Lean food rations, waterproof boots, and a map are some of the essentials carried by hikers on the John Muir Trail. The John Muir Trail is a 211-mile path in the western United States that winds across creeks, around lakes and woods, and up and over mountains, encompassing 47,000 feet of elevation gain. Because traversing this trail takes about three weeks, carrying the right amount of supplies is critical. Too much and you will run out of strength to carry it all; too little and you won’t have what you need for the journey.
Finishing well on our journey as believers in Jesus also requires careful consideration of what we bring. In Hebrews 12, the apostle Paul exhorts us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” He compares our lives to a “race marked out for us,” one in which we must “not grow weary and lose heart” (vv. 1, 3). To become overburdened with sin or distracted by things outside of God’s purpose for us is to carry an unnecessary weight. Just as there are packing lists for the John Muir Trail, God has provided directions for us in the Bible. We can know what habits, dreams, and desires are worth bringing along by examining them in light of the Scriptures. When we travel light, we are able to finish well.
The 2009 film The Blind Side depicts the true story of Michael Oher, a homeless teenager who’s adopted by a family who helps him overcome learning difficulties and achieve excellence in American football. In a moving scene, the family talks with Michael about the possibility of adopting him after he’d been living with them for several months. In a sweet and tender reply, Michael exclaims that he thought he already was a part of the family!
It’s a beautiful moment, just as adoption is a beautiful thing. Love is extended and full inclusion is offered as a family opens its arms to a new member. Adoption changes lives, just as it profoundly changed Michael’s life.
In Jesus, believers are made “children of God” through faith in Him (Galatians 3:26). We’re adopted by God and become His sons and daughters (4:5). As God’s adopted children, we receive the Spirit of His Son, we call God “Father” (4:6), and we become His heirs (4:7) and coheirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). We become full members of His family.
When Michael Oher was adopted it changed his life, his identity, and his future. How much more for us who are adopted by God! Our life changes as we know Him as Father. Our identity changes as we belong to Him. And our future changes as we’re promised a glorious, eternal inheritance.
Clifford Williams was sentenced to die for a murder he didn’t commit. From death row he vainly filed motions to reconsider the evidence against him. Each petition was denied—for forty-two years. Then attorney Shelley Thibodeau learned of his case. She found that not only was there no evidence to convict Williams, but that another man had confessed to the crime. At the age of seventy-six, Williams was finally exonerated and released.
The prophets Jeremiah and Uriah were also in deep trouble. They had told Judah that God promised to judge His people if they didn’t repent (Jeremiah 26:12–13, 20). This message angered the people and officials of Judah, who sought to kill both prophets. They succeeded with Uriah. He fled to Egypt, but was brought back to face the king, who “had him struck down with a sword” (v. 23). Why didn’t they kill Jeremiah? In part because Ahikam “stood up for Jeremiah” (
nlt), “and so he was not handed over to the people to be put to death” (v. 24 niv).
We may not know anyone facing death, but we probably know someone who could use our support. Whose rights are trampled? Whose talents are dismissed? Whose voice isn’t heard? It may be risky to step out like Thibodeau or Ahikam, but it’s so right. Who needs us to stand up for them as God guides us?
Tears streamed down my cheeks during a frantic search for my lost wedding and anniversary rings. After an hour of lifting couch cushions and scouring every nook and cranny of our home, Alan said, “I’m sorry. We’ll replace them.”
“Thanks. But their sentimental value surpasses their material worth. They’re irreplaceable.” Praying, I continued hunting for the jewelry. “Please, Lord. Help me find them.”
Later, while reaching into the pocket of a sweater worn earlier in the week, I found the priceless jewels. “Thank You, Jesus.” As we rejoiced, I slipped on the rings and recalled the parable of the woman who lost a coin (Luke 15:8-10). Like the woman who searched for one of her ten silver coins, I knew the worth of what had been lost. Neither of us was wrong for wanting to find our valuables. Jesus simply used that story to emphasize His desire to save every person He created. One sinner repenting results in a celebration in heaven.
What a gift it would be to become a person who prays as passionately for others as we pray for lost treasures to be found. What a privilege it is to celebrate when someone repents and surrenders their lives to Christ. If we’ve placed our trust in Jesus, we can be thankful that we’ve experienced the joy of being loved by Someone who never gave up because He thought we were worth finding.
In the film Amadeus, aging composer Antonio Salieri plays some of his music on the piano for a visiting priest. The embarrassed priest confesses he doesn’t recognize the tunes. “What about this one?” Salieri says, playing an instantly familiar melody. “I didn’t know you wrote that,” the priest says. “I didn’t,” Salieri replies. “That was Mozart!” As viewers discover, Mozart’s success has caused deep envy in Salieri—even leading him to play a part in Mozart’s death.
A song lies at the heart of another envy story. After David’s victory over Goliath, the Israelites heartily sing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). The comparison doesn’t sit well with King Saul. Envious of David’s success and afraid of losing his throne (vv. 8–9), Saul begins a prolonged pursuit of David, trying to take his life.
Like Salieri with music or Saul with power, we’re usually tempted to envy those with similar but greater gifts than we possess. And whether it’s picking fault with their work or belittling their success, we too can seek to damage our “rivals.”
Saul had been divinely chosen for his task (10:6–7, 24), a status that should’ve fostered security in him rather than envy. Since we each have unique callings too (Ephesians 2:10), maybe the best way to overcome envy is to quit comparing ourselves. Let’s celebrate each other’s successes instead.