Years ago, the first pastorate I ever had was at a little church in a farming community south of Waco. It’s not there anymore, but I’ll never forget the wonderful experiences I had there—ministering to those people, learning from them, and being blessed by them.
I learned on my first Sunday that one of my pastoral responsibilities was to arrive at church early and go over to Jeanette’s house.
Jeanette lived out her faith from within a crippled body.
Jeanette was the church secretary. Her house was only about 30-40 yards from the church out there in the country on a dirt road, but Jeanette was crippled with arthritis. Years earlier, she was just barely able to walk across the stage to receive her high school diploma. By the time I knew her, when she was in her 50s, arthritis had almost completely incapacitated her body.
Jeanette was quite a good artist. When she was younger she’d been able to paint large canvases, but when I knew her, she could only paint very small canvases because her range of motion was so small. Sue and I still have one of her paintings displayed in our home.
Every Sunday before church I walked over to Jeanette’s house, helped her into her wheelchair, and pushed her across the dirt road to the church building.
One day I stopped to look at her paintings. There were some large canvases in her living room, and she asked, “Which is your favorite?” One painting, right by the door, showed a lively explosion of red, yellow, and orange. It had a fire and a life to it that I liked, and I told her so. She said “Yup, that’s my favorite, too.” She’d won a prize for that one at the county fair, and she called it Easter Sunday Morning.
It’s easy to imagine why. Trapped in the prison house of her body, she nonetheless lived her faith in the place the Lord put her. Jeanette did so much to keep that little church going and to minister to the people there. She was a wonderful Christian woman who lived in the hope that one day she would be set free to receive the glorious resurrection body Jesus would someday give her.
Christians lived out their faith even in Caesar’s household.
Wherever we are, under whatever circumstances, we are called to live out the gospel. In the final lines of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he told his friends,
All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. (Philippians 4:22)
The saints in Caesar’s household had to do what Jesus told his disciples to do—be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16). They had to discern, with the wisdom of the Spirit of God, how to remain faithful to Christ, and how to live with integrity in the midst of evil.
You can live out your faith in any circumstance.
You and I face the same challenges. Ours may not be quite as dramatic and severe as the persecution the Christians in Rome faced, though that day could come, but wherever we live and wherever we are, there’s always the pressure to conform.
There is no circumstance in which we cannot live the gospel of Jesus Christ. We may not be members of Nero’s household, and we may not have bodies that are crippled with arthritis, but we nonetheless have circumstances that do challenge us in this present evil age and make it difficult to live for Christ.
Whatever happens, we are called to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ. The great themes we’ve looked at together in Philippians—themes like friendship, fellowship, unity, joy, and the gospel—these are the themes that will enable us to be faithful.
The previous was adapted by Rachel Motte from a sermon featured on Dr. Sloan’s radio program, A Higher Education, on August 6, 2013.