SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
Key Verse: To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3:1
Near the end of his life, Pope John XXIII was diagnosed with terminal cancer. His personal physician wept when he had to share this news with the Pope.
Pope John comforted the good doctor and said, “Do not weep for me. My bags are packed and I am ready to go.”
The Pope understood what the wise Solomon had taught: There is a time to be born, and there is a time to die. This was no expression of fatalism but rather a testimony to the Pope’s confidence in God’s plan for his life.
another beautiful example of such faith in the attitude of
While the book of Ecclesiastes is not very inspiring, its study can be helpful. When we encounter the writer’s pessimism, we can acknowledge our own and realize that, to paraphrase a line from Isaiah, we live in the midst of a people whose lips often pollute the air with depressing pessimism. We can rejoice too that we know a Savior who has the power to save us from the clutch of cynicism.
As Christians we must never underestimate the difference the living Christ makes in our lives. His indwelling presence provides us with healthy optimism, hope, and a zeal for life that nonbelievers do not enjoy. Because of Christ we are constantly filled with enthusiasm despite our trials; we know that the ultimate victory belongs to the people of God. Unlike Solomon, we know the “end of the story,” and we know that our God will have the last word.
When Solomon speaks of “a time to weep, and a time to laugh,” we remember that we can face life’s tragedies with the assurance that the compassion of the Comforter can assuage our sorrows. We can laugh and allow humor to bring healing to our spirits. We can agree with Solomon that “a cheerful heart brings good medicine,” although we know what he did not -- that it is the Christ whose joy makes our hearts cheerful.
We can endure times of mourning, when we lose loved ones, because we know that death is not the end but the beginning of life. When we lose a child, and sorrow weighs heavily on our souls, we can allow the Savior to heal our wounds and gently guide us to dance again.
For disciples of Jesus, every moment is “a time to love.” When Christ saves us from our sins, and makes us new people, he frees us to love more deeply that we ever thought possible. We are enabled to love even those who hate us and hurt us. We learn to love God more than things, and to love others because Christ died for them, not for what they can do for us. We find that, with God’s help, we can even love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Is there a time for Christians to hate? Yes, though there is never a right time to hate people. As we walk with Christ and learn to think like Jesus, we learn that there are things we must hate. We must hate injustice. We must hate the abuse of people, especially women and children. We should hate conflicts that destroy friendships and families. We should hate silence when we should have spoken up to defend someone who is being mistreated. We should hate fear when it has caused us to care more about public opinion than what God thinks.
We should hate inaction and indifference, twin servants of Satan that he uses to keep us from obeying the Spirit’s inner voice. We should hate the greed and selfishness that cause nations to go to war. We should hate business practices that benefit the wealthy while exploiting the weak. We should hate hypocrisy, in ourselves as well as others. We should hate terrorism and the twisted religion that spawns it. We should hate governmental abuse and oppression of defenseless people. We should hate discrimination based on race or sexual orientation.
In these and other ways hate is required of Christians who would live like Jesus in a world of evil and corruption. To ignore the evil around us, and to do nothing, is to surrender the noble desire to become “more like the Master.”
My friend Grady Rowell shared a wonderful story with me concerning John Wayne and Dr. Robert Schuller. The story will warm your heart and remind you that it is never too late for anyone of us to offer a good word for Jesus. Here’s the story:
Dr. Robert Schuller's teenage daughter, Cindy, was in a motorcycle accident and had to have her leg amputated. John Wayne was a big fan of Robert Schuller. He heard Dr. Schuller say on one of his programs that his daughter had been in an accident and had to have her leg amputated.
John Wayne wrote a note to her saying:
Sorry to hear about your accident. Hope you will be all right. -- John Wayne
The note was delivered to her and she decided to write John Wayne a note in reply. She wrote:
Dear Mr. Wayne,
I got your note. Thanks for writing to me. I like you very much. I am going to be all right because Jesus is going to help me. Mr. Wayne, do you know Jesus? I sure hope you know Jesus, Mr. Wayne, because I cannot imagine Heaven being complete without John Wayne being there. I hope, if you don't know Jesus, that you will give your heart to Jesus right now.
See you in Heaven.
She had just put that letter in an envelope, sealed it, and written across the front of it "John Wayne" when a visitor came into her room to see her. He asked what she was doing.
She said, “I just wrote a letter to John Wayne, but I don't know how to get it to him.”
said, “That's funny, I am going to have
dinner with John Wayne tonight at the Newport Club down at
There were 12 of them that night sitting around the table for dinner. They were laughing and cutting up and the man happened to reach in his pocket and felt that letter and remembered. John Wayne was seated at the end of the table so the man took the letter out and said, “Hey, Duke, I was in Schuller's daughter's room today and she wrote you a letter and wanted me to give it to you. Here it is.”
They passed it down to John Wayne and he opened it. They kept on laughing and cutting up and someone happened to look down at John Wayne. He was crying.
One of them said: Hey, Duke, what is the matter?
He said, " I want to read you this letter." He read the letter.
Then he began to weep. He folded it, put it in his pocket, and he pointed to the man who delivered it to him and said: "You go tell that little girl that right now, in this restaurant, right here, John Wayne gives his heart to Jesus Christ and I will see her in heaven."
Three weeks later John Wayne died.
What a beautiful story. It illustrates what Solomon said: “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Cindy’s testimony was in the right place at the right time so God could use it to change a man’s destiny!
Things change. God does not. The principles of the Kingdom do not change. As we live in the midst of evil, decay, and destruction, we should ask God for the faith to trust Him, and to be dispensers of hope and optimism rather than despair and pessimism. Let us remember even when the world seems to be falling apart, that there waves above us the banner of God’s steadfast love and He has called us to lift high the Cross of Christ.
I love the old song by Stuart Hamblen that says, “This weary world with all its toil and struggle may take its toll of misery and strife; the soul of man is like a waiting falcon; when it’s released, it’s destined for the skies. But until then, my heart will go on singing, until then, with joy I’ll carry on; until the day my eyes behold the city, until the day God calls me home.”
Indeed, this troubled world is not our final home, and until God calls us home, we can with joy keep on singing and use the time we have to make the world a better place for all people. + + + + (Walter may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)