In the last four months, I’ve biked over 650 miles. Regarding legwork, I’ve traveled from the northern border of Missouri all the way down to Louisiana. But, I haven’t gotten anywhere. Although I burned calories and toned my leg muscles, I accomplished little else. I saw nothing of the world and didn’t help anyone along the way. I couldn’t cheer on the fellow sojourners because I was alone, holed up in my house.
Now obviously, I’m not arguing against home exercise equipment. This illustration stands as a metaphor for something more expansive. If I don’t get outside of myself, living only for my comfort and gain, than I have missed the purpose of living. I am merely an empty woman waiting to die. In his book, Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper says, “…making self the object of our highest affections is not best for us. We waste our lives when we do not pray and think and dream and plan and work toward magnifying God in all spheres of life. Long for your life to have eternal significance.
Recently, Beth Moore spoke out against the dangers of not only the prosperity gospel (which isn’t the Gospel at all), but also the comfortable American way of “doing Christianity”–the pampering gospel. She reminded followers to pick up their crosses and follow Him, wherever that leads and whatever it requires of us. Don’t make this life an idol. “The health, wealth, and prosperity ‘gospel’ swallows up the beauty of Christ in the beauty of his gifts and turns the gifts into idols” (Piper, 72).
Because God promises us eternal Eden when we leave this world, we don’t have to worry about building heaven here and now. We don’t need the newest cars, the best vacations, the latest technology, or the most trendy clothes. We don’t have to wrestle for power, money, comfort, or acclaim. We shouldn’t focus on pleasing others, but pleasing the Lord. We can spend our time sacrificing for His glory–not our own.
“Daily Christian living is daily Christian dying. The dying I have in mind is the dying of comfort and security and reputation and health and family and friends and wealth and homeland. The way we honor Christ in death is to treasure Jesus above the gift of life, […] faith itself must include at its essence a treasuring of Christ above all things” (Piper).
How can this mentality not become a depressing burden? Simply this: when we understand the brevity of this life and the stretch of eternity, we joyfully give up our honors and gifts for the delight of what will be. We long for others to share in the bliss and come to the truth of Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit equips us with perspective-aligning vision, helping us to release our hold on things and instead offer our hands in service to Him. We are living for another cause than ourselves–another world and another God. This world won’t understand, but our hope and joy will demonstrate the everlasting beauty of what Christ has done in us.
Ted Dekker recently published two books: A.D. 30and A.D. 33. Through these narratives, he explores what the Bedouin people might have thought of Jesus and his ways, even without an understanding of Jewish culture/custom. Although everyone hoped for a savior that would wipe out the powering authorities and equip them with their own government, in the end, some came to realize that true freedom comes from within–a gift no one can snatch away. Regardless of the oppression, culture, poverty, or death, liberty could be attained. And because of that spiritual understanding, a life sacrificed in the arena could be faced with bravery–even joy.
“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body,whether by life or by death.21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.” ~Philippians 1:20-21
“Not one man has ever sacrificed for his Lord without being richly repaid. If the cross is only contrasted with earthly pleasures lost, it may seem hard and threatening. But when the cross is weighed in the balances with the glorious treasures to be had through it, even the cross seems sweet.” – Walter J. Chantry