Do you ever wake up in the morning just so thankful for your bed? What about your car and your central heating and air? How about the kitchen that has your own food in it and the bathroom you get to use privately? What about the tons of different clothes you get to choose from everyday that are all yours? When was the last time you just felt so thankful for all these things?
For me, I’ve only started to really notice these kingly luxuries very recently... as in, since November 5, which was the very first day I went with Tom to the Anderson County jail. Now that I’ve been going there pretty regularly, I know its sounds, smells and particular charms. The biggest effect this ministry has had on my daily life has been gratitude. I find myself so much more aware of just how blessed I am to have a comfortable home with my sweet family and to be able to enjoy privacy and possessions. It makes me hope that if I ever had to find myself in the jail I would be able to live it well, but it sure is a bleak place...
Sometimes when I go there, I think about the Apostle Paul and how much time he spent in prison. The thing that really blows me away is that the Anderson County jail is probably like the Ritz Carlton compared to the jails Paul was thrown into! I would do just about anything to keep myself out of those block walls and orange PJ’s, where at least a person will be kept warm and dry, clean and fed; while Paul was beaten and shackled in dark, dank dungeons. On top of all of this, he was happy! Not only was he mistreated, misrepresented, flogged and confined, but he was pumped! Paul spent his jail time singing to his guards, praying for his ‘cellies’ and joyfully preaching to anything with ears! I would have cried, sulked and wrestled with my very faith in God, while Paul worshiped God out loud and managed to write some of the most amazing and inspiring documents the world has ever known!
How in the world was he like this?! What was it that kept him joyfully fired up in the midst of the worst circumstances ever, and how can I get some of that?!?
Well, this week I have been reading the little letter Paul wrote to Titus. It’s short. It barely takes up more than a page in your Bible and you could stop reading this thing and read the whole letter in just a few minutes. One of the things I noticed is that in a pretty short little letter that’s only three chapters long, Paul talks about one thing three times... once at the very beginning, once in the middle and once at the end. So, what was this thing that was so on his mind that it gets a treble mention in such a short work? Heaven.
Verse 2 says, “...a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time...” In chapter 2 He says that the grace of God teaches us to live holy lives in the present age “while we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” In chapter 3, near the very end, he says, “...having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs, having the hope of eternal life.”
Paul was able to endure anything with joy and praise and fruitful labor because he had a one-track mind! He simply thought about heaven and the return of Jesus all day long! In a letter that takes only a few minutes to read, he literally can’t stop talking about eternal life! Wow, what if I were like that!? What if the reason we’re not that happy is that we have gone too long without thinking about our ‘blessed hope,’ our eternal life? What if we thought about and talked about heaven all day long? God has made promises to us! Jesus is coming back for us! Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King and when we do, we will live in joy forever and ever! It’s our blessed hope! Think about that!