Jesus Did It!
By: Mary E. Adams
"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations".
We here in this country enjoy such bounty! I sometimes think of it this way: Solomon, in all his glory did not enjoy television, central heat, air-conditioned cars and jet airplane trips to Hawaii.
We could say, "one does not miss something if they have never experienced them." True in one sense, but in another...not so. Many have found that worldly excitements and conveniences are no substitute for inner peace and contentment.
I remember reading what a young woman wrote who had served with the Peace Corps in S. America. She lived in a chicken coop, and worked as a midwife. Her life there was hard, and eventually she got sick and had to return to the States. Sometime later, she married a man and had a nice home and all the comforts. But she wrote, "Even though I love my husband and am happy...I was happier in that chicken coop...because I was helping others".
Once, when I was in India, a woman came to me after I had finished speaking in a street meeting. "Would you please come to my home and pray God's blessings there?" she asked. I agreed to do that, though it was very dark down the pathway, and we could see only by moonlight and a few flickering lamps inside the houses. At times I had to watch my steps, as there were bodies of people sleeping on sidewalks...people with no homes at all.
Presently we arrived at her little abode. It was no bigger than most bathrooms here in America, and as we went inside she lit an oil lamp. I looked around and saw that the floor was nothing but tamped earth. Along the wall were some shelves which held cooking utensils, clothing, and sleeping mats. On the floor was a small brick oven which was fueled by cow dung. There were a few pictures, taken long ago, of their wedding poses and grandparents. And near the doorway were some thin pieces of board on which there were scribbled a few verses of scripture. This constituted their entire possessions.
As I stood there praying for their little home, I could sense their joy and thankfulness that I had come...though I felt so terribly unworthy of them. After I finished, they quickly brewed me a cup of tea...and I noticed they did not drink with me, probably because there was not enough, and tea was reserved for "special" guests.
When we left and followed the same street back to our car, it was with the same carefulness not to disturb the sleeping humanity that was all about me. I knew that many of these people would arise the next morning to a life of begging just to survive another day in their extreme poverty. There are no rupees (coins) on Indian streets...no garbage collection agencies, even the billboards were eaten for the wheat flour paste that held them to the walls.
Not long afterwards, I was in South Africa...in Soweto. This place was famous for the terrible riots during Apartheid. A couple of ministers took me there and begin to show me how miserable things were in the slums. But as I looked about, I saw that most all of them had tin roofs and were fairly well constructed. There was running water. No one slept outside in the cold and rain. And I thought to myself, "this would be a paradise to many in India".
In Korea, I was walking down the street on a sidewalk full of pedestrians. Suddenly, I saw a body...or the torso of a body...a man, strapped to a board on rollers, pushing himself along, his arms grasping the concrete. But suddenly he stopped, exhausted because he was going up a small incline. No one stopped to help him...all he could do was lay his head on his arms for a brief rest and watch the shoes of those who passed him by. How I wanted to reach down and pull him along...but would I hurt his pride? I knew that all I could do was pray for him.
Each year I am in Malaysia I go to visit a man who is bedridden... paralyzed for many years. He was struck by a motorcycle while in Thailand. His wife gave up her job to stay at home and care for him, constantly attending to his needs. She has sacrificed her life for him. Yet the praise of God is always on their lips.
I have found that much of what we do in the mission fields is motivated by our guilt. But it is a good guilt...guilt that others suffer so much while we drown in abundance.
We know that none of us chooses where nor when we will be born, nor into riches or poverty. The point is, that in whatever state we are in...we must never forget to be thankful and content in it and to share and help others less fortunate. Some of the happiest people in the world live in extreme poverty and hardship...and yet, often they are the most loving and sacrificial to others around them.
I wondered about this. How does one develop gratefulness and contentment despite a lack of material blessings, good health, and opportunities? What does it mean to be "thankful?"
I think it comes from measuring our blessings. To look below at what we DON'T have, to appreciate the things we DO possess.
If I am suffering in my body from a bad cold, think what it would be like to be suffering from leprosy? ...That would make my bad cold a joy by comparison. If I can walk on two legs, even with a cane...how much should I be thankful I do not have to crawl along like the man in Korea. Or if the meal I have been served is not what I wanted...I would find it quite appetizing if I did not have to go smell, (not eat) a dried fish just to add a little flavor to my bowl of rice...which is what millions do in China every day.
Each of us is somewhere along a fictitious ladder. Above us are people with better health, more riches, more success in life...we are taught to look in that direction only...our lives an unrelenting struggle to climb upward to where they are. But the result of that kind of living does not bring us happiness, contentment, and a heart of thankfulness.
As we gather with family and friends for our traditional turkey dinner, I am reminded that Jesus might have done things differently. For He said, "when thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shall be recompensed at the resurrection of the just."
The joy of true thankfulness is the result of climbing down that fictitious ladder...like the publican "who would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner."
He arose to become eternally grateful and thankful for the most valuable gift of all...the promise of salvation, for in this one act of true humility, he had reached the very top of the ladder without crawling an inch...
From now on, when he looked upward he only saw God, and automatically turned, with joy unspeakable, to extend his helping hands downward to everyone below him...
This is the origin of true thanksgiving.
MARY E. ADAMS
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