Jesus said that as Christians we are the salt of earth. What does that mean? Let's look at some of the qualities of salt. Salt flavors. We are to bring the flavor of Jesus into the lives of people around us. We are to act like Jesus around them. They will see what Jesus is like through us. Salt heals. We are to bring a healing element into people's lives. The Gospel will bring health and wholeness into their relationships and even their bodies. When I was nine I fell off my bike and scraped my thumb. The doctor gave me a prescription of dunking my injured thumb into a container of warm water each day. Added to that water was epsom salt. Now, sticking my thumb into that mixture was really painful, but soon the healing began. Salt heals. And salt preserves. Before refrigeration, salt was used to keep meat from going bad. When I was in seventh grade my family took a vacation for a week at Christmas. Before we left our apartment my Dad asked me to go around our apartment and unplug everything electrical. He had heard of electrical fires starting when people were away from home for a while. So being an obedient child I went from room to room unplugging everything. And yes, I went into the kitchen. Lo and behold, behind the refrigertor was a really big plug which I of course unplugged. A week later we came back from our vacation. You can imagine what we found. The mess. The smell. I was in big trouble. The preservation had not taken place. As salt, we are to preserve. When we live like Jesus we have the ability to preserve the good in our world. The world is a better place when we do this. Salt flavors. Salt heals. Salt preserves. And all of this lived out in us, His people, points people to Jesus. Be the salt of the earth.
I listened to a news broadcast this week about the upcoming closing of a General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio. This is devastating news for a town that had relied on the plant for more than 50 years. 1,500 workers are going to lose their jobs on March 31st and are facing uncertainty for the new year. It is calculated that with every job lost at the plant, 7 more jobs are affected outside the plant. As one person said: "This community is going to go down".
And yet as you listen to this broadcast you hear a word spoken over and over again. It is the word hope. People say they are hopeful for some good news about the plant and their jobs. I think I counted the word hope used 7 times in the broadcast. These people are looking for hope. They are hoping things will get better. But no one has come to tell them how things will work out for them.
For God's people, God has told us how things will work out for us. God says He will supply our needs. He doesn't tell us just exactly how that will take place, only that it will. And that is reason for something each of us are looking for in the uncertainty of the new year. That is reason for hope.
In New York City there is a clock. It is not a clock that tells time. It is a clock that counts debt. It is the national debt clock. The sum of all the money each day that is overspent by our government is added to that clock. The clock was created in 1989 because of the concern for how much money our government was spending. At that time the debt was $2.7 trillion. Since then the debt has exploded each year and now stands at over $21 trillion. Each person's share of that debt is $65 thousand. Although some could pay that debt, most could not.
There is an even greater debt that each of us has that none of us could pay. It is the debt of our sin. The Bible actually uses the word debt to refer to our sin. And the countless ways we have offended a holy God have created that debt. Debt eventually must always be paid. So who will pay our debt? Can we pay it? We have nothing worthy to offer. So who does? God does. What does He have to offer to pay our debt? He can offer His sinless self, which he did.
Romans 5:8 - But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
In His love God paid our unpayable debt for us by becoming one of us and giving His life on the cross. All we have to do is believe to have that payment finalized for us.
Acts 16:31 - Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.
What love He has shown to us. Our debt has been paid.
We lived in New York City when I was in second grade. Outside our apartment building one day some friends and I decided to take a walk. Only we didn't tell anyone we were doing it. And we were gone for a couple hours. In New York City. And we were in second grade. And we had a great time. But when I eventually walked up the stairs to our apartment I could sense something was not right. My entrance into the apartment confirmed by suspicions. My Dad was upset and on the phone. My Mom was in tears. I quickly discovered that they thought I was lost and maybe worse. I was lost and I didn't even know it.
God says in His Word that all people are lost. The Bible says that all of us like sheep have gone astray. We have each turned to our own way. Because of our sin we have strayed away from God. We have lost our way. But God has gone after us. He has provided the way for us to be found. God laid our sin on His Son, Jesus. Through belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus we can be restored. We can have our sin forgiven. We can be found. We can have life as it was meant to be. Sometimes we are lost and we don't even know it. But we can be found.
