The voice on the other end of the phone said, “Pastor Ray, I need to talk to you.” It was an old friend from Texas who was visiting his wife’s family in Indiana. Could they come by and see us? Yes, of course, we’d be delighted. My friend said he had a big decision to make and he needed some advice.
Then I remembered another time four or five years ago when Bruce had come to me with another big decision. Back then he was enrolled in a master’s degree program at a university in the Dallas area. But times were tough, he was out of work and almost out of money. Should he drop out of the program? I asked him one question: Bruce, what do you want to do with your life? When he told me, the answer was easy. Stay in school, do whatever it takes to get your degree, it can only help you get to where you want to go.
In time he got his master’s degree. Still later he joined the Dallas Police Department. Bruce was—and is—a cop. Not just a policeman. Bruce is a cop’s cop. Tough, no-nonsense, exactly the kind of guy you would want as a partner if you were a policeman and your next call was a drug bust in south Dallas.
Then about two years ago he began to pursue the last part of his dream. Bruce entered a Ph.D. program in Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University. There are two things you need to know about that: First, there are only four Ph.D. programs in criminal justice in the whole country. Second, the program at Sam Houston is considered by many people to be the best in the country and one of the toughest to get into. But Bruce made it and a year ago he began taking classes.
It has meant an enormous sacrifice. Bruce works five days a week as a policeman, then he sometimes works a second job and then he is often in classes the final two days of the week. It’s not easy and he doesn’t see the kids or Kathleen as much as he—or they—would like.
So far he is one-third of the way through the program and it’s far tougher than he imagined. But he has made all As and one B. And he was thinking about quitting because the sacrifice was too great.
I asked Bruce if he had a computer to help him write his papers. No, he didn’t, partly because of the cost and partly because he didn’t want to buy a computer if he was going to drop out of the program.
And so it went. We talked and I sensed that he and Kathleen had come to major crossroads. If he dropped out, he would forever give up the dream. But in order for him to stay in the program, he needed a new vision to make the enormous sacrifice worthwhile.
The turning point came when I asked him how his professors had reacted to his Christian faith. Oh, he said, I get along great with my professors and every one of them has thanked me for bringing that perspective to my course work.
When I heard that I slammed my hand on the table and said, “Bruce, I know exactly what God wants you to do.”
ON THE ROAD TO PIGNON
Before I tell you what I said, let me relate another conversation from another time and another place. This one took place in Haiti. It was our final Saturday and the team from Calvary had just visited the Citadelle. It is a national treasure, roughly what you would get if you combined the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial and the Statue of Liberty. The Citadelle was built by Henri Christophe, the first king of Haiti. It is, as the name implies, a vast fortress sitting astride a mountaintop overlooking the harbor at Cap-Haitien. The king built it in the early 1800s to ward off the French, from whom the people of Haiti had recently won their independence. So remote and treacherous was the location that 20,000 men died while building it.
We made the trip up the mountain, toured the massive structure and then hitchhiked down the mountain in the back of a dump truck with the Haitian army band. There were 58 of us—hot, grimy, sweaty, dead tired—packed like sardines into that dump truck. We hung on for dear life as the driver careened down the side of the mountain, sometimes coming a few inches from a sheer dropoff. The truck disgorged us at the bottom of the mountain and we climbed into a smaller pickup truck for the hour and a half trip back to Pignon. Ten kids climbed in the back, Caleb Lucien drove the truck and a woman missionary sat on the passenger side. In the back I sat on the left, Bryce Becker sat in the middle (sick as a dog) and Bonnie Bruce sat next to him.
Somewhere between San Raphael and Pignon Bonnie asked me when I felt called to the ministry. I told her that as a child my hero was Walter Cronkite and for many years I wanted to be a journalist. When I became a Christian after my junior year in high school, things began to change. I clearly remember pacing my bedroom floor the month after I graduated from high school wondering what God wanted me to do with my life. One night during that month I woke up in the middle of the night and said, “All right, Lord, if you want me to preach, I’ll be a preacher.”
That led to a long discussion about how churches today don’t hold up God’s service as a worthwhile way to spend your life. A generation ago preachers used to call for teenagers to surrender their lives to “fulltime Christian service.” Almost no one gives that invitation nowadays. As Bonnie put it, we assume our children will choose secular careers; if someone happens to opt for fulltime ministry, that’s okay, but it’s not our first choice.
