I once knew a family [of four] who went to a country as undercover missionaries. They lived in a setting where it was illegal to share the Gospel and for people to change religions. After years of sharing the Gospel and hearing people refuse the truth, two women believed. These women were transformed by the Holy Spirit and people noticed. So much so, in fact, that they were taken before the religious court and commanded to deny their faith. When the women would not deny Jesus, their heads were shaved, they were publicly shamed and placed in a “reindoctrination camp”. Knowing that these women had association with the foreigners, a mob formed and intended to burn down the house of the missionaries. The missionaries had to grab what they could and fled the country for their lives. This family can now never return to this country. The national believers who were partnering with them had to go into hiding, and as of three years later no one had heard from the two believing women.
Here in the states we often take our religious freedoms for granted. We have been so indoctrinated with our rights that we are comfortable making this world our home and fitting our faith in wherever it is comfortable. Contrary to what you would expect, freedom has made us less committed to the cause of Christ. He is a hobby. Church is an activity. The Bible is just a book of suggestions and stories about what to expect after death. Because we really do not need it now, do we?
“For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.”
– Heb 13.14
We all know that when we go on vacation we are going somewhere temporary. We take the amount of clothes that we will need to last us the week, enough snacks and chargers for our electronics. But imagine that you were moving abroad for a year. Or imagine you were moving somewhere where you might get chased out at any moment. What sorts of things would you take with you? Just the essentials. You would not take things of great value, because if you had to leave at a moment’s notice, you would not be able to pack, ship or take care of these things. They would be lost.
Now, consider your comfortable home. What if you were chased out of that residence into which you have poured your time, effort and money?
Scripture teaches us clearly that this world is not our home. We are even called to live as aliens and strangers in this world.
Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.
– 1 Peter 2.11
There are three distinct examples which we should consider in the story above. The first is the women who gave everything for their faith. They were publicly shamed, their clothes destroyed, their heads shaved and their freedom taken. The second example is the nationals who gave everything in a different sense that they went into hiding for the sake of not being placed in jail. The last in the missionary family who left all of their personal belongings in a country where they could not be retrieved along with the heart of their ministry: friendships, work, all of the effort spent in learning the language.
To what extent would you be crushed if any of these three things happened to you, as it relates to your personal belongings?
We are often encouraged by motivational speakers/posters/facebook posts to live today like it were our last. But yet we all know that the practicality of needing money to eat and a place to sleep prevents us from truly doing so. But how would your mindset change towards your house, your car, your comfort, if you know that it was a distinct possibility that you might have to give it all up tomorrow? We would buy the things that we need and no more, right? We would invest in the things that help us survive, but probably strongly consider making investments into valuable toys and comforts. Do you need a tempurpedic memory foam mattress on which to sleep? Or will that regular pillow top one be good enough? Can you leave that fancy living room set behind? Or would it be easier to abandon the sofa and chairs for a fraction of the price? Is it worth all of that time and energy to move walls, update appliances, and buy fancy toys? Or are your needs already met?
My husband and I bought a foreclosure which – to put it nicely – had not been taken care of. We spent many many hours making it liveable and fortunately were able to make it what we wanted it to be (there is still much that needs to be done…). But there will come a day when we will leave that house, either by choice, by force or by death. And the test for us is – with what attitude will that happen? Are these our golden handcuffs that keep us from following God? Would the forced loss be devastating? Or is it a means to an end? Is it a place to live so that we can serve God fully? Is it a blessing by which we can bless others and from which we could happily walk away should God call us?
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
– Matt 6.24
He was clearly speaking about the temptations and lusts of wealth, but consider the topic more broadly. Yes, we can see where our hearts are focused by examining our checkbooks, but what about the things we value and in which we choose to invest?
We are aliens here on this Earth. And God has given us income, abilities and strengths to serve the Kingdom of God. Are you spending your income, abilities and strengths on things that will last? Or on things that will perish? What if it happened that you were chased from your home and country? Or if you had to go into hiding for your life and freedom? Or what if your very freedom and dignity was taken from you? Are you confident that you have taken the time to invest in those things which will not be lost? Have you set to mind the thins of eternal value that will sustain you in those difficult times? Do you remember that your home is waiting for you on the other side of death? Or are you comfortable here? Have you made your home here? Are you friends with the world?
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
– Matt 6.19-21