Trimming Your Sails (7)
But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. Hebrews 6.9, 10
A long journey
The journey from Sydney to London aboard the Golden City, somewhere in the first half of the 19th century, would have taken several months. We can see that by the many marks indicating daily progress on our map. Facing such a prospect – being on board a ship at sea with a company of fellow-travelers and a crew of hardened sailors – one has some decisions to make: How will I associate with these people during the months ahead? Will I ignore them and keep to myself? Will I be available to lend a hand as needed? Will I take an interest in my fellow passengers? Try to cheer or engage them? Will I try to make this passage a pleasant journey for them and for myself?
Perhaps our gentleman passenger pondered such questions; and as he thought about his beloved, waiting for him, he may have considered what he might like his fellow passengers to say to his beloved about him, and the kind of company he had been throughout their long journey. It seems to me not unlikely that, as his fellow passengers besought him each day concerning their progress, he may have decided to share his map with them, to converse gladly, and to do whatever else he could to lighten their load, bear their burdens, and keep them pointed toward home and loved ones.
Life is a long journey, but we who make this passage with the Wind of God in our sails know the destination, and we see our Beloved and our eternal homeland more clearly each day. We mark our progress in this journey of life by the increasing clarity of our vision of Christ and His Kingdom, and by the eagerness with which, as each day brings us closer to our destination, we share our hopes with others and encourage them to see and love Jesus as we do. Throughout our journey we will encounter many fellow-travelers; we desire that they might see the hope that is in us as we look confidently toward the end of our voyage, and we want to be ready to talk with them about that hope, as often as we can (1 Pet. 3.15).
It is natural to think – since we know this is how the Captain of our salvation lived – that we might also want to lighten the load of those who journey with us, bear their burdens, and soften the stress and strain of their journey by doing whatever good we can. We who are increasing in the vision of Christ and His Kingdom, and who “gossip the Good News” to friends and strangers alike, can also chart the progress of our journey in the Lord by the good works that “accompany salvation” which we do every day.
Doing good, and bringing the pleasure of knowing Jesus into our daily journey, requires forethought, diligence, faith, and love for our neighbors.
The pleasure of your company?
Talking about Jesus and urging others to consider Him as their own destination in life is fortified by good works. Good works shine through those who know Jesus, showing the glory of God and calling others to consider Him in even the smallest everyday good works we might do (Matt. 5.13-16; 1 Cor. 10.31). Jesus was renowned in His day for doing good works (Acts 10.38). The good works that Jesus began to do, His followers continued to do throughout the book of Acts and the New Testament (Acts 1.1). Doing good is the fruit of salvation, not the means to it. Good works “accompany salvation” and demonstrate the veracity of our words.
We who know Jesus experience the good works of the Lord every day, because, as we understand, “the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD” (Ps. 33.5). We see His goodness everywhere – in the daily blessings of life, breath, food, friends, and work – as well as in the beauty, order, wonder, and majesty of creation. The Lord does good to us, and brings us many benefits, which we acknowledge in prayer and by desiring more of His goodness and salvation (Ps. 116.12-14).
The good works of the Lord Jesus are tokens of His Presence with us, and in His Presence is fullness of joy and holy pleasure (Ps. 16.11). By the good works Jesus does for us, our voyage is made pleasant – not always easy, and not without trials and setbacks and having to fight off many ill winds of doctrine. But pleasant nonetheless, and bringing us continuously and ever more deeply into the shalom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
By doing good works we bring the pleasure we know in Jesus into the lives of others. That’s not to say they will always appreciate or welcome our good works. Indeed, the good works Jesus did put Him on the cross; and as it is given to us to believe in Him, so too it is given to us to suffer with Him (Phil. 1.29).
Nevertheless, the Golden Rule must guide us throughout our journey. We’ll know the Wind of God is filling the sails of our soul as doing good to others – bringing to them the holy pleasure we want for ourselves – becomes a more consistent characteristic of us in our journey.
Remember God remembering you
We will not need our fellow-travelers to report to Jesus about the good works we do to them. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that the Lord Himself sees our good works; He does not forget them. Rather, He sees Himself reflected in our good works. He knows that only His Spirit can fill and direct us for such goodness (Gal. 5.22, 23), and He delights to bring us into His pleasure as we seek opportunities for doing good to others.
The various ill winds that assail our soul will try to deflect us from thinking about such things as self-denial, sacrificial service, and neighbor love. They will – ever so gently – suggest that we must look out for ourselves and be concerned above all else for our own interests and wellbeing.
But the Wind of God does not seek to conduct us thusly. And we can be sure that the sails of our mind, heart, and conscience are billowing with the Spirit of God as doing good and showing neighbor love become increasingly how we spend our time in this journey of faith.
Our God sees and remembers every good work we do for others. Remember this, and increase in good works as we draw ever-nearer to our home port and final destination.
For reflection or discussion
1. We’re not saved by good works, but we’re not saved without them. Explain.
2. Why are good works a true measure of progress in the life of faith?
3. What can you do to prepare for each day, so that you make the most of every opportunity for doing good to others?
Next steps – Preparation: In prayer, chart your course through the journey for the coming day. Ask God to show you where you might bring His pleasure to others through good works of love.
T. M. Moore
At the website
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.