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Tuck

Christian Living



William Powell Tuck, a native of Virginia, has been a pastor in Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana and North Carolina. He has also been a seminary professor and has taught adjunctively at several colleges and at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. He is the author of seventeen books, including Our Baptist Tradition, The Compelling Faces of Jesus, The Lord’s Prayer Today and The Ten Commandments: Their Meaning Today. He received the Parish Pastor of the Year award from the Academy of Parish Clergy in 1997 and an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from the University of Richmond. He is married to Emily Campbell and is the father of two children and has four grandchildren. He resides in Midlothian, Virginia.

Facing Life’s Ups and Downs

All of us have known anger, fear, depression, anxiety, or other dark times. Coming to grips with our moods or the low places of life can seem insurmountable, but Christians need not give way to despair or feel hopelessly determined by moods or circumstances. In Facing Life’s Ups and Downs, William Tuck makes the important connection between religion and daily living. Our Christian faith is not reduced to worshiping on Sundays and participating in private devotions, as important as those disciplines are; our religion is about how we relate to God and other people. Our faith can help us deal with circumstances that try to twist and distort our perspective, bearing us safely over the angry current to the shore on the other side. We follow a Lord who said he came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Christ offers us life at its highest and best. As we turn to him for support and guidance, we discover a resource that undergirds and sustains us in the most difficult and trying times. Our faith strengthens us to meet the struggles we confront.


Chapter 1

LIFE GETS SO DAILY

A medical doctor spoke to a friend one day, saying, “There is a disease which no knife or drugs can touch.” “Oh, you mean cancer,” the man responded. “Oh, no. That’s not it,” the doctor said. “We are going to get that devil or devils one day. I mean boredom.” It is astonishing how many people suffer from boredom. We hear young people say, “Oh, I’m so bored!” But this problem is not confined to the young. Sooner or later, most of us discover that much of life is monotonous, routine, and daily. We must repeat certain tasks again and again. Young men and women dream of going to college to pursue lofty educational goals. At a distance, the pursuit of knowledge seems like an exciting adventure. Then they go to school and realize that their education entails sitting in class and listening to lectures week after week, reading book after book, writing paper after paper, and taking test after test. The pursuit of knowledge grows routine, monotonous. Some people dream of becoming doctors, lawyers, bankers, dentists, teachers, accountants, or some other kind of professional, and they launch their preparation to get the proper academic credentials. After they complete their preparation, however, they soon discover that they must follow certain routines every day and week to accomplish their jobs. For many, no matter how exciting their jobs seemed at the beginning, soon they become monotonous and daily. Some people dream of getting married. Before they wed, they drive miles to see their loved ones, covering each other with roses and


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affection. Everything seems marvelous. Then they get married, and the monotony of life sets in. They discover the necessity of daily chores. Babies arrives, and there are diapers to change, washing and ironing to do, food to cook, dishes to clean, garbage to carry out, a yard to cut, and a hundred other jobs to complete to keep the household moving. The routine changes a couple’s perspective from Fantasy Island to Kroger and Sears and Roebuck. Marriage gets tough and daily.

BOREDOM: A CAUSE FOR PROBLEMS Boredom may be the root of many problems in our society. Out of a deep sense of boredom with their lives, some people turn to alcohol for excitement and eventually become alcoholics. They can’t deal with the routines of life. Many young people become delinquents and begin lives of crime because they are bored. “I have nothing to do,” they say. Many marital affairs are a result of one partner becoming bored with marriage. Their everyday existence is so routine that they can’t stand it. They seek to find excitement in their lives someplace else.

A PESSIMISTIC VOICE The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes seems familiar with the problem of boredom (3:1-11). From his vantage point, life is hard. This pessimistic writer declares, “All is vanity and vexation of spirit.” This is a cry of the boredom born out of despair. Others have fallen into the trap of seeing life as too daily and boring. I saw a postcard that showed a snail on top of a large ball. The inscription on the card read, “Slowly but surely I’m getting nowhere!” A lot of folks feel that way. In a Hagar the Horrible comic strip by Dik Browne, Hagar’s wife stands over him while he sits in a chair with a mug of beer in his hand. She holds a bucket in one hand and a mop in the other. A large basket of dirty laundry is behind her. “Remember how you said I’d live a life of luxury as soon as your ship came in?” she asks. “Yes,” Hagar responds as he drinks with his feet propped up. “It sank, didn’t it?” she


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observes.1 Many people think their ships have sunk. I saw a “Dead End” street sign where someone had written the words, “What isn’t?” Many people see everything in life as a dead end. They ask, “What is the point? Life is so routine, monotonous, mundane, and daily. What is the point?”

