Several of our friends will be making HUGE adjustments in the coming weeks and months. They will be moving into remote tribes here in PNG with the hope that one day they will be a part of establishing a church belonging to Jesus Christ in these places. They are at the very beginning of what will be their life’s work: learning a remote tribal language, teaching the gospel, translating the Bible, and teaching literacy so the believers can having a self-sustaining church. This is a big deal – it’s the actual fulfillment of the commission that has been placed on Christ’s church! All of them have young kids and are making huge lifestyle changes and sacrifices in order that these tribes can hear the gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time! We look at this and think it is amazing but you know what they would say? Something like this: “We might be making some sacrifices but Jesus, he gave up being GOD to come to earth as a man, be ridiculed, and killed….all for us. What we are giving up is insignificant compared to that.”
What they are giving up: schools, hospitals, restaurants, shopping malls, cars, playgrounds, movie theaters, grandparents, parents…church…preaching…VBS. (You ever realized that missionaries living in remote locations have no church to go to? Until one is born several years into their ministry?) But all these things compared to God becoming man? Moreover, compared to the Creator entering HIS creation to be condemned by it?
As we celebrate Christmas, we should reflect on what Christ gave up to come to earth and enter humanity as a baby. And from there, let our minds drift to the fleetingness of our own lives on earth and to what will actually count in eternity…when Brent was making his decision to follow Christ, some of his reasoning was as follows: “I could live as a Christian and be miserable for the next sixty years, denying myself all the pleasures of the world, and then be blessed for eternity. OR I could live my life the way I want to and be happy for the next sixty years, and then suffer miserably for all of eternity.” He chose Christ. Now of course being a Christian does not mean you have to be miserable (in fact, when you are truly living a life devoted to Christ, it means just the opposite) but I think there is something to be gleaned from his reasoning. Too many believers try to have it both ways – to live the life they want, pursuing the “moral” pleasures of the world, all the while expecting blessings for eternity.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5, “[Christ] died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ…” Our Christian faith is not just a ticket to heaven. God left us here in the interim – between trusting him for salvation and entering eternity – for a purpose. That purpose is to surrender everything we are, everything we have, and everything we plan to the One who surrendered deity for us. So you see, it is because eternity lies ahead, that we should labor and sacrifice for the gospel. We are called to run the race now; rest is in our future. What a shame if we make it to the end of this life only to realize that the burdens we placed ourselves under, the stresses we considered unavoidable, and the races we entered held no eternal value. May we arrive at the Pearly Gates hunched over, hands clutching our knees, and gasping for breath for the exertion we put into spreading his Name.
On a smaller scale, may we not let the presents, the traditions, and the lights blind us to what this holiday is really about. That Christ came to live on earth should change the way we live our lives here on earth. And THANK YOU Sanders, Hambrices, Crabtrees, Williams, Bullingtons, Meyers, and Goheens for giving us a picture of what it means to sacrifice in this life because of the Sacrifice that made it possible for us to enter the next.