Have you ever assisted one of your children with the purchase of a car? Maybe you bought the car for them, or perhaps you loaned them money so they could buy a car. In either event, your child was most likely thrilled to have their first car. No doubt you gave them some instructions as to how to maintain that automobile. After all, there is a significant investment at stake.
At some point in the past, I assisted each one of my five children with the acquisition of an automobile. When I did, I always pointed out the importance of regular maintenance.
One day, I received a phone call from one of my sons telling me his car had broken down on the side of the road. The engine would not turn over yet there was plenty of gas in the car. We had the car towed to the shop to determine the problem. It turns out my son had not checked or changed his oil. He had not followed the owner’s manual maintenance schedule. The engine had completely seized up. Do to the age of the car and the estimated cost of the repair, the car was sent to the scrap yard. This was an expensive and difficult lesson learned.
Do you know that we have a spiritual owner’s manual? Sadly, too often it is buried deep in our glove compartment. We would be well advised to dig it out and dust it off. It contains vital information to insure smooth operations. In it we have been promised that if we follow the directions we will have joy in our life. Look at this statement from John 15:11 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” So what is it that Jesus told us? Let’s check our owner’s manual. But first let me expand on my car analogy.
Are you familiar with the term OEM? It stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer. The company that manufactures the car provides the owner’s manual. They know what is needed for the car to run smoothly. For example, when we buy a car, the OEM manual tells us to:
o Change the oil every 5,000 miles to lubricate the engine
o Rotate the tires periodically to allow even wearing
o Keep coolant in the radiator to keep the engine from overheating
o Change the tires when they get too thin to maintain road control
o Take the vehicle in for its 50,000, and 100,000 mile checkups to monitor and correct a whole host of things.
God is the OEM for all of mankind. He designed us to be joyful and fulfilled. He provided an owner’s manual for us in both what He has handed down through our church and in Holy Scripture. Too often this owner’s manual is viewed as a list of “thou shall nots” as if God doesn’t want us to be joyful. Just the opposite is true. His owner’s manual should be seen as a list of “thou shall do” these things in order to enjoy the joy that He has in store for us.
God knew before He created us that we would screw up and make mistakes. This happens because He created us with free will. This means we have the opportunity to ignore the owner’s manual. When we do, there are consequences! Remember what happened to my son’s car when he chose to ignore the manual. God knows that the consequences of our mistakes (sins) could last a lifetime, maybe an eternity.
If we ignore our car’s owner manual, bad things happen. The car breaks down on the freeway; the wheels slip on ice or blow out causing an accident; the engine blows up, etc. The same is true with respect to God’s guidance and instructions.
God’s instructions are not designed to make us miserable in this life in exchange for happiness in the next. Rather they are designed to optimize the potential for us to be joyful and fulfilled in this life AND the one to come. They are for our own good. Just look at the consequences in today’s world when people ignore the OEM manual. They certainly are NOT experiencing joy in this life.
Now let’s go back to the earlier point about having joy in our life. What does the owner’s manual tell us is necessary to insure our joy? The most important page in our owner’s manual is short and to the point. It is essential that we pay close attention. Here is what Jesus says: This I command you: love one another.
So there it is, in black and white, written in the owner’s manual. If we want to keep our spiritual engines well-tuned and running smoothly we MUST FOCUS ON LOVING OTHERS! Are we doing that?
If you are not experiencing joy in this life ask yourself this question: “Am I too focused on me?” Jesus promises us that if we focus on loving others our joy in this world will be complete. With this assurance, let us increase our commitment to love others like God loves us.
Dear Heavenly Father, please teach me to love others as you love me so that my joy may be complete, amen.
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