well the Bible isn’t a book of information, but of transformation
Changing us.It is an activity of the Holy Spirit.
So as I conclude, I invite you to engage with the Bible; to open yourselves to that transformation that God has in store and to gain that perspective on the challenges of life so as to fix your eyes on heaven.
Arkin Ariantho/Mark Brown