THE POSITIVE APPROACH (JOHN 4:3-39) We all struggle with the problem of boredom at some time or another, especially as we get older. John’s Gospel speaks to this issue. In John 4, Jesus had to go through Samaria. The words “had to go through Samaria” in John’s usage is a theological description, not geographical. Jesus could have bypassed Samaria, as most other Jewish people did. In the country of Palestine, Galilee lies at the north and Judea is situated in the south. Samaria lay between these two regions on the 120-mile strip of land. Because of their hatred of Samaritans, most Jewish travelers went around Samaria instead of “through” it. As Jesus traveled through the area, he came to the town of Sychar and sat down at Jacob’s well, the city’s water supply. A Samaritan soon came to get water from the well, and she and Jesus began a conversation. This passage teaches us four lessons about overcoming monotony: the need to wait, the importance of routine, the significance of a different perspective, and the result of a changed life.

THE NEED TO WAIT First, notice that Jesus waits by Jacob’s well. He simply waits. Why did Jesus wait? For one thing, he was tired. His disciples went into the village to see if they could find food. In speaking of Jesus being tired, John clearly depicted the human nature of Jesus. John earlier declared, “The word became flesh.” Jesus got tired because he was flesh; he was human. I think there is a greater truth in Jesus’ waiting as well. Jesus’ waiting reminds us that the God we worship is a God who can wait. Look around, and you can see the patience of God. One of the symbols of modern society is the digital camera. We want our pictures instantly.


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We want everything instantly. We have difficulty waiting. Not God. God is a God of infinite patience. People walked on oil wells in the days of Abraham. Electricity has always been available to us. The cures for many diseases are at our fingertips. The secret for what we want or need to know is all around us. But the eternal God doesn’t give us a glaring word and say, “This is the cure for cancer,” or “Here is the oil,” “This is the supply of gas,” “Here’s how to use electricity.” God is silent and waits for men and women to make these discoveries. God waits! God knows that you and I cannot be creative and develop into mature individuals if God gives us everything without any effort on our part. God is a God who waits. Dr. Wayne Oates, the noted counselor and author, served for many years as a part of our staff at St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Dr. Oates said he used to stand by the water fountain in one of the halls at church “waiting” for folks to come by. He stood waiting, like Jesus beside the well in Samaria, and folks would come by and speak to him about their problems. He waited in order to help. Unlike Dr. Oates, most of us are not good at waiting. We want everything in a hurry. Consequently, we miss much of life. God created the universe so that life within it moves slowly. In nature, the flow of the ocean tides, the budding of trees and flowers, the cycle of the sun, and the change of seasons move at a slow, measured pace. The essential routine cannot be rushed.

THE IMPORTANCE OF ROUTINE Second, notice that while Jesus waits by Jacob’s well, a woman comes to the well in her routine way. In the day of Jesus, getting water was a woman’s daily task. People didn’t have running water from a tap, so women went to the city well daily to get water for drinking, bathing, cooking, or any other purpose. Our lives, like this woman’s life, are filled with ordinary, mundane tasks and habits. We spend much of life in repetitive functions. Think about your life. You sleep at night. The next morning, you get up. You fix your meal and eat it. You brush your teeth, and you go


