Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Happy (07/12/07)
TITLE: winter reflections
By Thomas Van Ness
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The February sky had hung low and heavy throughout the day its damp cold pierced the clothing and bit the skin. The promise of a winter squall sent people scurrying to their cars and homes, occasionally glancing up to the sky as they went with knowing and resigned faces. Now as evening was approaching the weight of moisture proved at last, too heavy a load to bear and from its confinement in the heavens it’s seasonal notice, burst forth as a cold and dry snow.
Ephraim Jonah sat in the warmth of his office and looked out his large window at the mounting snowfall. It clung to the top of his windowpane and the accompanying wind, which whistled through the trees, dissipated itself as it shook the window like a barricaded intruder. He watched as the indoor warmth caressed the windowpane translating the snow, causing it to weep large tears, which collected near the bottom of the pane.
From this vantage, Ephraim watched the street and driveway that led up to the main entrance of Greater First Baptist church, where he had been the head pastor for the last fifteen years. During his tenure their had been many young seminary graduates who had come as assistant pastors and gone on to larger and more affluent churches with better benefits, larger parsonages and greater salaries. Each one of them had gone on with his blessing, and sincere thanks for the service and gifts with which they had blessed the church while they were there, they as well, were certainly the better for their tenure. Unfortunately, though these events always seemed to bring out the malcontents who grew tired of Ephraim’s emphasis on biblical ideas and precepts. For his part, Ephraim met their complaints with a gentle good humor but asserted firmly his commitment to the scriptures, which provided the only real source of what he often termed “sound teaching”.
However, for every malcontent there were many who had come to rely on Ephraim not only for his words but also for his example. Just as Ephraim had been with them through hardship and trial, so they as well had been with him. They were with him when cancer took away his wife, and they were with him when his only son died in a tragic automobile accident while away at college. They watched as Ephraim handed off the load of sorrow, which he bore, onto Christ whose yoke is easy and who makes every burden light. They watched him persevere through trial, and through his example saw the strength that was present in faith.
Ephraim, for his part, found that the trials of life served the purposes of God in the building up of his faith. He believed that he understood more and more that stanza of How Firm a Foundation his most favorite hymn “when through the deep waters I cause thee to go, the rivers of woe shall not thee overflow for I shall be with thee thy troubles to bless, and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress”. Indeed, throughout his time on this earth the reality of God and the presence of his faith in Christ have been strengthening and supplying all of his needs. As Ephraim sat back in his chair reflecting on his life he saw that its many trials had always been balanced with many blessing. While he had suffered personal loss, God had blessed him with personal rewards. There were young families within the church who looked to him as a special person in their life. He often heard them calling out to him “Pastor Jonah” and on his neighborhood walks, they greeted him with hugs and affection. As Ephraim reflected on his life, he realized that he was far more than happy. Long ago, he had settled on his course and had placed himself in god’s hands. A striving for happiness had given way to contentment. Like Paul, he had learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. As the apostle himself said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 NAS).
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