For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14)
Zealous for good works. That phrase has been rolling around in my head a lot lately.
In the middle of December, my 95-year old Dad slipped on the ice in his driveway and fractured his ankle in 2 places. Since then he’s been in an emergency medical facility, then the hospital emergency room, then in a hospital room then in a skilled care facility. He’s been to the surgeon’s office, then again in the emergency room this past Sunday morning and back into a hospital room. My poor Dad has endured and endured and sought to remain cheerful in Jesus and glorify him through all this. I hope I can do as well should I ever go through anything like he’s going through.
But I’ve also been thinking about the hundreds of people who have cared for Dad. Of course the surgeon and doctors who did the big repairs on his ankle, prescribed all his medications and made the big decisions. But as I’ve walked the halls of the hospital and Dad’s care facility I’ve been especially affected by the many who serve the suffering in inglorious ways. Ways no one sees. Ways that few appreciate. Ways that receive little or no thanks. Ways like washing up patients who are incontinent, changing diapers on the elderly, cleaning up gross messes, lifting someone to help them feel more comfortable, feeding someone a bite of food at a time, doing a craft with an elderly person, singing an old time hymn to a group in their wheelchairs, shaving and washing the hair of someone who can’t do it for themselves.
One night an aid cleaned up a patient who’d had serious bowel problems. It took quite a while. Then 5 minutes later the patient had more bowel problems and the aid had to come back and clean them up all over again. It was obviously miserable for the patient, but I couldn’t imagine having that aid’s job and doing this all day long, day after day. I stopped her later and said, “I know you probably know this, but you are doing so much good to these people. I don’t know how you do it. I couldn’t do your job.” She said you just get used to it. She also said she had 11 patients under her care that night and she didn’t get any down time. I just shook my head and tried to convey how grateful I am for all she and the other aids and nurses do.
Most of the ways God calls us to serve are inglorious and insignificant. But God tells us to be “zealous for good works.” Zealous – anxious – passionate about – earnestly desiring to do – good works. Good works that no one sees. Good works that involve getting dirty. Works that make us gag and retch while doing them. Works that no one thanks us for.
I’ve had to do a few challenging things in caring for my dad. I can’t say I’ve been zealous. I want to be. I’m praying and asking Jesus to make me zealous for good works. Even when they don’t appeal to me. Even when I just did them and have to do them all over again. Jesus, make me zealous for good works. Even when they are tedious and boring. Even when I’d rather be doing something else. Even when they make me uncomfortable. Even when I’m not good at them.
I remind myself that on judgment day, Jesus will reward those who give a cup of cold water to someone who is thirsty. Those who feed a hungry person or visit someone in jail. Because whatever we do to the least of these, we do to Jesus.
Lord Jesus, make us zealous for good deeds as we wait for your appearing. Won’t it be incredible the day Jesus returns if he finds us cleaning up after someone, or changing your child’s diaper, or playing catch with your teenager or making tea for your grandma? May he find us all doing good. So do good today. Do as much good as you can, in any way you can. Do whatever good you have opportunity to do. Ask Jesus to give you joy in doing it. And look forward to your reward.