Simple errands can sometimes be aggravating if we let them. Maybe you’ve had an experience like this: while driving through my community recently, I ended up behind a minivan that was driving well below the speed limit (or at least well below how fast I wanted to go) and seemed unsure of where they were going. I ended up closer to their rear bumper than I should have been and thought that when I got home, I’d complain about drivers in the neighborhood to whoever would listen. When the van finally turned right, apparently figuring out where they were going, I also remember thinking that the family in the van might end up talking about the annoying car that tailed them, having no concern that maybe they didn’t live there and had to drive slowly while they figured it out. This is a lot of aggravation for what should be a non-event, but at the time…
Somehow at that moment, Romans 12:18 popped into my head, which says: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” My first response was something like “God, what’s that got to do with this?” But as I regained speed toward whatever errand I was in such a hurry to finish, I thought “God, which part of this problem depends on me?” Hmm. The tailgating was definitely unnecessary, and gosh, I might have really wanted to let the van know to get out of the way, but politely, without resorting to honking the horn. Also, the idea of complaining about bad drivers when I got home depended on me…but what if the other family got frustrated about being tailed? Is that my fault? Well, if I had slowed down and been patient, that wouldn’t be a problem either.
When I got home, I didn’t share the story of the cautiously-driving minivan with anyone. I hope the people in the van didn’t vent on Facebook about the rude tailgater. Since then, I’ve been slightly better at being patient with slow drivers, because more depends on me than I often want to think. Sometimes I’m too focused on what others are doing wrong.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” – 2 Peter 1:3-4
We do not, and cannot, depend on our own merit to convince God to love us, therefore: “This consolation I would wish all Christians in their prayers: the testimony of a good conscience to assure them of God’s promises. But to obtain what they ask must only depend upon him, all opinion and thought of our own justice being laid aside.” – John Knox
Today in prayer, seek His power in His promises. He wants us to have “all things that pertain to life and godliness” and He is faithful.
Post inspired by McKim, Donald K. Everyday Prayer with the Reformers (2020). P. 115.
Since 1942, the United States have celebrated a holiday for Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of every November. For Christians the holiday is a time to remember the source of their blessings, regardless of how large or small those blessings seem. In Ecclesiastes 5:18-19, the Preacher recommends celebrating and enjoying our material things, and recognizing God as the Giver of them all, including the work needed to produce and prepare them:
“Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.”
However, as the Preacher wrote, even those with good jobs and plentiful possessions may find it difficult to truly enjoy them. It is “good and fitting”, but it is also “the gift of God” to find joy in the now instead of chasing things we don’t already have. It does not come naturally.
For many, time and events make each Thanksgiving different. The company around the table may have changed. The meal may be different. The means of providing the meal may be different. The familiarity of tradition may have been shaken by the pandemic and other circumstances. Much has changed, and much will change.
Therefore, focus on the Giver behind the gifts you have, and seek contentment with thankfulness that He has provided everything you need. For now, and in eternity. You are in good company.
English writer Samuel Johnson wrote sometime in the 1700’s:
“How small of all that human hearts endure, That part which laws or kings can cause or cure. Still to ourselves in every place consigned, Our own felicity we make or find. With secret course, which no loud storms annoy, Glides the smooth current of domestic joy.”
By setting the clock back this week we get a bit of joy from an extra hour of sleep, an idea originally suggested by Ben Franklin to preserve candles. But the benefit will last only a few days. Similarly, our kings and other rulers may insist they can offer us lasting rest and joy, but their impact on our lives is much smaller than they (and often we) imagine. But…
Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew 11:28-30 – “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.“
May Jesus refresh us for the week and work ahead. Only He can provide the rest and joy we truly desire and need.
Mark 3:18 lists among Jesus’ 12 disciples “Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot.”
Matthew was a former tax collector for the Roman Empire, while Warren Wiersbe notes that “The Zealots were a group of Jewish extremists organized to overthrow Rome, and they used every means available to advance their cause. The historian Josephus called them ‘daggermen.’ It would be interesting to know how Simon the Zealot responded when he first met Matthew, a former employee of Rome.” They learned to prioritize following Jesus, but I suspect it took some time and patience on Jesus’ part.
No enemy of God is beyond His grace, and no enemy of yours is beyond His grace either!
This post was originally shared in December 2021, and referenced another recently re-posted blog about Zacchaeus, another tax collector Jesus loved: Found! A Man in Need of an Ally