Lessons learned while a kid on a tractor come back to Rev. Benton Heisler as he reflects upon the Christian life.
REV. BENTON HEISLER
Director of Connectional Ministries
I remember being about eight-years-old and sitting on my father’s lap while we drove my grandfather’s tractor as it plowed in the spring. He told me “Don’t look at the front of the tractor, but focus on a tree or post at the end of the field.” Aim long. Live life with a purpose, live with an end goal in sight.
Later that spring we were cultivating soybeans. Again I had a chance to sit on his lap and steer. It was much easier to just put the tires between the rows. But I also learned a second life lesson. “Don’t look back.” (As I turned to see how the cultivator was working, my hands also turned the wheel and my error cut off several feet of plants!) Let the actions and discouragement of the past remain there.
As we try to Live life with a purpose, live with an end goal in sight, many of the distractions and discouragement will come in the form of words and behaviors of others we encounter. Toxic people drain, distract and discourage us because their behavior is so irrational. Our best response is to maintain an emotional distance from them.
Most importantly, we need Words to help us overcome those distractions.
To do that, we follow the writer of Philippians in chapter 4 verses 4-9: “Have no anxiety… take your request to God…think on these things: whatever is true, pure, honorable, just, lovely, gracious, and excellent…” Further on in the Bible, I Thessalonians 5:11 teaches us “Encourage one another and build each other up.”
As we look long range and live with the end in sight, there are three guiding questions we might consider: “What would the impact be if I focus on encouraging others? What would it take for me to live like that? How many others could I inspire to have faith in Christ and follow me to heaven?”
Jesus is recorded in John 8:31 as saying “If you make my Word your home you will indeed be my Disciples. You will know the Truth and the Truth will see you free.”
Today we seem hard pressed to determine the truth. First, it was Dan Rather, then Brian Williams and now it seems to everybody. “Fake news” is published to distract from and cover-up the real news. When the real news is uncomfortable it gets characterized as “fake news.”
I invite you to just skim through the Gospel of John. Notice the phrase that jumps out time and time again. Jesus repeatedly says “But I tell you the Truth…” The Truth which the Apostle Paul would have us hold tightly is that we need to have “No anxiety, but let our request be made know to God; and think on these things – Whatever is True, Honorable, Just, Pure, Lovely, Gracious, Excellent.”
So instead of being anxious, we take our request to God for Truth in Scriptures teaches us that “Nothing is impossible for God.”
Following are 10 encouraging phrases that I have found to be rooted in these seven words. Most of them are found in a book by Rich DeVoss titled “10 Powerful Phrases for Positive People.”
Have no anxiety. Many times we are anxious simply out of uncertainty. Having someone say to us: I believe in you or You can do it, makes all the difference. Reminding ourselves that Jesus said, “I will never leave you or forsake you. I will send the Holy Spirit to guide you,” is like hearing Jesus say to us in the midst of our anxiety, “I believe in you, or, You can do it.”
Whatever is True. Investigators will tell you the truth never changes. The truth becomes the consistent thread that holds a news story or criminal investigation together. Encouraging phrases of truth contain words like I was wrong. Or, I need you. Statements like that contribute to transparency, vulnerability discovering the truth and opening doors to relationships.
Whatever is Honorable. Honor is a gift given. Honor is expressed in service given to community or country that is rooted in respect and shared values. Honor is rising as a person enters the room, serving a guest first and you last, holding open a door and holding back your tongue. It’s saying to someone I trust you. Honor and Trust go hand in hand. Trust is not easily earned and can be quickly lost, but when you have been given a relationship of Trust, there is no higher Honor.
Whatever is Just. Justice is tied to the Truth. It is often repeated that there can be no Justice without the Truth. Justice is where Grace and Mercy meet face to face. The encouraging word that leads to Justice and Forgiveness is simply, I am sorry. Adding clarity for what one is sorry, is often a bitter pill to swallow, but it creates a level of personal ownership that teaches our sub-conscious, “I don’t want to do that again!”
Whatever is Pure. Pure is more than a northern lake on an early spring morning before the first boats. Pure is more than a cool breeze moving gently through the porch screens on an early summer morning. Pure is more than the reflection of the midday sun glistening on freshly fallen snow. Pure is no ulterior motive, no manipulation, but simply extravagant generosity, a heart willing to serve and a voice that says, How can I help you?
Whatever is Lovely. Lovely is… your spouse, your children, your best friend. There is no better phrase than hearing I love you!
Whatever is Gracious. (See lovely and expand!) Gracious is when you hear the phrase I respect you. People may not always like you or agree with you, but to be respected in the midst of differences is gracious. Our current civil discourse could use a lot more gracious, a lot more respect in every facet. Gracious is linked with kindness, being non-anxious, thoughtful, and patience. All of these are a result of our being rooted deeply in the Holy Spirit and having our lives bear the fruit of the spirit listed in Galatians 5 “Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.”
Whatever is Excellent. We have a sign hanging in our three season porch that says, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” My father always expanded on this a bit. “Anything worth doing is worth doing right the first time, because when are you going to have time to do it over.” This motto implies Excellence is a personal value. I love to build and repair things. I mostly work with recycled barn wood or lumber that was on the 70%-off cart at Home Depot. They have twists and cracks and splinters and inconsistent thicknesses. Despite my careful attempts at square and equal as I build there is a “Where’s Waldo” mistake in every piece of furniture, but I still feel it is excellent. A newly created item or restored new purpose is far more excellent than a burn pile or landfill. For me, each project is a symbol of Grace and a reminder that Christ took my brokenness, my faults, forgives my sin and offers me a new life. Our step of faith and belief in Him is an expression of gratitude. Each person we introduce to Christ through our words and actions is an expression of this excellent love. We know excellence has been recognized when we hear the words thank you.
What is your end goal in life? What object at the end of the field are you aiming toward?
Note: “If you make my Word your home, you will indeed be my disciples. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:13 New Jerusalem Bible.)” Each article I write for this column is based in the guidance of a particular Scripture passage. I pray that these reflections, stories, and information will assist you in your own witness and service as a Disciple of Jesus Christ.