As We Have Opportunity
Read: James 1:22-25; 1 John 3:16-18; Luke 1:36-40
Don't we love a story that showcases beauty and kindness? Some days, I listen to extra news, just hoping that a story like that might be tucked in among the many accounts of conflict and pain.
I wasn't disappointed this week because I was treated to the account of Brad Ryan and his beloved Grandma Joy. Grandma Joy is now 89 years old, but her adventure with her grandson began when she was 85. Both Grandma and Brad were raised in Duncan Falls, Ohio, and Grandma Joy had never seen the ocean, mountains, sand dunes or even cactus. In 2015, Brad Ryan was in vet school, and sadly, one of his classmates committed suicide. That event really moved this young man's heart, and he wanted to do something special for Grandma Joy. It was then that the twosome took their first trip together. They went to the Great Smoky National Park, and Grandma Joy saw her first mountain.
The "Grandma Joy Road Trip" GoFundMe page yielded enough money for the pair of travelers to visit 21 national parks in 25 days, and at the time of this writing, Grandma Joy has posed with her grandson in front of the General Sherman Tree, rolled down a sand dune, enjoyed a sunrise over the Grand Canyon, and so much more. They have visited 29 of the 61 national parks. All because a young man didn't stop with the idea to make a difference. Instead, he simply took action, doing what he could do. Their accounts, highlighted on Instagram and other venues have brought joy and encouragement to many who have followed their adventures.
Those of us who have exchanged our efforts to please God for Jesus' finished work on our behalf, John 19:30, know that nothing we do or don't do can cause God to love us more. Even so, the Bible is clear that when we receive salvation's rest, we begin the adventure of listening to the Lord and walking in obedience to His Word and His Spirit.
In James 1:22-26, we are reminded of this very thing. How good it is to hear the word. Yet, mere listening without acting upon the truth, promise or command changes nothing in our lives. If God shows us something precious about Himself or ourselves, He wants us to incorporate that truth into our lives.
What if right outside our window there was a fruit tree with luscious ripe fruit? It would be lovely to look at, wouldn't it? Yet, if we gazed longingly at it for days, doing nothing, we would receive no produce from it. Enjoying it from inside the house won't bring the blessing we could have had if we had acted upon what we observed and gone out with a bucket and picked the produce.
That is how God pictured His people in Ezekiel 33:32. They loved listening to Ezekiel's message which seemed like sweet music to their ears. Yet, they didn't listen with a heart to act upon what they had heard. In 1 John 3:16-18, the apostle reminds us that love is walked out in actions, not merely in sweet words. How ludicrous would it be if there were a need that we could fulfill for us to send the one in the difficult situation away with platitudes rather than actual food and clothing? None of us can do everything, but Galatians 6:9-10 is God's reminder that when we have opportunity to help, we should take advantage of it.
In Luke 1:36-40, we see one more picture of acting upon truth. We usually read this full account at Christmas. The angel's announcement to Mary and her humble acceptance of what she surely could have not completely understood. I love how she put shoe leather to her belief. She hurried to the hill country because she believed the message about Elizabeth's being pregnant. Imagine, the one whom everyone had called barren was pregnant and in her sixth month. Mary, who would soon be dealing with the changes in her own body and the reactions of the people around her hurried to be with her relative because she confidently acted on the truth she had been told. Talk about being a doer not merely a hearer!
Lord, help us to both listen and do what You tell us. Thank You for Your patience and grace as we grow.