Ikigai; February 13, 2023

1 Thessalonians 3:8 For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord.

The Japanese of this verse uses an expression that I have recently seen taken up in multiple English articles, pointed out because there isn’t an equivalent English expression. Ikigai essentially means “a reason to live,” in other words, something that gives meaning to life. Frankly, a sad number of people seem to lack this. What Paul is talking about here is the sense that his efforts had born fruit, that he hadn’t labored in vain. That’s important for anyone. Countless people come to the end of their lives and realize their priorities had been all wrong and thus their accomplishments were essentially meaningless. People who prioritize career over the people closest to them often end up in that boat. Fathers who are “successful” but have no real connection with their children are in this category, as are women who place career ahead of motherhood. Dennis Prager has a question he often asks: “If you could have a guarantee of one or the other, would you choose a successful marriage or a successful career?” It’s not that both are impossible, but that only one is guaranteed. The fact that he gets about half of one answer and half of the other shows how skewed society’s priorities are. Paul wasn’t married, but his priority was raising up disciples for Jesus Christ, so hearing that the believers in Thessaloniki were standing firm was indeed an ikigai for him. He knew that they would outlive him, which gave meaning and continuity to his own life.

Of course this applies to me. Japan is known as a “graveyard for missionaries” because the “return on investment” seems so low, and indeed many missionaries have given up and left. I’m grateful my parents didn’t do so, and actually chose to be physically buried in this country, though they happened to die in the US. Yesterday’s message was an encouragement to me, though I was the one speaking it. As I said, in over 40 years of being a pastor, in the US and Japan, I don’t know that I have led as many as 40 people to initial commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord. However, my gifting and calling is as a Teacher, and I have indeed led numbers of people to greater commitment and maturity in their faith. Considering the size of this congregation, the number of ministers that have gone out from here is rather remarkable. Beyond that, there are many lay people who are very secure in their faith, and that is precisely what Paul is talking about here. I do indeed have an ikigai for which I am very grateful. I am sharply aware that it is not because of my own strength or wisdom, but because God has been so gracious as to work through me, often enough in spite of me! I am to focus on faithfulness, and leave the results up to Him.

Father, thank You for this reminder, and for encouraging me through the message yesterday. I do pray that everyone under my care would grow strong in their faith and relationship with You, for the sake of the Body of Christ and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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