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to work at home or someplace else. After work, you return home and rest, play, do chores, or watch TV. You eat your evening meal and maybe take a bath. Then you go to bed and go to sleep, and the cycle begins again. There is routine to life. Many people also have monotonous jobs. Suppose they refused to do these daily tasks. Suppose my father, who worked for thirty years at the post office delivering mail like the other federal employees, decided not to deliver it. We would have chaos in the mail system. Suppose the people who stock the food in our grocery stores decided not to purchase more food. Suppose the farmers decided not to raise crops. What kind of world would we have if our bankers; electric, gas, or oil companies; accountants; carpenters; farmers; doctors; teachers; secretaries; and television personnel decided not to do their daily work? Many people question the importance of their labors in light of what is happening in the world around them. It is interesting to note, though, that the men and women who have made the greatest contributions and discoveries are those who worked faithfully at their assigned tasks day after day. Edison didn’t sit down one day and say, “I am going to discover something that will change the world.” His discoveries were the result of his routine work day after day in his laboratory. He worked week after week and year after year, with thousands of failures as well as a few successes. A writer may labor year after year with one rejection slip after another until finally her work is published. Individuals who labor at their responsibilities day after day without recognition or praise carry on the real work of the world. The same goes for body functions, God in the ordinary, and the ministry of the church.

The Daily Functions of the Body Have you ever thought about your own body and its marvelous functions? We are alive because our hearts continue to beat daily. In addition to the large and obvious parts of our body, many small parts, some even microscopic, enable us to function effectively as people. The tiny optic nerves in our eyes are so small that we can hardly see them, but if those nerves are severed, we lose our vision. The nerves to


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our teeth are tiny, but many people know well the pain of a toothache. The small membranes inside our ears enable us to hear as they respond to sound waves. Microscopic bacteria cause the decomposition of the soil as they go busily about their daily tasks. The lowly earthworm tunnels its way through the earth, letting in moisture and air. A tiny sperm fertilizes an egg and a new life begins. The atom, which is visible only under a microscope, is the source of the greatest energy known to humans. From that tiny source comes spectacular power.

God Incarnate in the Ordinary Isn’t it interesting that when God chose to come incarnate into the world, he did not pick the palace of a king, the seat of a great ruler, or the home of a wealthy person? He entered the world as a baby, born to parents who lived in a poverty-stricken part of the world. When Jesus taught, he drew figures from the common places of life and the ordinary experiences of people. Few have talked about commonplace, ordinary things as he did. Look at the images he used—farmers, seeds, birds, sheep and shepherd, flowers, yeast, a widow’s coin, a cup of cold water. He employed images drawn from ordinary, common life to describe God’s kingdom and God himself.

Church Ministries How is church work carried out? Is it done by a few hired professional ministers? The church’s ministry is done by every single Christian who finds his or her place to work within the routine of church. It is done by teachers who teach year after year, ushers who find their place of service, and individuals who work on committees, sing in choirs, or care for small children while others worship. The work of the church is done by those who find a place of ministry in service through the routine and ordinary functions of the church. The Christian faith is carried forward by the daily commitment of the followers of Christ. When everything we do seems ordinary, we lose our awareness of its uncommon significance. Some of the most essential parts of life are


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affected by people like you and me who labor daily in the ordinary, common tasks to which we are assigned or have chosen. Jesus has reminded us, “He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much” (Luke 16:10). There is also a saying that “if you will do a small thing as though it were a great thing, God will enable you to do a great thing as though it were a small thing.” William James, the noted Harvard professor, penned these words years ago: “I am done with great things and big things, great organizations and big successes, and I am for those tiny, invisible, molecular forces which work from individual to individual creeping through the crannies of the world like so many soft rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, but which if you give them time will rend the hardest monuments of men’s pride.”

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE Third, notice in John 4 that when the woman comes to Jacob’s well in her ordinary, customary way and meets Jesus as he waits, she gets a different perspective on life. Our text notes that this woman came at noon, which was not the normal time women came to get water. John’s account reveals that the woman had been married a number of times. Perhaps the other women ostracized her, and she came in the heat of the day to avoid them. We cannot be sure about this, but noon was certainly an unusual time. The woman, however, almost missed the message of Jesus. At first, she was perplexed. She probably wondered, “How can you possibly draw water? This well is about a hundred feet deep, and you haven’t got a long rope to let down a leather bucket so you can get water.” She didn’t know how Jesus could possibly give her water to drink. Stranger still, Jesus, being a Jew, spoke to the woman and asked if she would give him water. She was shocked because Jewish people usually stayed away from Samaritans. According to Jewish custom, Jesus, a rabbi and a man, should never speak to a woman in public when she was alone. This could cause him disgrace. But Jesus wasn’t concerned about these traditions. He broke through the barriers and spoke to the woman who had deep needs.


