Enjoying Life or Enduring Life?

Evening Sky-Photo by: Mark J. Booth

The jail cell was damp and cold.  The quality of the food was dismal.  The Apostle Paul didn’t know if he would soon be executed.  How could he enjoy life in the midst of such dismal circumstances?

The Apostle Paul faced many trying times in his life, but he enjoyed life instead of enduring life.  Many of us no longer enjoy life. We complain about our circumstances. Self-pity controls our thought patterns.  Anxiety keeps us from enjoying God’s presence.  We have the idea that enjoying life is based upon our circumstances.  Paul’s circumstances were dismal in the Roman jail; yet he enjoyed his life.  Let’s look at why Paul enjoyed life even while he was suffering in a Roman jail.

1. Paul enjoyed his life because he had a purpose in life.  “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:1)

Many people don’t have a life purpose.  They have a vague idea that they should be doing something for themselves, for their family. and for their community; however, they have no real purpose.  Paul enjoyed his life because he had a purpose!  His purpose was to serve His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Paul enjoyed life because he knew that he belonged to the King of Kings. Paul wasn’t pulled in many different directions.  He received his directions from Christ.  He even understood that his time in prison was for the glory of His Master.  He wrote in another letter.  “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ”.   We will enjoy life when we live each day in light of the fact that “I am a servant of Jesus Christ”.

2. Paul enjoyed his life because he experienced God’s grace and peace.  “Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:2)  

Paul wasn’t alone in his jail cell.  The Lord was with him.  Paul enjoyed his life because he was aware of God’s presence even in the most difficult of times.  God’s grace enabled Paul not only to survive in his trials, but also to thrive.  God’s peace gave him the knowledge that no matter what was happening in his life, God was in control.  We enjoy  life when we experience God’s grace and peace in even the greatest storm of our life.

3. Paul enjoyed his life because he invested his life in others“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,” (Philippians 1:3)

Even in prison, Paul was ministering to others.  He wrote his letter to the believers at Philippi to encourage them.  He was willing to sacrifice his life for others.  He prayed for others.  He shared the Word of God with others.  He loved others.  Paul didn’t focus upon his problems, but he used his problems as a means of ministering to others.  There is great enjoyment in seeing God use us in the lives of others.  We minister to others through our testimony, our prayers, our words of encouragement, our expressions of love, and our sharing the truths of God’s Word.

4. Paul enjoyed his life, because he understood that his trials brought glory to God.  “But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel” (Philippians 1:12)

Paul’s time in jail was part of God’s overall plan.  God used Paul as a witness to the many people with whom he came into contact.  God also used Paul’s imprisonment to encourage other believers to go out and share the gospel.  God doesn’t allow things to enter into our lives for our harm, but for the good of ourselves and others.  We can enjoy life when we surrender to God’s purpose for our trial.

5. Paul enjoyed his life because he knew the future.  “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

Paul showed joy even in facing death, because he knew that death was the door through which he would enter heaven.  We enjoy our life on earth when we live for Christ and keep our focus upon the eternal reward that waits for us in heaven.  When we live our lives for ourselves, our focus is upon this life alone.  Paul saw the big picture, do we?

“Dear Lord, I often feel as though I am enduring life.  I focus on my problems.  I focus on my needs.  I focus on the faults of others. Thank you for Paul’s example to me of a man who enjoyed his life in spite of the dire circumstances he faced.  Please help to enjoy my life in you regardless of the circumstances that I face. Thank you for your great patience and love towards me.  Amen”

Grant Hoyland-A True Servant of The Lord (May 18, 1955-June 14, 2001)

 

In the early morning of June 14, 2001, the telephone awoke us.  Who would be calling this early?  I answered the phone and heard Pastor Ruben May (Johannesburg, South Africa) on the end of the line. His voice was quiet and sad. Something was wrong.  “Last night, Grant was carjacked and later murdered”.  Thoughts started flooding my mind.  “Why Grant?”  “God, why did you allow this to happen?”

Grant had entered  our lives in 1984.  He came to the church in Hillbrow as a result of being invited by a temporary secretary at the law office where he was working.  At first, his attendance was rather sporadic, but he soon accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as His Saviour.  As time went by, Grant became very involved in various church ministries.   He had a great love for the people in Hillbrow, especially the children.  He would faithfully do door to door visitation, and he ministered in the Awana Club Ministry.  He also became an excellent preacher of the Word.

After we left South Africa, Grant attended Bible College.  In 1999 we visited South Africa and stayed with Grant for a couple of weeks.  We had some terrific talks.   During that time, the Hillbrow church ordained Grant  for the Gospel ministry.  I never heard a person do so well in an ordination council.   Grant, by this time, decided to leave his full-time work as a lawyer and only work part-time.   His desire was to give as much time to the Lord’s service as possible as the Assistant Pastor of the Hillbrow Independent Baptist Church.

Though Grant is in the presence of the Lord,  he is greatly missed by many people in Johannesburg.  Here was one person who selflessly gave his life for those around him.

During the aftermath of Grant’s death, the young people in the Hillbrow church were challenged to fill the shoes that Grant had left behind.  One of the young people responded: “His shoes are too big for us to fill.”  Though many in this world never knew Grant, he was truly a man greatly used of God.

I thank the Lord for the privilege to have had been Grant’s pastor and friend. He truly lived out  1 Corinthians 15:58:  “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”