(The October 8, 1990, issue of Christianity Today, p. 54, mentions an incident in writer Frederick Buechner’s life. As a young man, he attended a very posh dinner party on Long Island where his hostess said to him, “I understand that you are planning to enter the ministry. Is this your own idea, or were you poorly advised?” No doubt many sophisticated people feel the same way.)
TOO YOUNG TO GET MARRIED?
As we made our way along the bumpy dirt road, I brought up something that Jeff Collins (from Love & Action) said last June when he came to Calvary for the AIDS Awareness Sunday. It was one of the few truly revolutionary ideas I have heard in the last few years.
Jeff Collins said that we ought to encourage our young people to get married earlier. To say that is a stunning piece of advice would be a vast understatement. Before Jeff Collins said that, I had never heard anyone advocate early marriages. Everybody says the opposite—i.e., that early marriages produce early divorces and kids should wait to get their education first. But Jeff Collins was dead serious and whenever a serious person puts forth a revolutionary idea, you have to sit up and think about it.
As I understand it, this was his point: He believes that our modern emphasis on waiting to get married until our children have finished college (and started on their careers) is unbiblical, materialistic and unrealistic. It is unbiblical because the only reason to remain single is so that you can better serve the Lord (I Corinthians 7). It is materialistic because it puts money ahead of marriage. It is unrealistic because while our kids are waiting to get married, they aren’t waiting to have sex.
OUR KIDS AREN’T SAYING NO
On the last point, I think the evidence backs him up 100%. Our kids aren’t waiting to have sex. Many of them—perhaps most of them—are sexually involved before marriage (and not necessarily with their prospective spouses either). Several years ago Josh McDowell (in cooperation with youth speaker Dawson McAllister) took a nationwide survey of thousands of teenagers from evangelical churches. Here are the results (as summarized by John Nieder, God, Sex and Your Child, p. 19):
—By eighteen years of age …
43 percent have had sexual intercourse
39 percent see fondling breasts as morally acceptable.
32 percent see fondling genitals are sometimes morally acceptable.
65 percent have had some kind of sexual contact, from fondling breasts to sexual intercourse.
35 percent could not state that premarital sexual intercourse is always morally unacceptable.
Remember, these are the results from evangelical young people. They have been raised in our churches and (presumably) been taught that premarital sex is always wrong. But somehow the message isn’t getting from the head to the heart. The greater point is this: These figures are not significantly different from the figures for the general population.
In one sense, you can hardly blame our kids. After all, we live in a culture that glorifies sex. Apparently it is about to get worse. When the museum in Cincinnati was acquitted of obscenity charges for showing those perverted photographs and when 2 Live Crew was acquitted in Florida of obscenity charges, the message was pretty clear: There are no moral limits. In America, anything goes no matter how vile, how disgusting, how repugnant it may be.
While our kids are bombarded with sexual messages encouraging them to “Do it,” at the same time we are saying to them, “Don’t get married too young. Get your education first. Get a career first. Then get married.” No wonder our kids are confused.
Our kids aren’t getting married.
But they aren’t waiting either.
Too many of them are “doing it.”
That, I think, was Jeff Collins’ point. We know that the years from 15-30 represent the highest peak of the sexual drive—especially for boys. So at the very point of highest sexual pressure, we say “Put your education first and make sure you get a career started. Marriage can come later.” The result is that our kids put off getting married and at the same time far too many of them become sexually active.
Why? Is it not in part because we have given them an ungodly reason (get your education first and get your career started) to do a godly thing (abstain from sex before marriage)? Our young people can see right through that charade. They know that behind our pious words stands a very materialistic point of view. When we say that, we have made a false god out of education and career advancement and then begged our kids to “Just Say No” in order to appease our guilty consciences.
Let us be perfectly clear about the matter. God’s answer to uncontrollable sexual desire is marriage (I Corinthians 7:9). There is nothing wrong or ignoble about that fact. God’s answer to sexual temptation is marriage, not waiting until you finally get that B.A. degree and a good job offer from IBM.
When we put education and career above marriage, our kids smell the hypocrisy behind our words. They know that we are really saying, “Put your education and career first and don’t sleep around, but if you do, for God’s sake, use birth control.” After all, we wouldn’t want anything like a baby to mess up our career path, would we?
MAKING A CRUCIAL DISTINCTION
Believe it or not, after all this, we’re still on the road to Pignon. Caleb now spoke up to disagree strongly with Jeff Collins. He argued that early marriages too often lead to broken marriages and that single people can accomplish great things for the kingdom of God.
