Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Colossians 3:1-2
My dad is a widower with increasingly challenging health issues. I phoned him the other day, asked the standard question. “How are you?” I could hear him smiling over the phone after he gave me his unexpected 89-year-old response.
“Well, I’m still vertical.”
Hit me. I dare you.
I laughed out loud, silently thankful he was not the opposite. The man is still vertical, not because there’s still the breath of life in him, but because his heart and mind are set on things above, not on earthly things.
I considered the week I’d had. No shortage of disappointment, spiritual attack, an endless list of responsibilities…my heart at times feeling like a punching bag at Mickey’s gym, pummeled by Rocky Balboa. And I wondered,
“Am I still vertical?”
“C’mon, hit me again. I’m still vertical.”
I’m a huge fan of the Rocky films. In each one, the southpaw suffered repeated blows to his body. After falling down, he’d crawl back to his feet, stay in the fight, and go the distance shouting a triumphant, “Yo, Adrian!”
“Yo, Adrian! I did it!”
And so it was with many of God’s people. David’s three mighty men (II Samuel 23:8-12) kept both their hearts and their stance in an upright, vertical posture despite enemy threat and all out warfare. The chief, Josheb-Basshebeth, with spear raised high, killed eight hundred of Israel’s enemies. Next to him stood Eleazar. Though the men of Israel retreated from the Philistines, he remained standing, striking them down until his hand grew tired and froze to the sword (vs. 10). And, finally, Shammah. He took his stand in a field full of lentils and struck down the Philistines after fellow Israelites fled the scene.
In each case the Lord brought about an authentic ‘I’m still vertical’ victory.
And Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Daniel 3). Man, talk about vertical. Despite the proclamation for all in Babylon to fall to their knees and worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s 90-foot gold statue, they refused to dishonor the Lord. Choosing to remain vertical earned them time in a fiery furnace.
“These three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.” (vs 23)
Wait, they fell? No longer vertical (Insert classic game show diminuendo, ‘wah wah wah’)
But hold up a sec… King Neb saw, “four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
Pretty amazing. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego fired to their feet – no pun intended – and were seen walking among the flames, joined by the presence of God. All four just chillin’. And still quite vertical. The outcome of being cast into the furnace really didn’t matter to these guys anyway because they’d already set their hearts and minds to vertical, worshipping the One and only true God.
Stephen, after being stoned for having proclaimed Jesus Christ as the Righteous One, prayed, “Lord receive my spirit.” Then fell on his knees (Acts 7:59-60). Makes me think he stayed vertical while being struck with stones.
So how am I? Pummeled in places but still vertical, keeping my heart and mind set on things above. And adequately prepped for life’s next right-left jab.