Hebrews 11:23-29 – Taking the Long View

Enslavement of the Israelites

By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. (NIV)

Faith looks ahead and sees as clearly as is right now in front of your face. Taking the long view of life, the mature person of faith can set aside temporary pleasure to attain a future hope. Moses, held up as such an example, refused to identify himself as the daughter of Pharaoh. He chose to be mistreated in solidarity with his fellow Israelites, instead of having a good time with his high position in the most powerful empire of its day. Moses knew that the treasures of Egypt were not as wonderful as what he would receive from suffering for the Messiah, and he looked forward to his reward.

It is an understatement to say that our contemporary society assumes practicing instant gratification. We want to feel good, and we want it now. Impulse control may just be one of the best life skills that kids (and adults!) need to learn today. A Psychology Today article effectively demonstrates through some classic and current research that “one of the most effective ways to distract ourselves from a tempting pleasure we don’t want to indulge is by focusing on another pleasure.”

For the Christian who desires to follow Jesus in all things, looking ahead to a future heavenly reward which will be shared along with all God’s people needs to be kept at the forefront of our thinking. If we only consider today, there are scant resources for responding to the temptations and fluctuations of life. However, if we will put some energy into clarifying and embracing our most cherished values, we will then let those values inform everything we do, or not do. In the scope of eternity, suffering a bit now is nothing compared to what Christ has yet in store for his people.

Deferred gratification causes us to live differently. In a twist of irony, folks who orient themselves toward the next world are able to effectively impact and change the world they currently reside within – whereas those who focus solely on this present world find themselves falling woefully short with their short view of life. We need the wisdom which faith provides us:

We are always confident, because we know that while we are living in the body, we are away from our home with the Lord. We live by faith and not by sight. We are confident, and we would prefer to leave the body and to be at home with the Lord. So, our goal is to be acceptable to him, whether we are at home or away from home. We all must appear before Christ in court so that each person can be paid back for the things that were done while in the body, whether they were good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:6-10, CEB)

Future hope, fueled by faith, gives shape to how we live today. It enables us to live in solidarity with those who suffer and are mistreated. It ennobles us to live above short-sighted desires and act on behalf of the common good of all persons in the here-and-now.

Lord God Almighty, the One who is and was and is to come, may we, along with your servant Moses, see the plight of all those who suffer in our midst. Give us courage and compassion to live in solidarity with the poor, the oppressed, the forgotten, and all who live with misfortune and misery. May our hearts, burning with love, bear the burdens of all in our care. And may our loving example ignite the hearts of others to accompany the vulnerable in their affliction. We ask this in the gracious name of Jesus through the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

God’s Goal for Your Life

maturity-quote-1

Have you ever considered the question: “What is God’s goal for my life?”  If you think about it, this might just be the most important question you ever answer.  If we are people created in the image and likeness of God (which we are) and if we were designed for a purpose (which we have been), it becomes vital and necessary to know the aim, trajectory, and goal for your life.

But first, let’s consider why we might be out-of-touch with the answer.  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Man and woman were the apex and the pinnacle of God’s imaginative activity.  Only humanity has within them the ability and the special character to connect with the divine in a special fellowship relationship.  Yet, the original man and woman fell from their place in paradise.  Now, in this current broken world that we live in, apart from God there is fragmentation, disconnection, confusion, and separation in our relationships and even in understanding ourselves.

A healthy way of looking at the entirety of the Bible is that it is a revealing of how God graciously and patiently is wooing his wayward people back to himself.  The ultimate fulfillment of this re-connection is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  In Christ, what was once lost is found; what was separated is connected; and what was scattered into a thousand pieces is being put back together again.

So, then, let’s get back to the question of God’s goal for you and me.  Since we live in a fallen world, we have the need to deal with sin, death, and adverse situations.  But we can take charge of our lives and face reality with a Christian life that thrives and flourishes.  The Apostle James, the Lord’s brother, put the matter this way:

“My friends, be glad, even if you have a lot of trouble.  You know that you learn to endure by having your faith tested.  But you must learn to endure everything, so that you will be completely mature and not lacking anything.  If any of you need wisdom, you should ask God, and it will be given to you.  God is generous and won’t correct you for asking.  But when you ask for something, you must have faith and not doubt” (James 1:2-6, CEV).

Within the words of James is a very important purpose clause or statement:  so that you will be completely mature.  What is God’s goal for my life?  Maturity.

“Huh? Really? Maturity?  You’re telling me that being mature is what God wants out all the things he could expect of me?”  Yep.  That’s right.  Maturity means to be a whole person, not fragmented, a complete and healthy person with body, soul, mind, and spirit all aligned together in a total package of wise living.

Maybe that sounds too far from your own experience.  Perhaps you feel that you are all over the place, as if you could never have it all together.  James isn’t talking about having it all together.  He’s talking about you and me submitting to the adversity and bad circumstances of our lives as teachers that will lead us to connecting with God.

When things are going great, it’s too easy to attribute it to our own ingenuity, ability, or intellect.  But when things are rough and there is no apparent way out, we need something or someone outside of ourselves.  Faith is a muscle that must be stretched and used in order that we will grow and develop.  Trials to our faith and hard situations are the means of strengthening such a faith.  The result is maturity, completeness, and wholeness.  It is about connecting with a generous God who won’t chide us for our messiness and problems.  God delights in connecting with you and answering your prayer.

It could be that this sounds a bit too tidy, like you can just talk to God and he will pay attention and respond.  No, it isn’t tidy.  Yes, he will pay attention and respond… in his own good time.  Sometimes we need to learn that having a plan and having clear proven steps to move forward is not what we really need – instead, we need Jesus, to connect or re-connect with him.  We need to return to the garden, to simply be with God in Christ – to enjoy him.  Maybe our circumstances will change, and maybe they will not.  But the point is that you will change, and that your perspective will be different.

So, what will you do today, even right now, to take charge of your life and make a step toward maturity and healthy wholeness?  In truth, you know exactly what you should be doing; you just need the courage and the push to do it.  Will you?…