Those two points are unquestionably true. Were we to shift our view in favor of early marriage, it would require a major rethinking of the church’s role in preparation of our young people. But (and this is a big but) that’s clearly what happened in Bible times. Scholars tell us that Mary and Joseph were teenagers—probably no older than 14 or 15-years old. Early marriages were the norm back then. We have invented a new category called “adolescence” that did not exist until about 130 years ago. In the old days, when you became a teenager, you got married.
Caleb himself offers an excellent example of the second point. A native-born Haitian, he is a graduate of Washington Bible College and Dallas Theological Seminary (with two degrees). Several years ago he went back to Haiti to help his own people. And now at the age of 30, he is one of the up-and-coming leaders for the entire country. He is building a Christian camp, has a nationwide radio broadcast, and has plans to found a Christian college to train national leaders. Everywhere we went in Haiti, people stopped to talk to him. He is widely known and greatly loved.
And he is single. Yes, he wants to get married. He even has the land picked out for the home he plans to build for his bride-to-be. Yes, he dates and we saw pictures of his various girl friends. (Let’s just say he has a good eye for women.) In that respect, he does not believe he has the “gift” of singleness.
But Caleb believes he serves God more effectively now as a single person than he could as a married person because he can give all his energies to the work of the Lord. That’s basically Paul’s argument in I Corinthians 7:32-35.
How do you bring all of this together? First of all, Jeff Collins and Caleb Lucien are talking about two different issues.
1. There is such as a thing as marriage in the will of God. Many people should get married to avoid uncontrollable sexual temptation.
2. There is also singleness in the will of God. Many people should stay single because they can serve God better that way.
Over the course of a lifetime, people will switch from one category to another. Everyone starts out single, many get married, and some become single again through divorce or the death of their spouse. But it doesn’t matter. You can serve God effectively either way. Those who are single do have an advantage in serving the Lord without worldly distractions (that seems to be Paul’s point in I Corinthians 7) but those who are married can also serve the Lord very effectively.
Those two categories are very clear. But we have created a third, non-biblical category—singleness in order to get an education or in order to build a career. This category is non-biblical. More than that, it is thoroughly pagan. Let me repeat that. It is thoroughly pagan. (Proof: Many who choose that alternative are also sexually active because one ungodly decision soon leads to another, which is essentially the point Jeff Collins was making. I’m not necessarily arguing in favor of early marriages—although I think the possibility ought to be considered more seriously within the church—but I do believe that loose thinking eventually leads to loose living.) People who push singleness (whether for teenagers or adults) in order to promote career advancement have bowed down before the false gods of this age. It’s high time we simply told the truth on this issue.
CROSSING THE LINE AT CAESAREA PHILIPPI
After all of that, we come at last to the words of Jesus. The place is Caesarea Philippi, a Roman city located far to the north of Palestine. A huge rock cliff dominates the landscape. At the base of the cliff a stream flows on its way toward the Jordan River.
It is a critical moment for Jesus. All of Israel buzzes with word of this man from Galilee. Who is he? By what power does he perform his miracles? What is he really after? After a wave of early popularity, the nation is now divided. True, he has a wide following among the common people. It is also true that among the rich and powerful, opinion is slowly crystallizing against him. In the distance, the drums of angry opposition are beginning to beat. Before too many months, their sound will become a deafening roar.
Knowing all this, and knowing that it would end in his death, Jesus gathers his disciples in this quiet place to draw out from them a deeper commitment than they had yet given. In a few sentences Merrill Tenney sets the scene:
Jesus withdrew to Caesarea Philippi to confer privately with his disciples. His situation had become critical, and he needed to give them further instruction and to elicit from them a commitment of loyalty. The impending event of the Cross made it necessary for them to declare their values. Would they, in the stress of the days before them, choose the safety and comfort of living for themselves? Or would they accept his values and adhere to him at all costs? Who’s Boss?, p. 80
It is here that Jesus asks the famous question, “Whom do men say I am?” And it is here that Peter gives his confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
But the conversation does not end there, for Jesus is seeking for more than a confession; he is also seeking for a commitment. “Now that you know who I am, are you willing to commit your life to me?” This is how Jesus puts the issue before the disciples:
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? Mark 8:34-36
WHAT’S THE BEST DEAL?
Take a careful look at those verses. Twice our translation (the NIV) uses the word “life” and twice it uses the word “soul.” But in the Greek those are not different words. The Greek word is psyche, from which we get our English word psychology. Sometimes it refers to the immaterial part of man (his soul) as opposed to his body. But more often it refers to the whole man or to the inner conscious self we call the personality. The psyche is the “real you” that lives and breathes and makes decisions. “Life” is not a bad translation so long as we remember that it means more than just physical existence.
