While vacationing in Coldwater, Michigan, my nineteen year old son recommended we all go see the animated movie “Up” so we followed his advice and headed over to the local theatre. The movie was excellent and had many deep themes running throughout, themes we discussed for a while afterwards. However, it was the main theme that reminded me of a Christian concept that so many of us find difficult to grasp.
The lead character, 78 year old Carl Fredrickson, is about to see his lifelong home demolished to make way for a construction project. Carl has nowhere else to go but to an assisted living residence, so instead of succumbing to the inevitable, he ties thousands of balloons to his house and lifts it up off its foundation. Meanwhile, the assisted living employees, waiting outside Carl’s door so they could move him, watch Carl and his house rise up above all the issues below. Carl then proceeds on a journey high above the earth to find a site in South America where he and his deceased wife often talked about traveling to but never had the opportunity.
In reality, tying thousands of balloons to a house probably would not lift it off its foundation, but I loved the thought process! Carl knew the only way to get out of the bind he was in was to go “up.” The world below just didn’t look all that great anymore to him so he set his sights on a higher goal.
I reflected, “Isn’t that what God asks us to do in our Christian walk?” Colossians 3:2, 3 reminds us, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Over the past few months, the Holy Spirit has really been trying to teach me this truth but I’ve found it very difficult to apply in my own life. It isn’t easy to live above our problems and to focus our eyes on Christ. It is much easier to dwell on what is wrong and let it sidetrack us from doing the Godly work we are called to do. I find that as I try to grasp the spiritual balloon that will take me “up,” there is something or someone holding onto my leg to draw me back down. It is a constant battle and a struggle that only Christ can enable me to overcome.
I think of the Apostle Paul, who we can use as an example of someone who looked “up.” In 2 Corinthians 11: 24-28 Paul relays to us his struggles below: “Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters, in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. And besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches.” Paul had good reason to not set his sights on what was above, but he managed to do it, despite the suffering and hardship he faced on the earth. In Philippians 4:4, Paul encourages us to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice.” In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for rejoice literally means to “spin around with glee!”
So how do we rejoice like Paul did? How do we look “up?” We must remember that one of the main reasons we are here on this earth is to tell others the good news about Christ and the salvation he offers us. If we are so bundled up in our problems, the message will remain buried below and will not rise up. We have to pray each day for God’s Holy Spirit to fill us and enable us to “set our minds on things above.” We must also pray for protection from the one that wants to hold us down. We can do it! We can live above the trouble below. Let us grab hold of the balloons of faith and as they lift us up, we can watch our problems become very small in comparison to the great eternal reward we look forward to as Christians.