Finding Eternal Life in the Trees

Still blogging about the many things God showed me during my half-day Silence and Solitude retreat…definitely think I need more of both in my life as I continue distilling all of this.

As I opened my Bible I was drawn to John 5:39-40 where Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for missing the forest for the trees.

“You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees.

These Scriptures are all about me!

here I am, standing right before you, and you aren_t willing to receive from me the life you say you want. (2)

Lesson #3: Receiving

That passage got me thinking. I love God’s Word; my passion for it is what fuels this blog. My heart’s desire is to lead others to discover and revel in the Truth that I have found in its pages.

Yet Jesus is not just speaking to the Pharisees here…whether I like it or not He also is speaking to me. Jesus has been revealed in fullness on this side–our side–of the cross, but do we fully receive the life that the resurrected Jesus offers?

I turned back to scripture to explore how others received Jesus. The litany of people the Spirit brought to my mind was wide ranging: the woman at the well, the man blind from birth, Nicodemus, the apostles, Zaccheus, the woman who bled for 12 years, the adulteress about to be stoned, the people standing at the foot of the cross.

What did they have in common in how they approached and were changed by their encounter with Jesus?

  • It came at a cost. Each was asked (or seeking) to leave something behind; an area of habitual sin, spiritual and/or physical blindness, even a comfortable, sustainable physical existence in the case of the apostles.
  • They found their worth in His eyes. The world either did not see them as significant or condemned them as unworthy, but Jesus saw something more.
  • The encounter led to new, radically changed lives. Knowing Jesus gave them all a fresh start, a new life, shifting their perspective and purpose from this physical world to God’s eternal one.

What is Eternal Life?

A common criticism of Christians by the world is that we are trading in futures, ignoring the calamities and the tangible pleasures of this life for some intangible future promise of heaven.

But that’s not consistent with what Jesus taught or His prayer for us:

And this is the real and eternal life:
That they know you,
The one and only true God,
And Jesus Christ, whom you sent.

John 17:3 (MSG)

What then is Jesus inviting us to receive and how do we know when have it? In a word:

Joy

Joy comes as we are released from fear and anxiety; it’s the byproduct of a deep and abiding trust in God. This is what Jesus modeled for us, even as He approached the suffering and death of the cross:

…Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 

Hebrews 12:2

The Message powerfully paraphrases this teaching to shed more light:

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.

Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—He could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever.

And now He’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.

When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

Do You Live Like You’re Saved?

So what does it look like to live eternal life now?

This new life in the world wipes out memory of the pain….When I see you again, you’ll be full of joy, and it will be a joy no one can rob from you. You’ll no longer be so full of questions.

Wow. “When I see YOU again.” The way I heard that on this reading was the Lord saying, “As you embrace more fully who I created you to be I will see that YOU again. And this is what it will look like: you will be full of joy, the lasting kind. And as a result all those questions you wrestle with will dissolve because you will be living in the only answer you need: Me. JESUS. I am the answer to your heart’s desire.”

Living eternal life looks like Emil Farag, a grocery store employee in the town where I live, who for the joy set before him braves the suffering and pain of pancreatic cancer, the burden of funding his treatment and an uncertain future by abiding in Jesus. (Read Emil’s inspiring story in the News & Observer.)

What can we do today to move closer to Jesus, closer to Emil’s example, and closer to eternal life?

“This is what I want you to do:

  1. Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you.
  2. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you.

Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks! (John 16:22-24)

This is my focus, my homework as I departed the retreat. I was reluctant to leave the silence and solitude with Jesus to re-enter a world full of chaos, brokenness, pain, and distraction.

But thanks to some great time walking with God, I do so with joy, cresting if not quite overflowing its banks!

You never saw Him, yet you love Him. You still don’t see Him, yet you trust Him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation.

1 Peter 1:8-9

One Reply to “Finding Eternal Life in the Trees”

  1. I didn’t read this blog right away, thinking that I would get to it the next day. Several days later, I’ve finally read it. This was the day I was supposed to read it. I’ve been thinking about joy and how to be more joyful. I’ve been trying to live out a prayer challenge and falling short and this brought it all together for me. God’s timing is always perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

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