With that background, we may paraphrase these verses this way:
“Now that you know who I am, are you ready to take up your cross and follow me? Before you answer, let me warn you that to follow me will seem in the eyes of the world as if you are wasting your life. The people of the world will never understand what you are doing. It will seem to them that by following me, you are throwing your life away.
“You always have another option. You can try to save your own life by following your own desires. Lots of people do that. They live as if their career were all that mattered. But the people who live only for this life in the end will find that they wasted it on things that don’t really matter. They tried to save it by living for themselves but in the end they will lose it. They have wasted their lives on trivial pursuits.
“But if you follow me—though the way will not be easy and you will often be misunderstood—in the end you will save your life. And the people who laugh at you now will not laugh at you then. They will see that you were right and they were wrong.
“After all, what good will it do if you become the richest man in the world or climb to the top of the corporate ladder or rise to the highest salary level in your company or win the applause of the world, what good will all that do if in the end you find out it was all wasted? What good will that shiny new BMW do for you then? Will you be able to trade it in for another life? No, you won’t. But if you want to live that way, go ahead. Millions of people do. In the end they will be sorry but by then it will be too late to do anything about it.
“So what will it be, men? The way of the Cross or the way of the world? You’ve got to invest your life somewhere. What’s the best deal you can make?”
THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR
Last night Marlene and I had the enormous privilege to eat supper with Pastor Sergei Nikolaev from Leningrad. He is visiting the United States along with his wife and his 14-year-old son. During the evening Pastor Nikolaev told us what it was like to grow up in a Communist country. His father was a pastor for over 40 years and Pastor Nikolaev told us that he remembers his father telling his mother, “Some night we may be sleeping when suddenly there will come a knock at the door. When that happens, don’t be surprised if the KGB takes me away in the middle of the night and you never see me again. When that happens, don’t give up the faith. After I am gone, remember that the Lord will never leave you.”
We all know the stories about how certain Christians were taken to the prison camps and psychiatric hospitals and made to suffer horribly simply because of their faith. Some believers spent 25 years or more behind bars for the sake of the gospel. And a few of them came out and wrote books about their experiences. But Pastor Nikolaev made an intriguing point. The ones who really suffered for God did not write any books because they did not want any publicity. They viewed their time in prison as part of God’s ministry for them. Their attitude was, if God can use me more effectively in the Gulag, then that’s where I will serve him.
Then Pastor Nikolaev said that the people of Russia are just now getting used to freedom after 70 years of oppression. Many Christians are bothered by one question. Why would God allow the Communists to oppress the people for 70 years? There are many negative answers to that question, but Pastor Nikolaev has a positive answer:
After 70 years, the church in Russia is almost like the first-century apostolic church. We have nothing but a pure faith in God. Our churches are not corrupted by many things that corrupt churches in the West. I believe that a great revival is coming to the world in the last days and I believe that the Russian church will send out thousands of missionaries around the world. In order for us to be ready for that, we had to be oppressed by the Communists.”
That is part of what it means to “lose your life” for Jesus’ sake. Though it may cost you dearly in terms of this world’s goods, in the end you accomplish far more than if you had taken the easy road.
WAS JESUS A FAILURE?
What is the best deal you can make? The life of Jesus is the best answer to that question. Consider the facts of his “career”:
—He was born in an obscure village in an out-of-the way province of the Roman Empire.
—He belonged to a race that was ridiculed by the rest of the world.
—He had no classical education nor did he have any professional training.
—He was a blue-collar man who made his living as the village carpenter.
—His owned no property save the clothes on his back.
—He had no home, no money in the bank, no influential backers.
—When he needed money, he had to borrow it.
—His ministry consisted primarily of healing the sick, comforting the sorrowing and teaching the ignorant.
—Along the way, he made many powerful enemies by exposing corruption in high places.
—Finally, his opponents captured him, tried him in a kangaroo court and put him to death.
To be perfectly honest, by most modern standards we would consider him a failure. He never made it to the top. If ever a man seemed to waste his life, it was Jesus.
But consider this. After 2,000 years …
—His words still live and are the most quoted words in all human history.
—His personal integrity stands unsullied amidst the attacks of the cynics and the sneers of the ignorant.
—His death which seemed to be a tragedy has become the means by which the world that rejected him has been reconciled to God.
