“REJOICE ALWAYS, PRAY without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
I have only been to Disneyland once and it was a long time ago.
Yet I still remember it.
I can still see those long lines.
I can think back on how hot it was as the heat radiated up from the concrete paths.
However, one memory sticks out for me, chiefly because it ties a lot of my vacations together.
I was standing in one of those long lines and a sinking feeling hit me like a ton of bricks.
My fun was almost over; I only had one day left.
This ties a lot of my vacations together because, inevitably, when I am on vacation my mind drifts to a countdown to how long I have until it will all be over.
The joy is fleeting.
The problem with great vacations is that they end.
In fact, that is the problem with a lot of experiences in this life.
Holidays come and go.
Children grow up.
We disappoint those people who yesterday admired us.
Our body’s ability to do what we once were able to do changes and those people we cherish die.
With all of this in mind, look with me at the words of Paul; that we are to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
How are we to be thankful when the joy we have comes and goes so regularly?
Not only that, but joy is not something that you can simply choose to possess.
Recently I was asked, “When was the last time someone told you to cheer up and it magically, instantly happened?”
It’s about as helpful as telling someone to simply “get over” an issue they are struggling with.
It just doesn’t work.
So, what are we to do?
Some find their solution to this issue by holding on to the moments of this life as hard as they possibly can.
Other see this fleeting existence as a reason to throw caution to the wind and live only for the moment.
It is a terrifying mentality, thinking about everything we have to lose and what is passing us by.
What is worse is that this perspective and reality is all that many people have.
But you do not.
When Philip approached the eunuch on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza so many years ago, the eunuch’s life was forever changed.
This man was a high-ranking official in charge of the Queen of Ethiopia’s treasury.
He did not walk the roads like a commoner but rode in a chariot.
Nevertheless, the greatest and most joyful part of his life was only moments away.
It emerged from the waters of his baptism, after hearing the Gospel message of his Lord and Savior and the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter” (Acts 8:32) explained.
Paul tells us that in our baptism we are buried with Christ into death, in order that, just as Christ rose from death by the glory of the father, we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).
Peter boldly proclaims that baptism now saves you (1 Peter 3:21).
Which is only echoed by Ananias’s acclamation to Paul during his conversion, “Rise and be baptized and wash away your sin, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16).
Furthermore, we learn and hold close to our heart the reality that in your baptism you have been clothed with Christ himself (Galatians 3:27).
This treasure of baptism is a wellspring of blessing throughout our lives as our Lord moved to us through it, not because we were worthy, but because of his grace and he claimed us as his own, making us heirs to his kingdom.
It is a blessing and treasure that we are to wrap our arms around every day of our lives.
How amazing it is that this gift will never run out, decay, end or be destroyed (Matthew 6:19).
Your place in God’s kingdom, at his table will not be given to someone else.
Because of the sure magnitude of this gift the eunuch went away rejoicing.
His status as an official didn’t matter.
His wealth or possessions didn’t matter.
Simply that his name was now written in the Book of Life gave way to an eternal joy that rooted in his heart.
The permanency of this citizenship in God’s kingdom, the reality that our sins are washed away, and that we now stand clothed in Christ, victorious over death and Satan, gives us the ability to have a completely different perspective toward the events of this life.
You will have vacations that end.
Holidays will come and go.
Children inevitably grow up.
We will have times that we disappoint those people who yesterday admired us.
Our body’s ability will continue to deteriorate, and those people we cherish will die.
But none of that is the end of the story, nor do these temporary realities define us and our future (2nd Corinthians 4:17).
You are not a mere citizen of this fading world, but instead possess the title, “child of God.”
The moments of this life are temporary, even the best of moments.
But the greatest moments of this life cannot even touch the worst day, if there is such a thing, in the kingdom of God.
That is true for our experiences at the magical kingdom of Disney’s theme parks, summer vacations, family reunions and every other fleeting experience.
As we together watch the calendar pages flip and time march on, let’s do so looking at the circumstances of life from our God-given eternal perspective, rejoicing always because we have that privilege.
To God be the glory!
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Dr. Patrick Lovejoy is pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. He can be contacted at 360-457-4122 or [email protected]