What is hope? It is a desire for a certain thing to happen. It is something that people really, really want. But their hope is for things that there is no guarantee they will take place. They just hope things will line up in the right way. But there is so much that is beyond their control. And since this is the case, so many people live without any hope. Things are not getting better and only seem to get worse.
So is there any hope in this world? The answer is yes, if you use the Bible's definition of hope. As opposed to a strong desire for something, the Bible defines hope as a strong and confident expectation. In God's Word, hope doesn't just desire, it expects. In God's Word, hope isn't uncertain, it is confident. It isn't what we can see and can't get. It is what we can't yet see but know we will get.
Hope is connected to a promise. It is focusing on the promise and the one who made the promise no matter what our situation might be. The Bible is filled with promises that are made by the creator of the universe and are guaranteed by Him no matter what our situation might be. Knowing that brings hope!
When we take on ourselves whatever difficulty someone else is dealing with, their difficulty becomes our difficulty. In doing so their burden becomes easier for them to overcome. I was on the receiving end of this one winter day in Grand Rapids. We had a recent heavy snowfall and many of the side streets had hardly been plowed at all. I made a right turn onto one of those side streets to access my doctor's building for an appointment. The curve of the street dipped down as I turned into 10 inches of slush and immediately my car stuck. For a few minutes I tried gunning through the slush but went nowhere. What was I doing to do?
Just then a woman walked out of my doctor's building and seeing my predicament came over and asked to help. She offered to get in and drive while I pushed, but my pushing wasn't enough. What are we going to do? Just then a man walked up the sidewalk and seeing our predicament came up and offered to help push. Between her driving and our pushing the car came right out and I make my appointment.
Those two people had carried my burden. My trouble became their trouble. They had reached out and helped and my burden was overcome. As Christians we need to operate like that. Perhaps we can send a card, or make a meal, or pray with them on the phone, or give them some money, or share our experiences with the burden, or watch their kids while they go to an appointment or give them a ride. The list goes on. Make someone's trouble easier to deal with. Carry each other's burdens.
As believers in Christ, we are being watched and therefore we have an opportunity. When I was in my twenties, I worked my way through Bible school and Seminary. Most of my jobs were through the temporary agency called Manpower. Temporary jobs alternated between short one day jobs and jobs that lasted more than a year. One of those long term jobs was working for Chrysler Corporation in their complaint department.
On this job it was myself and another temp was took the phone calls of people angry about their cars. Often those calls came with yelling and cussing from the customers. That gets really old after a while. The other temp who took the calls with me was not a Christian and his response to people was sometimes to get angry right back, slam the phone down and walk out of the room. Though I may have wanted to do that, I decided that was not the way I should respond.
Soon a third temp came into the office. His job was different than ours but his desk faced us and so he watched us all day and our responses to customers. His name was Bart. One day Bart and I were in the Break room at the same time and he came up to me and asked a question. "I have been watching the two of you respond to angry customers on the phone. Why don't you act like the other guy does?" I told him it wasn't because I didn't want to, but that I was a believer in Jesus Christ and that affects how you live your life. You live differently. And then I explained why and how I had become a Christian. What an example this was of how we are being watched as Christians and what an opportunity this is to live out Christ in front of them.
As Christians we are being watched by people who might need Christ and we have an opportunity to show them a different way. What will we show them by how we live?
My dad, who is 89 years old, had his second TIA almost three weeks ago. A TIA is a temporary mini-stroke where you have the effects of a stroke but you recover your abilities in a short period of time. The first stoke he had in May and he was in the hospital for just a few days with follow up therapy at home. This stroke was more severe and he was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital for a week. This recovery was harder than the first but he has recovered well enough to go home with continued therapy again at home.
The evening his second stroke happened, his symptoms were quite severe and I went to bed wondering if that was the last day I would have my real dad. There were no warning signs that day that his would happen. It just did. This reminds me of the verse in the Book of James which says that we don't know what will happen tomorrow. How true that was for me and my family that day. Life can change in a moment. We don't know what will happen tomorrow. We don't know what will happen today. So appreciate every day as the gift that it is. Appreciate life as the gift from God that it is.