—His whole mission on earth which seemed to be failure is now seen as history’s greatest success story.
How can it be? He was humiliated to the point of death and seemed to lose his life for no purpose whatsoever. And yet through his death, God has exalted him and given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
He made it clear why he did what he did when he said, “Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit.” (John 12:24) Out of one seed comes forth a vast harvest, but that seed must die in order to bring forth fruit. As long as the seed “saves” its life, it remains alone. But when it “loses” its life in death, it brings forth the harvest.
It’s simple, really. If you try to “save” your life, in the end you “lose” it. But if you dare to “lose” it for Jesus’ sake, in the end you “save” it. Jesus himself is the supreme example of this principle.
(I am indebted to Dr. Merrill Tenney, late dean of the Wheaton Gradate School, for his penetrating analysis of this passage in the chapter, “What’s the Best Deal?”, Who’s Boss?, pp. 78-90.)
CAREER VERSUS MISSION
There is yet another way of looking at this whole question of “losing” and “saving” your life. That is to ask the question, Is your life a career or a mission?
There is a vast difference between those two concepts. A quick glance at a dictionary reveals the essence of the difference:
—A career is something you choose for yourself.
—A mission is something chosen for you by someone else.
For the sake of convenience, we can display many of the differences in a chart:
Chosen by you Chosen by God
Do Something Be Something
Your goals for your life God’s goals for your life
“I can do it.” “Bigger than me.”
“I want it all right now.” “I’m willing to wait for God.”
Ladder to climb Journey to take
Present satisfaction Future fulfillment
Horizontal focus Vertical focus
Tangible rewards Intangible rewards
Destination Primary Journey Primary
“My career is my life.” “My mission is my life”
“I am a professional.” “I am a disciple”
Make a mark Do God’s will
Make it to the top Take up the cross
“My kingdom come” “Thy kingdom come”
Build a fortune Lay up treasures in heaven
Focus: Performance Focus: Relationship with God
My brothers and sisters, there is a huge difference between living for your career and being sent on a mission. The Bible never talks about having a career. You’ll never find the word in the Bible. Having a career is not a biblical issue. Having a mission is.
IS THAT ALL THERE IS?
It is not that believers don’t have careers. We do. Some of us are painters, some are doctors, some are computer scientists, some are bankers, some are nurses, some are teachers and some are writers. And some are housewives and mothers (an honorable and often-overlooked career). But the difference is this: The people of the world live for their careers; the people of God don’t.
When your career is central in your life, then you are career-driven and career-minded while you climb the career ladder. You take a job and leave it two years later because it’s a “good career move.” You break all the significant relationships in one place and move across the country because your career demands it. Everything is calculated to get you someday to that elusive place called “the top.” When you get there, your career will be complete and the world will applaud your achievements.
I am suggesting that being career-minded in this sense is precisely what Jesus meant when he said, “He who would save his life will lose it.” Your career may well keep you from fulfilling your mission in life and your mission may never make much sense as a career.
—Your career is the answer to the question, What do you do for a living?
—Your mission is the answer to the question, Why did God put you here on the earth?
If you are just here to eat, sleep, go to college, get a degree, get married, get a job, have some children, climb the ladder, make some money, buy a summer home, retire gracefully, grow old and die … then what’s the big deal? All of that is okay, but if that’s all there is to life, then you are really no different from the pagans who don’t even believe in God.
It’s nice to have a career; it’s far better to be on a mission for God.
Ask yourself, Did Jesus have a career? No, he had a mission from God to be the Savior of the world. Nothing he did makes sense from a career point of view. Being crucified is not a good career move. Yet by his death, he reconciled the world to God. Was he a success or a failure?
A MAN WITH A MISSION
So I pounded my fist on the table and said, “Bruce, I know exactly what God wants you to do. He wants you to go back to Texas, get back in that Ph.D. program, get your degree and go make a difference in the criminal justice system of America.”
“Bruce, do you understand the position you are in? We all agree that the criminal justice system is corrupt in America and we all agree it needs reforming. But how? And who will do it?
“I can’t do it. I’m just a layman when it comes to criminal justice. I can say all I want but the professionals won’t listen to me. I don’t know anything about the ins and outs of criminal justice. Everything I know I get by watching L.A. Law, Matlock and Perry Mason reruns. I have no influence whatsoever.
