There are two specific men that come to my mind when I think about people who always seem to have an upbeat positive attitude. But not just in the sense of “don’t worry be happy” but its a much deeper sense of trust and faith in Christ that I believe drives their joy. One was my former Regional Director, Pat Goodman. For those of you who have had the privilege of being around him, you know what I’m talking about. He just emits a sense of encouragement, hope and inspiration.
The other friend is a huge personality. When he walks into a room he immediately puts a smile on everyone’s face. He loves to have fun but he has a deep, abiding faith that brings focus and clarity to the conversations you have with him. His name is Robert Hayward and he was simply a man who mentored me while I was in my first years of ministry with Young Life. To give you a sense of who he is I will share two quick stories.
Robert loves books. He says its his main vice. When you go into his office the walls are lined with bookshelves. I went to over to a bookshelf one time, picked out a book to look and and there was another book behind it. His bookshelves went at least two deep! So when his wife showed up one day at my house telling me that Robert was getting rid of some of his duplicate books, I was not surprised. But she said the box was heavy and asked if I could come out and get it out of the car. So as I walked out to her car, I was ambushed by Robert and his five children with water canons. This was one of many shenanigans that Robert was known for.
The other story involved me having some significant leadership struggles. So, again, Robert shows up at my house, with his white board and markers, and begins to teach me about godly, Biblical leadership.
Both of these men loved me well, and for that I am forever grateful.
Unfortunately, I moved back to Richmond several years ago and I am no longer physically present with these men. Some days I wonder what it would be like to be around them all day, every day. I’m sure that my life would be radically different and I would have a deeper faith myself.
All of this came to my mind the other day when I was reading in John 13. If you remember, John 13 is the beginning of the end for Jesus. The apostle John spends 9 chapters of his gospel talking about the last week of Jesus’ life. And specifically, in John 13:31-35, Jesus is telling his disciples that he would no longer be physically present with them. Later in the gospel, Jesus will reiterate this and let them know that while he will not be physically present, he will be spiritually present because they would receive his Holy Spirit.
I am sure that the disciples would much rather have had Jesus physically present rather than just have the Holy Spirit. I mean, they could talk to him and ask him questions. They could learn from how he treated and loved others. They would hear his voice, his laugh and be inspired by his faith.
But Jesus knew that his mission on earth was accomplished and he would not really leave them, because the Holy Spirit would come and be there Counselor 24/7, actually the Holy Spirit would come to live and dwell in their hearts. This would be better for the disciples even though they didn’t realize it yet.
But the message that Jesus gives them in John 13:34-35 was the linchpin for them to know what they were supposed to do once Jesus was not physically present. Here is what it says,
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
When Jesus was physically present with the disciples he loved them deeply. Jesus lived out his faith through his love for others. He loved them well and he taught them how to love others well. And so now that Jesus is not physically present with them, he is giving them the best strategy to live a life to the glory of God. This strategy of loving others, would display God’s love to a hurting world. This love would attract others to the good news of Jesus.
I am bummed that I can’t be around Pat and Robert on a daily basis, but their spirit of joy and encouragement continue to inspire me. And now I have something far better, I have the Holy Spirit who lives in me, to counsel, comfort, strengthen, encourage and inspire me all day, every day.
I pray that you will learn from the godly people who are physically present in your life, but that you will also know that you have something far better. You have the Spirit of Christ living in you and he will never move away from you, he will never fail you, he will always have a word of encouragement for you, he will constantly be at your side to love you and empower you to love others for the glory of his Kingdom. That is the good news of the gospel, and we all know it’s the gospel that changes everything!