Until We Get There
Peggy slammed the back door as she stormed out of the house. Anger consumed her as clamored down the steps towards her car. “This is it,” she raged. “I’ve had it with him. He’s not a Christian and he doesn’t want to be and I do. I don’t want to live this way for the rest of my life. I’m leaving for good this time.”
I looked over from my gardening chore as my own thoughts reflected on speaking similar words at one time or another in my life. Then a burden hit me as I watched this poor soul speed off to a destination she probably didn’t even know. Feelings of sadness hit me as we consider our experiences of today and see them as unsolvable. Even as Christians we struggle with the here and now and never consider eternity as part of “the rest of our lives.” We use the phrase so freely exercising its meaning to be one of ‘from here to my death’ and not ‘from here to eternity.’ It’s as if eternity exists in this present life; this is it…the final act in the theater of life. Why do we see our struggles as eternal and eternity as something unobtainable? We allow life to wrap eternal chains around our necks and cry for mercy to a God who suffered much more than us…yet we think we got the shorter end of the deal.
My head shook in sadness as I quietly prayed for this poor child and her husband. If only she would just hold on to God’s Word I thought; although realizing that sometimes it seems easier said than done. I repented of my own lack of faith at times in the one God who had already handled my burdens at the cross. He didn’t offer freedom from pain, he offered a hope through faith that one day our struggles would be no more…one day…in our life we would overcome, because of the blood of the Lamb, and live with Him in eternity. Before we join Him we too will have to carry our cross if we are to reign with Him. We too must endure hardship and scorn.
My thoughts wandered to a history lesson of the early Roman times where the men and women of faith endured many more hardships than we do today, yet their faith didn’t waiver. They never gave up for they knew that one day they would be free of the chains…in their minds they were already in heaven. How much easier it is to take the scorn of an unbelieving spouse, the ridicule of a co-worker, or to be stricken with cancer, to be focused on something bigger and better than the here and now. I remembered the words of Tertullian which still rang in my mind:
“The leg doesn’t feel the chains when the mind is in heaven.”
When Paul was in prison chain in shackles he focused his mind of what was to come…his eternal freedom…and not the chains that were on his feet. Soon his focus on the hereafter set him free from the chains that had him bound in his current situation. Paul carried his own cross.
Today, especially in America, we have no idea of true suffering for the sake of Christ as in other less fortunate countries. However we learn that there are other situations that cause us to carry our cross besides enduring persecution. We may endure a marriage to an unbelieving spouse, obey unbelieving parents, or work for an intolerable boss, or what about the sickness one must face when they didn’t expect the news. Through these situations we may experience emotional and physical suffering; however we must remain focused that there have been brothers and sisters who have endured so much more, and our eternal promise of a better life.
This is not saying that a person should remain in danger if physically harmed or threatened. The point being made here is that we tend to give up the fight too early instead of bearing our burden. We tend to think that what we, and only we, are going through this and are suffering for Christ just as He suffered. When our thoughts have wandered to this we’ve lost the point of His suffering. The things we go through and suffer through are everyday problems…Christ’s were not! He was scorned, beaten, spit upon, and the list goes on and on. These were not every day problems…This was suffering so deep that we will never fathom its depth as long as we are alive in this age. Some have suffered this type of persecution and boldly took a stand, without shame, for Christ and died for the cause. These didn’t back down, nor did they complain. Like the words spoken by Tertullian they focused on heaven forgetting their chains. Only until we experience our eternal Kingdom will we fully understand.
So let me focus back on Paul. Who, while in chains, never focused on his present situation. The Christians of the Roman times, who were the first church (also known as the early church) didn’t focus on their present situations. They focused on ‘the rest of their life’ with their Savior, Jesus Christ, in an eternal Kingdom which was brought to them through the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul didn’t think it strange that he was going through these trials, he rejoiced! He knew the rest of his life would be spent with his Jesus…
Galatians 6:9 tells us not to become weary in doing good for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Jesus told his disciples in Luke 18:1 that they should always pray and not give up. Hold on for we must endure our own cross and suffer as He suffered if we are His children (Rom 8:17). Why? So we may share in His glory. Until we get there lift up your head and rejoice, for your redemption draweth nigh. Focus on Heaven and your chains will be loosed from today. Selah!