“But Bruce, suppose we needed a man who really believed the Bible, who was trained at the very highest level in criminal justice, who was willing to pay the price in time and sacrifice to get the degree from the toughest school in America, who would unashamedly bring his evangelical faith into the classroom and attempt—however imperfectly—to proclaim the Lordship of Jesus Christ over our thoroughly-corrupt criminal justice system. Where could we find such a man?
—He would have to be a born-again Christian.
—He would have to be trained in the Bible.
—He would have to be unafraid to speak out.
—He would have to go through the most rigorous training.
—He would have to pay the price up-front in order make an impact later.
“I mean, let’s suppose we truly needed such a man to make an impact on the criminal justice system in America. Where, in all of America, is such a man?
“Bruce, so far as I know, the only man in all of America who fits those criteria is sitting across me right now. And he’s about to quit the program.
“Bruce, don’t quit! Don’t quit! Don’t quit!
“We need you. God needs you. America needs you. You can make a difference for the kingdom of God within the criminal justice system. Bruce, you’re the only man we’ve got in such a key position.
“We can always get more Christian cops, but where will we get another man in your position ready to speak out for God to the criminal justice system? Bruce, you’re the man.”
He looked startled, then a grin slowly spread across his face. “Pastor, I never thought about it like that. I guess I was just thinking about getting my degree and going to teach somewhere. I never thought about it as a mission from God.”
Then I said, “Bruce, if you are just going to get your degree so you can teach somewhere, forget it. We’ve got enough lead-bottom, do-nothing, know-it-all professors. If getting your Ph.D. is just a career move, forget it. It’s not worth the sacrifice. But if you believe God has called you to make a difference for him within the criminal justice system, then you need that Ph.D. in order to speak to the system with total credibility. It all depends on whether you want a career or a mission.”
A BRAND-NEW COMPUTER
That conversation with Bruce took place several months ago. He and Kathleen went back to Dallas and I wondered what they would do. About a month later Bruce wrote me a letter saying that he had decided to go ahead and finish the program. And he added an interesting footnote.
Once they decided to finish the program, he knew he needed to go ahead and buy a computer. So they shopped around and found what they thought was a good deal. One Sunday while they were attending church, Bruce shared with a friend his plans to buy a computer. The friend said, “Give me the details and I’ll have one of my people check it out for you.” Bruce gave the man the details about the system he proposed to buy and the man gave it to one of his employees.
A few days later he went to Bruce and said, “This isn’t the best deal. Here is what you really need.” The hardware and the software the man proposed was much better, but it cost several hundred dollars more than the system Bruce already couldn’t afford.
Before Bruce could say anything, the man said, “My wife and I have decided we would like to buy this computer system for you as our investment in your life.”
That’s what happens when you stop looking at your life as a career and start viewing it as a mission. People catch the vision and rally to your support.
A DYING MAN WHO SAVED HIS LIFE
Earlier this week Marlene and I attended a birthday party for a dear friend. A terrible disease grips his body, a disease that will shortly take his life. The doctors have done all they can. Right now he seems to be doing well, but that could all change in a moment.
Our friend is a Christian, raised in the church, raised in Sunday School. Somewhere along the way he drifted away from God and followed a wrong path. Earlier this year—through the help of some friends who would not let him go—he came back to God and has experienced the wonder of forgiveness and the power of God’s grace within his life.
Now he is dying. It was his birthday, perhaps his last, a fact that made the celebration bittersweet. As he opened the cards and presents he began to cry. Then he said these words, “All of you know what I have been through. I want you to know this, that even if I could, I wouldn’t trade what God has done for me for even one more year of good health.”
A few days later he wrote us a letter:
Now surely in the twilight of my life I still have a way to tread and new ground to discover but this time I am not alone. Jesus is so sweet, so kind, so sensitive and so patient. All the things I desperately needed and wanted God now has given me, along with some of His children, my brothers and sisters to walk with me.
I do not want to give the impression that this journey is easy or that it is always marked by major landmarks of progress but like Michael Card says … “There is joy in the journey.”
As I read those words, I thought to myself that here is a man who has discovered what Jesus was saying. Though he is losing his life, in his last days he has saved it.
THE ANSWER MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE
It was the martyred missionary Jim Elliott who said, “He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
If you try to save your life, you’ll lose it in the end. If you lose your life for Jesus’ sake, in the end you will save it.
If you live for your career, what difference will it make 10 seconds after you die? If you put your life in the service of the kingdom of God, the road may not be easy but 10,000 years from now you’ll never regret your decision.
Do you have a career or are you on a mission for God? The answer to that question makes all the difference in the world.