“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2
I lived in Murray, Kentucky for three years, as pastor of First Baptist. Murray is a great town. The pace of life there is a bit slower, and you don’t have to put up with bad traffic. The winters were not harsh, the summers not too long. We had a lovely house and a loving church. It is a very nice place to live.
But not everyone thought so. My first night there, I went to the grocery store. It was late, only one line was open, so I began to make small talk with the lady behind me about being new in the community. The young cashier overheard me and asked, “How long have you been here?” Got here today, I explained. Then, with a kind of disgusted look on her face she said, “why would you come to a place like Murray?”
I didn’t think, in her mood, she would really understand “God called me here” as an explanation, so I said I think Murray is a very nice city. “Well, I don’t,” she grumped. By now I could tell she wasn’t past of the local chapter of Welcome Wagon. Suspecting that she had probably been raised there and knowing that young people tend to look down on their hometowns, I said you must be from Murray.
“Yeah, but I can’t wait to leave,” she cheerfully replied, dark clouds forming above her head. “I’m moving to Houston. It’s gotta be better than this place.”
She obviously had never driven in Houston traffic. I gathered up my bags and said I hoped she found what she was looking for.
Of course, that young woman will find what she’s looking for. The problem is, she’s developed the common habit of only seeing that which is disagreeable and irksome. It won’t matter where she goes, because she will be taking herself with her. A place can’t make you happy. She was young and had plenty of time to find out the truth. The sooner the better.
The real problem, of course, is that a great many adults who should have learned this never have. Happiness is not something you find, it’s something you create by focusing on the right things. Christ promised joy and peace that transcends all circumstances. You can create happiness as a 19 year old cashier or a middle age teacher or a retired senior adult regardless of the place, and regardless of the circumstances, if you know where to look.
Surely that is what Paul had in mind when he exhorted us to set our minds on the things of heaven. He knew, had seen and heard, a strain of celestial music. He had discovered that he walked everywhere on the threshold of heaven.
A little boy and an old man sat on a dock in the late afternoon, fishing. They talked about many things—why sunsets are red, why the rain falls, why the seasons change, what life is like. Finally the boy looked up at the old man as he was baiting a hook for him, and asked “Does anybody ever see God?” The old man paused, looking out over the blue water, and replied, “Son it’s getting so I hardly see anything else.”
That’s what I want.
So what are you looking at? Earthly things surround us with reasons for irritation and even despair. But God surrounds us with things that lift us above the fray and enable us to walk with quiet confidence and joy through any challenge.
Dr. Terry Ellis
September 20, 2015