Christ's Interest in Our Common Life.
One of our Lord's after-resurrection appearances vividly pictures his loving interest in our common toil. While waiting for him to come to Galilee, the disciples had gone back for a time to their old work of fishing. They were poor men, and this was probably necessary in order to provide for their own subsistence. Thus fishing was the duty that lay nearest to them. Yet it must have been dreary work for them, after the exalted privileges they had enjoyed so long.
Think what the last three years had been to these men. Jesus had taken them into the most intimate fellowship with himself—into closest confidential friendship. They had listened to his wonderful words, seen his gracious acts, and witnessed his sweet life. Think what a privilege it was to live thus with Jesus those beautiful years; what glimpses of heaven they had; what visions of radiant life shone before them.
But now this precious experience was ended. The lovely dream had vanished. They were back again at their old work. How dreary it must have been—this tiresome handling of oars and boats and fishing-nets, after their years of exalted life with their Master! But it is a precious thought to us that just at this time, when they were in the midst of the dull and wearisome work, and when they were sadly discouraged, that Christ appeared to them! It showed his interest in their work, his sympathy with them in their discouragement, and his readiness to help them.
The revealings of his appearance that morning, are for all his friends and for all time. We know now that our risen Savior is interested in whatever we have to do, and is ready to help us in all our dull, common life. He will come to his people, not in the church service, the prayer-meeting, the Holy Supper only—but is quite as apt to reveal himself to them in the task-work of the plainest, dullest day.
There are duties in every life, which are irksome. Young people sometimes find school work dull. There are faithful mothers who many a day grow weary of the endless duties of the household. There are good men who tire ofttimes, of the routine of office, or store, or mill, or farm. There comes to most of us, at times, the feeling that what we have to do day after day is not worthy of us. We have had glimpses, or brief experiences, of life in its higher revealings. It may have been a companionship for a season with one above us in experience or attainment, that has lifted us up for a little time into exalted thoughts and feelings, after which it is hard to come back again to the old plodding round, and to the old, uninteresting companionships. It may have been a visit to some place or to some home, with opportunities, refinements, inspirations, privileges, above those which we can have in our own narrower surroundings and plainer home and less congenial intimacies.
Or our circumstances may have been harshly changed by some providence which has broken in upon our happy life. It may have been a death which cut off the income; or a reverse in business which swept away a fortune, and luxury and ease and the material refinements and elegances of wealth have to be exchanged for toil and plain circumstances and a humbler home. There are few sorer tests of character, than such changes as these bring with them. The first thought always is: "How can I go to this dreary life, these hard tasks, this painful drudgery, this weary plodding—after having enjoyed so long the comforts and refinements of my old happy state?"
In such cases immeasurable comfort may be found in this appearance of the risen Christ, that morning on the shore. The disciples took up their dull old work because it was necessary, and was their plain duty for the time; and there was Jesus waiting to greet them and bless them. Accept your hard tasks, and do them cheerfully, no matter how irksome they appear—and Christ will reveal himself to you in them. Be sure that he will never come to you when you are avoiding any tasks, when you are withholding your hand from any duty, or when you are fretting and discontented over any circumstances or conditions of your lot. There are no visions of Christ—for idle dreamers or for unhappy shirkers.
Suppose you have come back, like the disciples, from times of privilege and exaltation, and find yourself face to face once more with an old life which seems now unworthy of you; yet for the time your duty is clear, and if you would have a vision of Christ, you must take up the duty with gladness. Suppose that your home-life is narrow, humdrum, unpoetic, uncongenial, even cold and unkindly; yet there for the time is your place, and there are your duties. And right in this sphere, narrow though it seem, there is room for holiest visions of Christ and for the richest revealings of his grace and blessing!
It will be remembered that Jesus himself, after his glimpse of higher things in the temple, went back to the lowly peasant home at Nazareth, and there for eighteen years more found scope enough for the development of the richest nature this world ever saw, and for the fullest and completest doing of duty ever wrought beneath the skies. Whatever, then, may be our shrinking from dull tasks, our distaste for dreary duty, our discontent with a narrow place and with limiting circumstances, we should go promptly to the work that God assigns, and accept the conditions which lie in the lot which he appoints. And in our hardest toil, our most irksome tasks, our lowliest duties, our dreariest and most uncongenial surroundings, we shall have but to lift up our eyes to see the blessed form of Christ standing before us, with cheer, sympathy, and encouragement for us!
There is more of the lesson. Not only did Christ reveal himself to these disciples while at their lowly work—but he helped them in it. He told them where to cast their net, and turned their failure to success. We think of Christ as helping us to endure temptation, to bear trial, to overcome sin, to do spiritual duties—but we sometimes forget that he is just as ready to help us in our common work. That morning he helped the disciples in their fishing. He will help us in our trade or business, or in whatever work we have to do.
We all have our discouraged days, when things do not go well. The young people fail in their lessons at school, although they have studied hard, and really have done their best. Or the mothers fail in their household work. The children are hard to control. It has been impossible to keep good temper, to maintain that sweetness and lovingness which is so essential to a happy day. They try to be gentle, kindly, and patient—but, try as they will, their minds become ruffled and fretted with cares! They come to the close of the long, unhappy hours disturbed, defeated, discouraged. They have done their best—but they feel that they have only failed. They fall upon their knees—but they have only tears for a prayer. Yet if they will lift up their eyes, they will see on the shore of the troubled sea of their little day's life—the form of One whose presence will give them strength and confidence, and who will help them to victoriousness. Before his sweet smile, the shadows flee away. At his word, new strength is given, and, after that, work is easy, and all goes well again.
Men, too, in their busy life, are continually called to struggle, ofttimes to suffer. Life is not easy for any who would live godly. Work is hard; burdens are heavy; responsibility is great; trials are sore; duty is large. Life's competitions are fierce; its rivalries are keen; its frictions sometimes grind men's very souls well near to death. It is hard to live sweetly amid the irritations that touch continually at most tender points. It is hard to live lovingly and charitably when they see so much inequity and wrong, and sometimes must themselves endure men's uncharity and injustice. It is hard to toil and never rest, earning even then, scarcely enough to feed and clothe those who are dependent on them for care. It is hard to meet temptation's fierce assaults, and keep themselves pure, unspotted from the world, ready for heaven any hour the Lord may come.
It is no wonder that men are sometimes discouraged and lose heart. They are like those weary disciples that spring morning on the Sea of Galilee, after they had toiled all night and had taken nothing. But let us not forget the vision that awaited these disciples with the coming of the dawn—the risen Jesus standing on the shore with his salutation of love and his strong help that instantly turned failure into blessing. So over against every tempted, struggling, toiling life of Christian disciple, Christ is ever standing, ready to give victory and to guide to highest good.
Life would be easier for us—if we could realize the presence and actual help of Christ in all life's experiences. We need to care for only one thing—that we may be faithful always to duty, and loyal to our Master. Then, the duller the round and the sorer the struggle—the surer we shall ever be of Christ's smile and help. We may glory in infirmities, because then the power of God rests upon us.
It is not ordinarily in the easy ways, in the luxurious surroundings, in the paths of worldly honor, in the congenial lot—that the brightest heavenly visions are seen. There have been more blessed revealings of Christ in prisons than in palaces; in homes of poverty than in homes of abundance; in ways of hardship than in ways of ease. We need only to accept our task-work, our drudgery, our toil, in Christ's name—and the glory of Christ will transfigure it and shine upon our faces.
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