Summary: A truly beautiful life is a life lived through surrender, submission, patience and transparency to God on a mission to bless God and to bless others.
As I have shared with some of you, in the midst of the pain and grief of Michael dying, I found great comfort in reading and praying the prayers of the Puritans. There is a book titled, “The Valley of Vision” – it is a compilation of prayers by Puritan authors. Within these prayers, not one breath was wasted, not one word lost. Each letter and space and phrase has meaning and purpose and are prayers of the likes I have rarely heard. Each prayer took me from the place of my misery and lifted me into the throne room of the Lord. I consider these prayers an act of grace from the Lord for in a time when I did not feel like praying, the writers of these prayers carried me along with their words. In a time when others’ words could not comfort, God Himself, through these prayers, comforted me.
“Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory. Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision. Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine; let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley.”
I began to wonder about the authors. Who writes prayers this deep? I began to reflect upon their theology and ponder their remarkable faith and the lives that they must have led. I began to ponder the paradox of faith displayed in the Valley of Vision which led me to think about this world and how it stands in complete contradiction of what God intended. This led me to reflect on God’s view of beauty compared to the world’s view of beauty and I came upon James 1:11:
“For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes.”
And that’s it. All that the world calls beautiful will perish. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to pursue something that perishes. Summer’s favorite flowers are tulips. They are beautiful! If you are ever in Dallas, TX in April, go to the Dallas Arboretum. You will see thousands upon thousands of varying tulips and it is absolutely breathtaking! But it only lasts 3 weeks and then, pfffttt, its gone. All that beauty, all that work to plant all those bulbs – it almost seems in vain. Such is the life spent in pursuit of the world’s beauty.
I’m going to do something I don’t usually do – I’m going to give you all the answers to the fill-in-the-blanks on the message notes right up front, ahead of time. For those of you who are note takers, get your pens ready, here are the five marks of A Truly Beautiful Life found in James 4:13 – 5:18