Monday, April 13, 2009

Towels and treasures

All the things I once thought were important are gone from my life . . . I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally. – Philippians 3:7,8 (The Message)

Philip was a man trapped inside a body that didn’t work right. His head twisted permanently to one side, nearly touching his shoulder. A white towel, used to wipe tears, mucous and saliva that dribbled down his face, rested on his other shoulder.

At 16 he’d given his life to God, vowing to do anything God wanted him to do.

“And He put me here,” Philip said, meaning the county home he’d lived in for 50 years.

He owned neither house nor car, and depended on others for his survival. His only possessions were the clothes on his back and his white towel.

Philip, however, was not to be pitied, but envied.

His face radiated happiness, and, in spite of his severe disabilities, his lips praised God. His tears were tears of thanksgiving because he believed that he was fulfilling his purpose in life. He didn’t lament what could have been. Instead he lived in joy born of gratitude and died in peace born of faith. His eyes perceived a different vision, for he “set his mind on things that are above, not on the things of the earth” (Colossians 3:2).

The glitter that is the world’s success fools many. We work hard for beautiful homes, the latest cars and all the toys. As long as everything is going our way, we enjoy a fragile happiness. Gratitude and joy come easily.

Can we still be grateful when our cupboards are bare, our bank accounts empty, our credits cards maxed out, and our retirement investments wiped out? Can we still be joyful when our health fails, our children rebel, our marriage crumbles and everything goes wrong?

The answer depends on what we determine is our purpose in life. Do we live to acquire possessions, prestige and power, or to know, love and serve God?

Philip chose the latter.

Today, the state of the economy leaves many in despair. Folks have lost their jobs, their homes and their dreams. Some, in desperation and hopelessness, have taken their lives and the lives of their families. How sad!

The apostle Paul had it all, too—possessions, prestige, power. But one profound encounter with God transformed him to the core and changed his perspective. What he once thought was important he now called “trash,” “garbage,” “rubbish, “worthless.”

By the world’s standards, Philip had nothing. Some might have even considered him a burden to society or a candidate for euthanasia.

But in the eyes of God, Philip had everything. He embraced the tragedy God allowed in his life and accepted it as his purpose on earth. He was thrilled to be used of God. Although his only earthly treasure was a towel, his heavenly treasures were overflowing.

Dear God, remind me of where my real treasures are. Amen.

Special-Tea: Read Philippians 3:7-11; Luke 12:22–34

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