On the last day, Jesus will look us over not for medals, diplomas, or honors, but for scars.”
– Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust
I turned 50 today. “50” sounds – and feels – so much older than “49”. I suppose it is only natural to think back on your life when you hit a milestone birthday like this one. So many memories are rushing in today, I can hardly sort them out before they are gone again, brushed aside by still more. And of course I have hopes for the future also – but today, there is this nagging voice in the back of my head that keeps whispering “You’re running out of time…”.
Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;
To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established — that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
When I was in elementary school, I accumulated half-a-dozen or so trophies. I used to keep them lined up precisely, left-to-right from tallest to shortest, on top of my dresser. I can still remember what each one looked like, and what I had accomplished to merit each. (Please remember, this was back in the day when you actually had to earn a trophy – you didn’t get one just for showing up!) I can definitely say that these trophies were a source of one of the worst possible sins in my young heart – the sin of pride.
One of my favorite verses on fear has always been 1 John 4:18, which begins like this:
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear…
I had that phrase memorized, and it came in handy anytime I needed to face my fears. I always understood it to mean that God’s perfect love would cast out all the fear in my life. I think that is the traditional way to understand that verse, and I have never heard it taught any other way. However, this verse also would occasionally trouble me, causing me to wonder something like this: “Seeing that I am afraid of x, does that mean I am not loved by God? And if God doesn’t love me fully (enough to drive away my fear), does that mean I am not saved?”
Fortunately, I no longer think that is what God is saying through John in this passage.