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Next, she tries to start an argument, like many people do when they want to avoid a serious discussion about religion. Unfortunately, this takes place often in our churches today. Too many church members engage in destructive behavior about religion and the church. It is a shame that instead of following Christ in the way we think, worship, and live, we spend more time arguing than anything else. “Well, we worship God on this mountain,” the woman says, “but you Jewish people say we ought to worship in Jerusalem. I think we are right. What do you think?” Jesus refuses to get into that kind of argument. I was in a conference recently, and our leader, Ken Haugk, noted that every negative, critical comment a person makes in a church requires seven positive comments to correct it. Imagine how much effort it takes a congregation to correct the damage of one or two critical or negative people. The reason churches often fail to grow is because some people are so argumentative. “If I can’t get my way, then I won’t support the church.” Perhaps the woman at the well expected something spectacular when she encountered the strange man at the well. Like her, some people miss Jesus’ point because they want the spectacular. They can’t stand the ordinary routine of life. They want everything to be theatrical, or it’s not good enough for them. This was one of the temptations Jesus faced with the devil. “Climb up to the top of the pinnacle of the temple,” the devil told him, “leap off and float down, and everybody will believe in you then” (Matt 4:5-6, author’s paraphrase). But Jesus rejected the temptation of theatrics. Most of the time when Jesus performed a miracle, he told the person he cured, “Do not tell others about this.” Jesus did not want to use spectacular means to reach people. Indeed, that is not the way God has worked through the ages in the lives of people. He has worked slowly and inconspicuously. C. S. Lewis, in his book Screwtape Letters, depicts the senior devil instructing a junior devil on how to turn people away from God. “Keep pressing home on him the ordinariness of things.”2 Many are not able to find a different perspective on the ordinary. For the Samaritan woman in John 4, the ordinary well actually became a shrine. There in an unexpected, ordinary place, she met God. In a totally unexpected, ordinary place where she came week


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after week, she met God. Jesus led her to a new perspective on her monotonous life. Keith Miller wrote about a friend of his who decided he would visit the great religious shrines to see if he could discover something about various groups’ experiences with God.3 He visited Aldersgate, where John Wesley’s heart was strangely warmed. He went to Wittenberg and found the spot where Martin Luther had a dramatic experience with God. He visited numerous other places, but he found nothing spectacular in any of them. He discovered that these “shrines” were ordinary, common places. He preached a sermon titled “Any Old Bush Will Do,” based on the text describing Moses’ experience on the mountainside where he tended sheep and encountered God in a burning bush. God can turn any place into a shrine. While Moses cared for sheep on the side of a mountain, suddenly a common bush began to burn, and in that experience, Moses met God. Isaiah went into the temple to worship God as he had week after week, and suddenly he saw God high and lifted up. Jacob fled from his brother and laid down to sleep at night in the wilderness. While he slept, he dreamed—a vision of God. Jeremiah took a walk and saw a boiling pot and later a potter at work. Through these images, he had a vision of God’s activity with the nation of Israel. Paul traveled to Damascus, and suddenly he had a vision of Christ. These experiences were all in ordinary places and at ordinary times. God can turn the most commonplace, ordinary things into something spectacular as he seeks to communicate with us. You may be sitting quietly by the ocean when God’s spirit slips into your life. God might speak to you while you type at your desk, stand over your workbench, labor in your daily job, read a book, take care of your baby, sit in church, or walk hand in hand with your husband or wife. God can slip into your life in the ordinary, routine places, and they can become shrines. “Once the ordinary has revealed its mystery,” Charles Cummings observed, “the skies may open for us.”4 Elizabeth Barrett Browning reminded us in Aurora Leigh, “Earth’s crammed with heaven / And every common bush afire with God. / But only he who sees takes off his shoes” (7.499). The mistake we make is thinking


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God is confined to a building like our church. But God is everywhere, longing to give us a different perspective on what we view as ordinary. Those who learn to see God in the ordinary places will find the shrine of his presence all around them.

