February 26, 2014I wish I could take you back to the place where I grew up. It was a simple home deep in the hills of Kentucky where one room school houses, out door plumbing, coal burning pop belly stoves, coal mining and swimming in the creek as a boy was the norm.
If I could, I would take you back on a winding, narrow road back between the hills until we finally arrived at an even smaller dirt road that goes straight up a mountainside. As we would begin our journey up that mountainside, the one lane road would abruptly end! If you got out of the car with me on this wooded hillside, we would discover some steps cut out of the mountainside by someone's pick and shovel and at the top of those steps, we would then step onto the crest of this mountain that has a little cemetery, some headstones hand carved out of native rock, some made of wood, and other nicer stones carved out of granite. If you would go further with me, on the steep edge of the cemetery you would find a headstone with these words: William Russell Sale, born February 3, 1912, died February 4, 1974. At the bottom of the headstone, you would see this inscription: "For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain…" Phil. 1:21.
Why would three young sons, I being the middle one, desire to have these words from Scripture engraved on their father's tombstone? The answer was simple. We had seen a man live well consistently under the most adverse circumstances all of our lives. He left a thriving ministry in Northern Indiana to go to the poverty stricken hills of Kentucky to serve in places where life was hard and difficult. Not only that, his wife was sick most of the time, leaving him to care for three boys and a severely mentally handicapped daughter.
At the center of his life in all he did was Jesus Christ! His strength and motivation came from the wonderful news revealed in Scripture which says: "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
The same wonderful truth helps even today! Our youngest daughter and her husband's first little, baby boy only lived a few minutes. Before he was born, they had been told by their doctors that it was improbable that he would live. It was this same truth that helped them on this painful journey before and after Ellis was born. These are some of her words from her blog that testify of this wonderful help.
"How do we live life well?
"I used to ask this question, or a version of this question, before Ellis was even a hint in my imagination. I wondered about how to best live as a daughter of the King in my circumstances. I wanted to serve Him well in my role as daughter, sister, friend, wife, and teacher. Nothing extraordinary, just regular life, but the question was how to do it well. Then, April 6th came, and for the first time I heard the words "incompatible with life." I now had to figure out how to live life well when my context included waiting for my baby's birth and impending death. I remember asking Him to help me live those days with beauty. They were hard days, but looking back I can see the good He gave us during that time. And now, since the moment that Ellis was born and so quickly delivered into the hands of Jesus, I again am asking, 'How do I live well?'
"Each time the answer has been the same and it will continue to be so. Look to Him. There's no other way. He gives it meaning. The moment I make it about myself, it falls apart. As soon as I try to take the weight of it all upon myself, I begin to crumble. There's comfort in knowing the answer remains the same, no matter the circumstance. It's the constant answer to the constant question, even when life is anything but constant. It strengthens me as I face the future, looking ahead to continued days of unknown. Because what I know of Him is good and it will always be that way." (Excerpt from henryhouseofhope.blogspot.com).
Yes, living life well, even in adversity, is made possible when we fix our eyes on Jesus who gave Himself for us, not only to aid us in this life but to give eternal life where all things are made perfect to those who trust in His life, death and resurrection.
John Sale, Lead Pastor of Valley Center Community Church