“And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him.” Matthew 8: 14,15*
Are you living life to your fullest potential? That’s a question we all need to ask ourselves from time to time. The woman in this verse got to live life to the fullest. Not only did she experience a miraculous healing but she also got to be a part of Jesus’s ministry while he was here on Earth.
Her family might’ve thought she was near death with the fever. But Peter wasn’t ready to “throw in the towel” just yet. He went and got Jesus to come and touch her hand.
At some point we’re all going to “step into eternity.” But, only God knows when that is going to happen. No one else does. Not even the doctors.
I got to hear a great example of this truth recently when I attended a high school get-together at a downtown park here in my hometown. I saw some of my former classmates sitting at our booth so I sat down with them and ate a sloppy BBQ sandwich that had a heap of coleslaw added to it and was spilling out of the bun.
We all were catching up with each other while waving to others who were milling around. We were having a great time listening to a band that was “rockin'” out some classic Rock-n-Roll tunes.
That’s when James “Jim” Raby sat down beside me. We had graduated together quite a few decades back and have crossed paths in our small town a few times since then. So we were just catching up on family, Sylva news, and so on.
Then, Jim showed me a picture of himself on his phone that a family member had taken a year or so back. In the photo he was lying on a hospital bed looking “white as a sheet” while being on a ventilator.
Jim told the few of us that were gathered there the entire story of how he nearly died while visiting his daughter and her family. I hope I’ve written all he told us and not left out anything. Here’s what he said as best as I remembered it:
He told us that while he was visiting his daughter in Alabama he had fallen ill. He had only gone there to visit her, but ended up staying longer than he had anticipated.
Since he has other health problems, his daughter admitted him to the hospital where he could get the care he needed. Well unfortunately, his health went from “bad to worse” quickly. Within a few brief days his children were called in to say their final goodbyes.
Jim’s a Christian and he apparently had some prayer warriors there in the hospital room, also. But even so, they felt that they had prayed all they could and were ready to accept what seemed as the inevitable.
Early, on the morning that his daughter was preparing to say her final “good byes” to her dad she had a woman she knew from her church to visit her. The women believed she had a prophetic message for Jim’s daughter.
This woman brought with her a vial of anointing oil. After the two women prayed together she poured the oil over Jim’s daughter’s head. Then told her to take her Bible, go pray for, and read the scripture over her dad in his hospital room one last time.
When his daughter walked into his room she asked that everyone else including the medical staff leave her alone with her dad. Jim told me that she began praying and reading the Bible as she had been directed to do by her early morning visitor.
Within that time frame he began improving. A day or two later he left the VA hospital. When he had fully recovered he drove himself all the back to Sylva, NC, which is about two hundred miles from his daughter’s house.
Of course, he was told all this by his daughter while recovering at her house. He was clearly out of it by the time that picture was taken that he had showed us.
We all need to ask ourselves “Am I living my life to the fullest?” I know that my friend Jim is, I am, my dad is, and all of my family is. My dad is blessed with good health, walks unaided, and has a clear mind. He’s a great example of living life to the fullest.
We just celebrated his 95th birthday at my daughter, Ruth and her boyfriend Dennis’ house. We had a big crowed of cousins and other relatives there. You can see some of the pictures of his birthday party on my Facebook page: Patricia Jordan, Sylva NC.
One of my hobbies is to explore my ancestral roots. And since I live about fifty miles from where my American ancestors lived most all their lives, sometimes I go looking for their headstones to gain the “when” information. But I only know of the “how” they lived by recalling and listening to all the family stories I’ve heard throughout my life. I hope their lives were as fulfilling as what I’ve heard they were.
Each and everyday you and I live is a day we are adding to our overall life’s story. Our individual actions, if used in positive ways can bring others as well as ourselves enrichment and fulfillment.
A great example of this is when my older sister Carol helped our brother Gene during his last year of life. It wasn’t easy and sometimes it didn’t go smoothly. He could be a cantankerous bachelor that was use to doing things for himself at times. But, she did a wonderful job of taking care of him full time while keeping up with her husband and his health issues at their house some fifty miles away.
Our brother Gene was dying of bone cancer, which had at first been misdiagnosed as muscle ache. He actually had lung cancer that went un-diagnosed, so that metastasized into bone cancer. By the time we all knew what his health status was we all got busy making his life as comfortable as was possible.
Our other brother, David mowed both yards. Dennis and Ruth came over and put a wilderness camera outside so we all could watch raccoons and opossums visiting his yard on a laptop. Our other sister Deena came over and changed his morphine patch at 5:00 am. Our mother is deceased. But, my stepmother Sue and our dad visited him. Jeff and I did what we could. We all did something or sometimes we simply visited with Gene.
Carol did the most though. She moved in and slept on his couch for about four out of seven days at first. But later, she stayed there full time. Carol drove him to all his appointments, got his medications, cooked their meals. She made sure that we had an occasional cookout at Gene’s house, helped him get his flower bed sowed with his favorite annuals, and they planted beans together. Gene lived long enough to set in the Sun, enjoy his flowers, and he even ate those beans too!
We’re all living our own life’s history every day we breathe. Are you happy with where you’re at, at this point and time in your life? If not, then what would make you happy?
I hope you’re not thinking “Oh, if only I had more money in my banking account, then my life would be perfect.” There is an old axiom that applies to that idea. It goes something like this: “The more you make, the more you spend.”
A better question to ask yourself is, “Am I content with how my life is turning out? How about my career choices? Are my talents, skills, and / or intellect being fully utilized in what I’m doing?” Not every job requires our talents. But all jobs require our intellect.
