Joy and Pain
Inspired from study of Acts 8:21-25
If you know anything about me, you are knowledgeable to the fact that choice is a big theme I like to touch on and, from the philosophical perspective, I am still of the persuasion that the basis of ALL created life came from choice and subsequently all life that comes after, must too, be the result of choice. We as people are constantly making choices, consciously and subconsciously, that affect not only our present time, but our future time; and not just our future time, but the choices we make now even seep into the realm of the eternal. Let's look at Jesus' Words in the gospel according to Matthew 6:19-21, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” How can this be? The choices I make now and the things I do as a result of those choices are of eternal significance to God Almighty? This points not only to a temporal significance that we have as beings but an eternal one; both a life that we can esteem because of the immediate fruit and gratification we can receive from our efforts, and another that we can esteem because it is a perfected and glorified life devoid of all of this world's impurities. These impurities are not intrinsic to this temporal realm in which we currently exist in, but rather, are a result of the fruit created from choices made by imperfect beings, for when imperfect beings also are given the ability to choose, the only result they can create at best is an imperfect world. This brings me back to the theme.
What are you going to choose today?
We see what Simon chose. Not long after he had received salvation, yet before his reception of the Holy Ghost, Simon saw what the power of God could do in this realm and, having no idea of the eternal implications of what was happening, he saw an opportunity to profit. Think about it. Here is a man who was, no doubt, considerably powerful, wealthy, important and secure in every earthly way. Think of the modern day Beyonce or Bruno Mars. What earthly issue could they face that they could not surmount with the vast resources and influence they have? However, this Simon walked away from his Bruno Mars type status in exchange for kicking it with popular homeless men; he walked away from city-wide fame and fortune, red carpets and fine dining in finer clothes, to, “in all things being content”... He hadn't learned how to do that yet. Maybe he thought he could “help” the apostles. I mean, they were doing it all wrong. If they had truly tapped into the divine power of God they should maximally capitalize and turn that into immediate comfort and well-being, I mean, there's nothing wrong with that right? Wrong. That conclusion is a bitter poison that runs through the veins of the contemporary body of Christ. To think that you are responsible to create a better life for yourself or that more comfort here for yourself or others trumps the divine will and call of God is a lie that has brought the collective body of professed believers into a generally ineffective and almost dead congregation of people on a negative growth path.
I get it. Walking away from life's comforts and pleasures is a painfully hard thing to do. I've done it on several levels, walking away from a successful pursuit of becoming a medical doctor to take up a spiritual calling, even leaving the comfort of a nice, 2 bedroom home (which I was about to have to leave anyway and was trashed from other relatives “getting there things out of there”) for to follow God's call to embark on an incredible experience of living with Him in some grossly untouched wilderness, it is a painfully hard thing to do, but the fruit you gain from a such faithful and faith-filled sacrifice can only be described as supernatural.
However, it seems as if the “deny himself” part Jesus said before he said “take up thy cross and follow me” in the gospel according to Mark (chapter 8:34-38 and in the other synoptics as well) was never uttered, inane words dribbled off the mouth of a divine God who is so intentional he counted the number of hairs on your head, the number of stars in the sky, the grains of sand on the sea shore... No, that can't be. Those two words mean something. They have to, but how is that translated in the resolve of the 1st world Christian; a Christian who doctrinally is taught the greatest commandment and the second like unto it somehow implies a third that is nothing like the first two; a Christian who then forsakes a true submitted relationship with the first (God); controls the outpouring of love to the second only enough to appease their own conscious (which, arguably, is not outpouring love at all); and puts the majority of their life's efforts in creating a comfort they believe they somehow deserve, are entitled to, or claim God wants them to have because, “I have to love myself to understand how to love others...” Logically that doesn't even make any sense. Yeah, right, God wants your single behind to have “peace of mind” in a two bedroom house while one of His children is sleeping naked outside? God wants you to lavish on vacations to “recharge” and “rest” for your continued “service to the kingdom” while He persistently calls us to the mission field of evangelism? God wants YOU to experience some pleasurable and convenient luxury for the sake of your “tastes” and your “cultural norms/mores” over His desire that every man, woman and child experience Christ? I wouldn't believe that even if it were in a bible. That's not the heart of God speaking; that is the heart of man. A heart so depraved and desperately wicked that it will pervert the truths of the Bible in order to conduct and engage in its own, belly-filling practices.
Now, I don't believe that God wants us to be “miserable,” the equation a typical first world Christian equates with giving up all of the needless luxuries we enjoy, and I know for a fact that giving up all of those things and desires for truly adopting the desires of the kingdom gives far much more in return than one could ever attain through plush leather seats, nice homes, or luxurious vacations, and that “far much more” can be summed up in one word, purpose. Achieving the goals one sets for themselves can only temporarily create a satisfaction of fulfillment and purpose for the limitations of the human mind make it impossible for us to create a reality in which something that will always hunger (carnal man) hungers no more. However, when the Christian truly gives up the pursuit of their own goals and desires and brings himself or herself to a place of complete submission to God; to follow after Him; only move when He directs, only eat when and where He guides, that individual will always and without fail find three things:
Challenges (trials/tribulation) Triumphs Growth
Notice I did not mention or leave room for failures or disappointments. This is because when the Christian experiences what the world considers “failure” they have not failed at all, as long as they are in the will of God. Furthermore, to the Christian, God is the measuring stick of failure and success so as long as you're in His will it is impossible for you to fail. But walking with Him will bring periods of great pain, lament, rejections, inconvenience, and crucifixions, however, we can be assured that every tear we cry and every midnight hour we endure will work together in the end for God's glory and the good of the body of Christ.
So don't get bitter like it seemed that Simon did when you realize the great sacrifice God is calling you to as a Christian (especially a 1st world Christian), rejoice and know the sufferings of this present time pale in comparison with the joys we shall soon behold and our only purpose while here, is to make sure as many people as we can be used to touch make it to that beautiful day, there.