Monday, December 13, 2010


"VITA" read the sign. It is the Latin word for life, and there it was--in large, enthusiastic letters . . . on the wall of the catacombs—the sewer system tunnels under the city of Rome where early Christians hid from persecution.

Life! What kind of life could one possibly have in a smelly sewer?

Probably the same life we’re all looking for: internal vitality and joy. When we think of our favorite things—is it the things themselves we’re seeking, really? Or is it the fulfillment and joy they give us?

We set our hearts on the next cruise, a new home, a chic outfit, a husband or wife, a baby, chairmanship of the board, a blue ribbon at the fair, or a best-selling book. Why? We desire the pleasure, delight, love, or fulfillment that they offer. So we continually run after one more experience for one more moment of feeling really alive and joyful.

It reminds me of Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well in Samaria. He told her that if she asked of him, he would give her water that would spring up eternally—unlike the water for which she had to return day after day to the well.

It was that eternal, living water that welled up inside the early Christians in the catacombs. It did not come from external sources, so changing circumstances could not cut off its supply.

Okay—but there is a mystery here. They had turned to Jesus, been born again and filled with his Spirit—but so have many of us. Why were they so much more full of life than we?

Here’s their secret: They had weaned themselves from a merely earthly lifestyle. They were living for Jesus and for his kingdom. In order to follow Jesus, they had turned loose of all they had once thought was necessary for happiness. In the process they had found greater and more constant life and joy than they had ever experienced before.

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it (Matt. 16:25).

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ . . . But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matt. 6:31, 33).