I'm sitting here typing on my laptop, spinning once and a while in my desk chair, wrapped in my fuzzy blanket. Pretty soon I'll get in one of my family's two vehicles, and race to my dance studio, where I will practice within a great community of girls and teachers, preparing for our next performance. Then, after a couple hours, I'll drive home, open the fridge, and find some supper to eat. I'll shower, read for a while, do some last-minute homework, talk to friends online, brush my teeth, get ready for bed, and then sleep for 7-8 hours. In the morning my alarm will go off, and I'll head to school where I will be given knowledge by teachers who do their best to impact me in a positive way. I'll read, take notes, wrestle with mathematical concepts, enjoy times with friends, and then it will be the weekend.
I am living, quite truthfully, the ideal life. I look around my room and am baffled by the comfort and luxury that I get to live in. I have the entirety of information known to man at my fingertips. I have college funds growing in a bank account, and scholarships just waiting to be applied for. I have two part-time jobs that I enjoy. I have hot water, electricity, and utilities at my disposal. With extra funds we've repainted my room at least three times, and have spent the leftover cash on pictures, posters, lamps, and other meaningless decorative objects.
Judging from the things I own and the opportunities I have, I am living a dream. You are probably reading this on a computer screen, or a mobile device. You may be sitting at your desk, lounging on the couch, eating a snack, getting ready for bed, or just passing the time. We are living lives of conveniences. Addicts of consumerism.
If you were to come back one evening after going out to dinner or to the movies to find that your home had been robbed, how would you react? Everything you owned, your electronic devices, your appliances, your clothes, your furniture... what would be your response? How much value do these things hold in your heart? Would the police find you angry, distressed, mournful, or despairing? Would they find you raging over how awful the thief must have been, and how urgent it is that they be found, and your belongings returned? Or would they find you at peace, reacting mildly in the face of misfortune?
Lately, I have been trying my best to figure out what makes Christians different from the unbelievers. I am sad to say that it was a hard thing to pinpoint. Can you answer that question right now? What do you think should make a Christian's life noticeably different from the rest of the world's?
I think the answer is a big one, and can't be perfectly summed up in one idea, but here is what I believe to be a big part of what sets us apart. Christians do not live for themselves.
He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good,
seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers.
But He will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves,
who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness.
That is a bit of a scary thing for those of us living in First-World "paradise." The very fact that we think lives lived in these wealthy countries are lives lived well is a bit of a warning light to us as believers. God's Name is being abused. His Word is being distorted. He is being shunned and cursed, and blatantly refused. Granted, He is also being worshiped and praised and followed... but do we label first-world countries as 'desirable' because of their Spiritual health, or because of their economy and opportunity for wealth?
Keep your life free from the love of money,
and be content with what you have, for he has said,
"I will never leave you nor forsake you."
In other words, the very presence of God is more than enough to keep us afloat. Should our homes be robbed or burned to the ground, should we be fired and blackmailed, unable to find employment anywhere, should the stock market crash and leave us bankrupt... His presence would be more than enough.
A life lived in constant hunger for wealth is a life wasted. A life lived in God's presence, however, is a life that will be rewarded with everlasting perfection.
Notice how all of the characters in the Bible that we consider to be role models had a certain common denominator. They lived not for themselves, but for God. The characters that we admire, the ones that we strive to be like... they gave up their lives in obedience to God. Abraham, Noah, Moses, Joshua, Elijah, David, the disciples, Paul the Apostle; these are the people that we teach children about, because they lived the true 'ideal' life. Not ideal in the eyes of man, but in the eyes of God.
What about the characters that we teach not to imitate? Cain, Joseph's brothers, Jonah, Judas... their stories are always read with the knowledge that we must learn from their mistakes, and not try to live like them. Why? They are most well-known for the actions they took that were in their own favour, and therefore, against God. Jealously, selfishness, cowardice, greed, these are traits that we all have, but are seen in the stories that are highlighted for these Biblical characters. They are seen to be living for themselves. While some mended their ways, others died trying to make their own lives better.
Obedience to God's law is not what makes us right with Him... but if we believe in everything that Christ has done for us, then what reason have we for not obeying Him?! If we truly believe that Jesus gave His own life to pay the price of our sin, that why would we continue to live contrary to His will? Why would we continue to live a life trying to please ourselves? It makes no logical sense.
Francis Chan's rope illustration explains in a very compelling way the importance of living a life in complete service to God. We have a few decades; a handful of years on earth. The things we do now reflect where our heart resides. If we have placed our worth in the things of this world, and go about life thinking only about the money we need to make, the jobs we need to have, the things we need to own, the places we need to go, and the fun we need to enjoy... then we have put all of our time and energy towards the 80 or so years we have to live here. If may be a great lifetime, pleasurable and peaceful... but that is all the pleasure and peace we will get to experience, because God will "pour out His anger and wrath on those who live for themselves."
The people who have sold everything they own to donate to the poor, the people who have given up their livelihoods to go live among the poor and destitute, the people who have opened their homes to needy strangers and have gotten nothing in return, the world would say they are crazy. Stupid. Foolish. Not thinking properly. Being too hasty. However, they do these things because their mind is not set only for the 70-80 years on earth, but the infinite years that come next!
Whether our life of service is peaceful or fraught with suffering, and even if we are tortured and killed for our faith, the eternity we will get to spend in God's kingdom vastly outweighs any earthly grievance. In fact, they are incomparable.
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal
to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will
reveal who his children are.
So if you lose your home in a fire. Where have you set your heart? Would such an event give you a miserable outlook on life, consuming your thoughts? Or do you see your possessions as what they truly are? They aren't ours, they belong to God. He is leasing them to us.
Everything we own, we can choose to use them for their original purpose- glorifying their true Owner. We can spend them in the service of God, and risk a few decades of hardships and struggles before entering into a Kingdom of Paradise that we will life in forever...
...Or they can be used to build up a life of ease and luxury, and reap an eternity of regret.
You do the math.