THE RESULT OF A CHANGED LIFE Fourth and finally, note that the Samaritan woman’s whole life changed because of the kind of water she received. This came as a totally unexpected gift. She had no idea of this stranger’s resources. We, too, have access to the kind of water Jesus gives. 1. Living Water. Jesus wanted to give her “living water.” Jesus said, “The water I shall give you . . .” (v. 10). This water is a gift from God. We cannot earn it. This is a gift we receive. This water is grace—a living gift from God. 2. Spiritual Water. The woman would have no need of a long rope because this water was spiritual. Jesus would open the well within her own life. “It shall be in her,” he said (v. 14). Wherever we go, as well, we can have this water. It is in us if we receive it. 3. Ever-flowing Water. This living water was an ever-flowing stream. “The water that I shall give her shall become in her a springing fountain” (v. 14). This spring of water provides such joy and radiance that no matter where we are and regardless of our circumstances, we have resources to nourish us. 4. An Everlasting Supply of Water. This water was an everlasting supply. “Those who drink the water I give them will never be thirsty again” (v. 14). Like the woman, we will never thirst again when we have Jesus’ water. When the woman discovered who Jesus was, she became a witness, a missionary, an evangelist. She told others in the village about this Christ she had encountered. “Come see if this isn’t the Christ,” she said. Her life was changed.


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ONE PERSON MAKES A DIFFERENCE A number of years ago at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, some students in a sociology class discovered a survey that conducted twenty years earlier about a poor section of the city. The survey concluded that all the young people they interviewed would eventually lead lives of crime. Twenty years later, this class went back to the neighborhood to learn what happened to these young people. To their surprise, they discovered that not a single youth interviewed in the survey had become a criminal though they had lived in the worst poverty conditions. Why? One woman whom they called Aunt Hannah had touched their lives on a routine, almost daily basis. Some of these young men and women were now doctors, lawyers, dentists, and teachers. Because one woman took an interest in them, their schoolwork, and their free time, she was able to influence their lives for good. Stop for a moment and consider your life. In your daily life of growing up, who made the greatest difference? Was it a parent, a brother or sister, a friend, a teacher, or a minister? Somebody touched your daily life and made a radical difference. This was likely not a spectacular individual. Rather, in a quiet, steady, daily, and faithful way, he or she affected your life. Through that guidance, this person may have opened you to the grace of God. Who was it? Most of us can name an individual who led us to the fountain of life. Usually the person did it routinely and inconspicuously. Reflect on his or her influence today, and go and touch other lives as that person touched yours.

Notes 1. Dik Browne, Hager the Horrible, King Festive Syndicate, Inc., 1991. 2. C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (London: Fonta Books, 1956) 14. 3. Keith Miller, Habitation of Dragons (Waco: Word Books, 1970) 62–63. 4. Charles Cummings, The Mystery of the Ordinary (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982) x.


Tuck

Christian Living



William Powell Tuck, a native of Virginia, has been a pastor in Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana and North Carolina. He has also been a seminary professor and has taught adjunctively at several colleges and at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. He is the author of seventeen books, including Our Baptist Tradition, The Compelling Faces of Jesus, The Lord’s Prayer Today and The Ten Commandments: Their Meaning Today. He received the Parish Pastor of the Year award from the Academy of Parish Clergy in 1997 and an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from the University of Richmond. He is married to Emily Campbell and is the father of two children and has four grandchildren. He resides in Midlothian, Virginia.

Facing Life’s Ups and Downs

All of us have known anger, fear, depression, anxiety, or other dark times. Coming to grips with our moods or the low places of life can seem insurmountable, but Christians need not give way to despair or feel hopelessly determined by moods or circumstances. In Facing Life’s Ups and Downs, William Tuck makes the important connection between religion and daily living. Our Christian faith is not reduced to worshiping on Sundays and participating in private devotions, as important as those disciplines are; our religion is about how we relate to God and other people. Our faith can help us deal with circumstances that try to twist and distort our perspective, bearing us safely over the angry current to the shore on the other side. We follow a Lord who said he came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Christ offers us life at its highest and best. As we turn to him for support and guidance, we discover a resource that undergirds and sustains us in the most difficult and trying times. Our faith strengthens us to meet the struggles we confront.


Facing Life's Ups and Downs