Toward the end of the Jesus Finest Generation Choir singing on a Sunday worship service, as I watched via live webcast, the camera man focused on the backdrop of the riser which is the big, bold name of Jesus painted in red, and at that moment as my attention was drawn to it, everything faded to the background. I only saw His name, like a powerful presence, an invitation to look, to remember, to feel, to connect. In those few moments as the camera focused on that name, my spirit was awakened, my heart unfurled to give and receive love. There was only my Savior and me. With my ailing body’s physical difficulties and discomforts, I could only utter silently with all the pent-up longing — “I love You, my Jesus!” over and over. The tears couldn’t even find their way out, blocked by uncomfortable breathing. But the simple expression of my love was enough to assuage the deep need to worship. I knew that the Lord knew it was all I could give at that moment.
All day long (for our Sunday worship service is 10-5) as I watched our church’s live webcast, I was battered by my illness as usual, that many times, I needed to turn off the volume to get some rest. I only heard snippets of testimonies and the other choirs that I felt like I wasn’t really into the worship service. The hardships my illness brought drew much of my attention away and as I watched choir members and congregants being filled so powerfully with the Holy Spirit that they shook and trembled and wept and spoke tongues, I could only stare helplessly. I know the indescribable pleasure of entering into the glorious presence of the Lord. (I just wish I could do that more often, unhindered by physical limitations). But on that Sunday afternoon, the Lord beckoned me through the powerful pull of the sight of His name, to partake in His love and joy everyone in the congregation was feasting on. To be able to utter “I love You, my Lord Jesus!” with all that’s in me and feel His touch on my spirit were enough to offset the suffering. My heartfelt worship and Jesus’ unfailing love redeemed the day.
Just a day before, as fears, anxieties, and heaviness added to the oppression of my weak and suffering body, I pondered on the purity and simplicity of the Lord Jesus Christ. I sighed deeply as some sad news and messages reached me, each one making the burden heavier. I felt like a turtle that can’t shake off the weight from off its back and just leave it behind.
Life in the Lord is not complicated, I thought. Why do I always complicate things with endless worrying, analyzing, and mental wrestling? In the Lord Jesus Christ, life is not supposed to be so complicated. Or is it?
In the end, I concluded that life in Him is both easy and hard.
It is not easy in that the Lord gave us clear commandments to obey and that we must walk the narrow road. It becomes hard when we try to straddle the Kingdom and the world and when we want to maintain a dual citizenship: of the world and of heaven; to want to be a citizen of heaven and at the same time be known in the world, however that may appear, whatever motives are behind it. It becomes complicated when the cares of this world and the desires for other things choke the Word, and it becomes unfruitful (see Mark 4:19). Consequently, we become unfruitful in love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – the expected fruit of the Holy Spirit as He dwells in us.
No wonder there are times that we operate on less than love (and we all know how that looks). Joy is hard to find like a rare commodity. And peace? It becomes as fleeting as the glorious dawn and as elusive as the mist that vanishes with the morning. We build our lives on sinking sand, and often, we don’t even realize it.
There are so many instances in our daily lives that we don’t do as the Lord commands us to. For one, He tells us not to worry, but we do it without much effort and prodding. In His parable, He tells us to become fertile ground for the Word so we will become fruitful and lack nothing. But at times, we grow slack in nurturing the Word in our hearts as we mind other things, things that don’t impact eternity, like maybe the pursuit of worldly success or pleasures or just plain busyness. He tells us to store up treasures in heaven: working for that which has eternal weight in His everlasting kingdom. But it happens sometimes that our plans and goals are not aligned with His will. He tells us to not only hear His sayings but do them. REALLY. DO. THEM. In that way, we are building our lives upon a solid rock – Jesus – and whatever trials and tests that may fall upon them, however hard they are pounded — they will remain strong and standing still.
I believe that life in the Lord is not complicated if we only have one mind, one heart, one desire, and one direction. Just a level, straight path toward our Redeemer and His kingdom: eyes on Him, spirit connected to Him, desires aligned with His desires, and His perfect will our compass. Consider the paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 3:18 from The Message:
Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.
I think of the workers in the vineyard of the Lord, especially those in our Church’s outreaches in the far provinces whose lives are not highlighted through social media. Unknown to the world, almost invisible, except to those who hear and see their fiery preaching and testimonies, agonizing prayers, and laying of hands. They surrendered their lives to the Lord, turning their backs on worldly pursuits and pleasures, and just labor for their Lord and His Kingdom, day in and day out as our beloved Pastor Wilde Almeda has diligently taught and exemplified. Just as the Lord Jesus Christ had only one purpose in heart and mind, that was to do the will of His Father, so these workers follow His lead without complaints or desires for other things. Their lives are uncomplicated, filled with peace and spiritual power.
Life in the Lord is easy in that He promises to give us rest from our labors and burdens (the yoke of the world) and find rest for our souls. He says that His yoke is easy and His burden light. He gives us commandments to keep, in that way, His joy may remain in [us], and that [our] joy may be full (John 15:11). He says that in Him we may have peace. In the world [we] will have tribulation (John 16:33).
In the world we will have tribulation. This couldn’t be more true! But in Him is:
yoke is easy and burden is light
These are the things we find in a life in Him. So, remove the veil (all appearance of worldliness) that obliterates that lighted path between us and the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a place higher than the ground we’re treading on, a holy place which is far removed from the world’s superfluity, a place where the Lord Jesus stands, beckons, and waits. For He raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:6). We find that place when we assume our positions in true worship.
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Journey with Jesus,