A Son, A Servant, A Steward

Simple but Profound

Simple but Profound

That is how I felt when I read 2 Timothy 2:8. “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.”

Does it strike you as odd that Paul would have to remind Timothy to remember that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead? 

Is that not at the very heart of our confession? Doesn’t our very faith hang on this very thought? Paul, rather dogmatically says in 1 Corinthians 15:14, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” Our faith doesn’t get much simpler than that. 

How could we even forget such a thing? I would like to suggest several ways we tend to forget this “simple profound truth.”

Doubt: It is natural to doubt your faith. We all wrestle with doubts. But it is the resurrection that anchors me in my faith in the context of my doubts. The spread of Christianity was hitched to the message that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. It is true! “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”  (1 Cor. 15:3-4)

Discouragement: At times we get discouraged with how life is going. We wonder where God is in all of it and whether what we do in the mundane reality of life really makes a difference. Hence, we get discouraged. But at the end of the great chapter on the resurrection, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Defeat: We continue to wrestle with temptation and sin in our lives. At times, this makes us feel defeated. But it is the resurrection that reminds us that the grip of sin has been defeated in our lives and we now have the power to defeat it. We are dead to sin! We are alive to Christ! “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” (Rom. 6:9-12)

Death: At times, we are overcome with a fear of dying. It is easy to talk about not being afraid to die, but it is something else to stare death in the face. It is at a point like this where we may be prone to question, “Is it really true?” Is what we have been saying about Jesus true? It is at this point we are called to simply “Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.” This prayer from Paul in Ephesians 1 helps us defeat the fear of death. “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”

So, in your doubts…your discouragements…your defeats…and even in death… “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead!” It may be simple, but it is incredibly profound.

The Tragic Death of Kobe Bryant

The Tragic Death of Kobe Bryant

I, FOR ONE, AM A FAN. I was living in the Philadelphia area when he was playing high school basketball in a nearby town. Along with many others, I had a sense early on that Kobe’s career would be something special. He entered the NBA right out of high school. He won five NBA Championships. He was an All-Star for 18 seasons. He was the MVP of the league in 2008  Until this past Saturday night, he was third on the all-time regular season scoring list. Ironically, just hours before his untimely death, Lebron James surpassed him on this prestigious list. His final tweet was a heart-felt message of congratulations to Lebron James for his accomplishment.

In the immediate aftermath of his death, much has come out about the kind of man he was. He has been lauded for the way he embraced his role as a father; he had four daughters. Many spoke about the way he invested himself in younger athletes and for the intense drive he had to give his best in whatever he did. It was anticipated that he would have been just as successful in his life after basketball as he was for the 20 years he played at the highest level in the NBA, 

And yet, as iconic of a man as he was…he was still just a man. His death at the age of 41 was a reminder to us of how fleeting life really is – even one that lasts 70…80…or possibly 90 years. No matter how long we live, life is but a vapor. This is why Moses prays in Psalm 90, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” 

In light of the brevity of life, how do we live wisely? How do we live well? As people have reflected on Kobe’s life, many have suggested that one of his best qualities – one that we are being called to emulate – is how he gave his best to whatever he did. Reflecting on the passing of Kobe, Tiger Woods said that what he remembers most about Kobe was “the fire...He burned so competitively hot. The desire to win. He brought it each and every night on both ends of the floor.”

While that may be part of what it looks like to live wisely, I would caution you to make sure you don’t put the cart before the horse. Yes, the end of Psalm 90 finds Moses praying for significance to be found in his work. He prays, “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands.”  It is curious to me that this is how the psalm ends and this longing for our work to amount to something is repeated, “yes, establish the work of our hands.” So, yes, we don’t want to squander this precious commodity we call time and we can be appropriately motivated by someone like Kobe who wanted something significant to come from the work that he did.

And yet, at the same time, there is something more to life than the value we find in the work of our hands. Moses prays in verse 14, “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all of our days.”  This psalm is a sober reminder of the folly of planting all of our hopes in this passing world. Only God and knowing God’s love can satisfy us.

Reflecting on St. Augustine’s manual for preachers called Teaching Christianity, James K. A. Smith writes, “Our restlessness is a reflection of what we try to enjoy as an end in itself – what we look to as a place to land. The heart’s hunger is infinite, which is why it will ultimately be disappointed with anything merely finite. Humans are those strange creatures who can never be fully satisfied by anything created – though that never stops us from trying.”

So, as I reflect on Kobe’s tragic and sudden death, I am reminded that life is short. Yes, I want to make the most of the time that God gives me. But this is not the end to which I strive. Rather, it is a desire that flows out from my heart when I find my rest in God and his steadfast love - Jesus. May that be what satisfies us each morning. May God’s love so fill me that I am glad all of my days. From this fountain of joy, I can give it my all – take risks – fail - work hard and find meaning in all that I do. As Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 10:31, So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Pray for Kobe’s family and the families of the others who died in this tragic accident. And allow this unwelcome tragedy to cause you to reflect and consider how to live today…and if you have it, tomorrow. May God’s love satisfy you in the morning. Strengthened by his love, serve God with the work of your hands. Love the ones you see today…tomorrow…and as long as you have breath.