There is a story that comes to us out of the long ago of a king who organized a great race within his kingdom. All the young men of the kingdom participated. A bag of gold was to be given to the winner, and the finish line was within the courtyard of the king’s palace.
The race was run, and the runners were surprised to find in the middle of the road leading to the king’s palace a great pile of rocks and stones. But they managed to scramble over it or to run around it and eventually to come to the courtyard.
Finally all the runners had crossed the finish line except one. But still the king did not call the race off.
After a while one lone runner came through the gate. He lifted a bleeding hand and said, “O King, I am sorry that I am so late. But you see, I found in the road a pile of rocks and stones, and it took me a while, and I wounded myself in removing them.”
Then he lifted the other hand, and in it was a bag. He said, “But, Great King, I found beneath the pile of rocks this bag of gold.”
The king said, “My son, you have won the race, for that one runs best who makes the way safer for those who follow.”
Making the way safer for those who follow is a significant principle to guide us in our Christian life. In Hebrews 13:16 we read these words: “And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased!”
This verse drives home the point that I have long felt – that the life of a Christ-like Christian is not only to be one of worshipping and praising God, but also is to be a shared life, a life of doing good, giving of our lives and hearts to others, making the way safer for those who follow.
In short, the Christ-like life is an others-centered life.
In a day and age when the beck and cry of almost every voice of our society and culture is “Look out for number one!” and “Grab all the gusto YOU can!”, a call to live your life with others in mind is a radical message indeed!
In the first part of Hebrews 13, the author gives us several ways that we can begin to do just that – by showing hospitality to strangers, by visiting to prisoners, and by caring for the afflicted in life.
The essence of the Christ-centered life is figuring out how I can do the most good for other people today!
Also in this same chapter, the author of this letter to these first-century Christians also gives us three reasons why sharing our lives with others is so essential to developing a strong heart for Him!
Sharing our lives with others, first of all, demonstrates the effectiveness of the death of Christ in accomplishing its purpose – which was “to make people holy through his own blood” (verse 12). There is no greater testimony to the power of God in Christ than the transformation that takes place in one who follows Christ.
The Christian life is not meant to be lived in isolation.
And when I share my life with others, secondly, it puts God on display for all to see. My life becomes a showcase for Him – for His trustworthiness, for His faithfulness, and for His dependability. We hear people claim that Jesus will “never leave them nor forsake them” – a direct quote from Hebrews 13:5, but apart from seeing that fact become real in someone’s life, it becomes hard to believe.
And third, sharing my life with others becomes a way of showing to the world that I am God’s handiwork, that I am pleasing in His sight! (Check out Hebrews 13:20-21!)
We live in a day and age when the grand push is for each of us to be independent, not to live for the sake of anyone but our own selves. And yet the Word of God seems to point us to the fact that we need each other! – in a big way!
I am reminded of the father who was trying to get his little girl to go to bed one night. He tried everything. He read her a story, then fed her cookies and milk, and he even got into a conversation with his daughter about whether or not he loved her.
All he wanted to do was to put her to bed, turn out the light, close the door, and go into the family room and relax for the rest of the evening.
The final conversation went something like this: “Honey, I love you!” “I know you love me, Daddy! I love you too! But I’m scared!” “Well, honey, I’ll be in the other room!” “Daddy?” “What, honey?” “Would you stay here with me for a while? I need some love with skin on!”
Now there’s one daddy that stayed by his daughter’s bedside that night until she fell asleep!
It is fairly obvious that the people around us – those neighbors, co-workers, and friends – are watching us to see if the love of Christ makes any difference in our lives.
And our hearts are strengthened spiritually when we make the sacrifice of showing Christ’s love by sharing our lives with those around us!
After all, they need to see His love “with skin on!”
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.