Ultimately, we need to occasionally ask ourselves, “Is my life fulfilling? Or am I missing something in the ‘big picture’ of it all.” I’ve spent most of my adult life not working outside the home. I’ve been mostly content with that decision. But, I had wanted to do finish college someday. And so I did when my children were teenagers.
I became a non-traditional college student and attended night school for two years while we lived in Sumter, SC. I graduated Coker College in Hartsville, SC in 2000. We had moved to Sumter from Turkey when my husband Jeff was still in the USAF in the early nineties. We stayed a few years more after his discharge so our girls could finish high school there. I got restless, so I decided to get my degree I had always wanted.
I thought I might become a Social Worker when I graduated. But, in the end that type of work exacerbated my dysthimic depression, so I’ve found other activities to do that have kept me involved and engaged. My volunteerism and my other activities have made me feel fulfilled and overall contented.
By now I’ve learned the truth of what the Apostle Paul wrote, “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Philippians 4:11b
Most of your life is up to you. Now there are some ideas that are just not going to work for you or I. But, I’m okay with accepting my limits.
My concern is how I’m living my life, starting today. And I hope you’re thinking about your life as well. Choosing to live a fulfilled satisfying life is better than chasing after things that become dated as soon as you get that shiny new thing. Or perhaps you’ve chased after a relationship that turned out to be toxic in the end. The list of us going after what we thought would make us happy is endless.
Some relationships may not be for us. Many tangible or intangible things you or I might want will not lead us into living a fulfilled life. What or who will then?
Start by having a relationship with Jesus. Ask Him to come into your heart and help you in making those tough decisions in life.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20
Earthly relationships need to be as meaningful as possible. But, we need to remember that our relationships have their limits as to what you, or I and the other person can bring into the relationship.
Now let’s take a brief look at my intro verse. It says a lot in such a few words.
It’s about Peter’s mother-in-law receiving a miraculous healing. Just like my friend Jim did. Or like my dad who has survived two near fatal heart attacks. But, there’s more there than the obvious. Lets look deeper.
This verse is multilayered with lessons for life on each layer. Let’s look at what she did after her healing. Now, unfortunately, we don’t know her name, but countless people all over the World are still doing what she did and only a few are ever known by name.
After her healing she showed her appreciation to Jesus by promptly serving him. Now this act of service may have been expected of her. But still, Jesus didn’t heal everyone he walked by. And this happens to this very day. He didn’t heal my brother Gene, even though we all prayed for him to be healed.
We can’t explain it, we just know that sometimes healing happens and sometimes it doesn’t. What I can say, though is that year of helping Gene every way we could brought us all closer together. That’s worth more to us than what any of us could describe.
Now, back to looking at this verse. Sometime prior to this healing and visit, Peter, his brother Andrew, along with John and James left their fishing business to follow Jesus (Mt 4:18-20, Mk 1:16-18, Lk 5:10,11, Jn 1:40-42).
We don’t know whether it was a year or more between the “calling of the disciples” and the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law’s healing. What we do know is that a special bond had formed between Jesus, and three of his disciples: Peter, John, and James.
These three disciples are listed as being with Jesus the most often. They became his inner circle and is mentioned several times in the Gospels. The closeness between Jesus and these three is seen best at the transfiguration (Mt 17:1-8, Mk 9:2, Lk 9:28). Later, after traveling with Jesus for three years it was Jesus who forgave Peter when the disciple denied even knowing him (Mt 26:69-75, Mk 14:66-72, Lk 22:54-62, Jn 18:15-27). Not long after that, Jesus commissioned Peter to feed His flock (Jn 21:15-23).
So relationships that are patterned after the relationship that Jesus offers us are the best ones to seek after. It’s in those kind of relationships that we’re loved for who we are. And where we’re not condemned by those who say they love us and that we love them. That is what makes life fulfilling. John’s Gospel says it best in these two short verses:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16, 17.
We only read about Peter’s mother-in-law in Matthew. Her brief bio reveals to us how to live a fulfilled life, though.
We don’t know if she traveled with Jesus like many did, what we do know is that she attended to his needs and to all the others in the house. Gifts of service seems to be one of her talents. It’s part of a fulfilled life.
It’s clear to me that her role was not only to serve but to be served. She could’ve chosen to be the “center of attention” with the healing she’d experienced. But, she chose to be a servant instead.
People who exercise their gift of service rarely want to be in the spot light. They are the type of people who go about their day making others’ lives as comfortable as possible. Receiving a well deserved “Thank you” is always appreciated by these people who are more comfortable with serving than seeking the limelight.
Jesus, himself, taught this very concept of service:
“It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26).
Part of any meaningful relationship is to receive as well as to give. And since she lived with her daughter and son-in-law her gifts of service would’ve been greatly appreciated by them.
In turn, she became an integral part of their family. Peter was so concerned about her health, that he believed she needed a touch by none other than Jesus, himself. And that’s just what happened.
This illness was preventing her from doing that which was within her abilities and gifts to do. But, Jesus cared about her health and her overall welfare more then her service to him. This shows that we can’t work our way into having a relationship with the Savior.
After he healed her he spent time with all that were gathered there. Most houses back then consisted of only one or two rooms so all there got to listen to Jesus.
Having meaningful relationships and being fully engaged in whatever our gifts and talents are is a main part to living our individual lives to the fullest. This is what brings satisfaction and fullness to our lives as well as to others around us.
*All Bible verses are from The English Standard Version (ESV).