It’s a very surreal thing at times to be a pastor. When the Lord first placed this high calling upon my life I thought He had called me to the ministry so that I could convict others with the mighty power of the Gospel message. I pictured myself as being a mega phone that God would use to pour forth his truths to those where God had placed me. And I guess that is true to a point. But in my studies in preparation to preach the word each week, I tend to find that the words I read in scripture are most convicting in my own life. The passages of scripture that I read seem to be speaking volumes to my soul. Ive realized this more within the past few weeks than any other point in my life.
Im realizing that the opportunities that God presents to us in life are more for us than for those we seek to help. The example I shared with our congregation this past week was opportunities with our money. There have been plenty of times when I lived in the city that I would see homeless people on the street. But many times I would justify not giving them money by saying to myself, “I don’t know for sure that they would put my money to good use or use it to indulge in some vice or addictive substance.” But God spoke to my heart a very surprising message.
Its as if God said to me, “Don’t worry about what they do with your money. Thats on them. The opportunity to give to other’s less fortunate is more about YOUR obedience and willingness to part with your possessions for the sake of the Gospel than it is how they will spend it.”
I began to understand that the opportunities placed before us in our lives to help others about exposing our hearts. So many times we think that God has given to us so that we can help others. But maybe God has given to us money, knowledge, and possessions to teach us how to live sacrificially for the Kingdom. We have a saying at our church, “Its all about Jesus”. But within the past few weeks, Im realizing more and more through my time in His word how true that saying is. There is no opportunity or gift given to us from God that is not about shaping us to glorify Him.
As Christians, if we are truly followers of Jesus, then we must begin to see the world through Kingdom focused lenses. We must begin to question the purpose for everything in our lives and why certain opportunities have been afforded us. So many Christians live their lives never seeing the Kingdom of God. In Luke 17 Jesus describes where we can truly find the Kingdom of God.
Luke 17:20, “Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
The King James translation reads, “…because the kingdom of God is in your HEART.”
The reason so many of us cannot see the kingdom is the same reason you cannot see out of your car window on snowy days. In order to see out of the window, you must first remove the snow. You cannot see though the window because the snow that has accumulated is blocking your view. In much the same way, we will never see the kingdom of God for what it is as long as we have idols and a “me” centered theology of God. Contrary to what many think, God doesn’t give us gifts for our happiness, but instead to be used for His glorification. And its in His glorification that we will find our greatest joys in life. It goes back to all humanity having an eternal shaped void inside of all of us (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
One of the most revealing examples of this is the gift of children. We all want our children to have the greatest joys in life. And because of this, we buy them the best toys, clothes, and try to give them the best opportunities. And there is nothing wrong with any of these. But our children will not find joy in pursuing worldly things. Its simply not what they were made for. This is why a child will be infatuated with a new toy for a time and shortly after, grow bored with it and want something else. The eternal void inside of our children was made to be filled only through glorifying Christ.
I read a quote from the late Jim Elliot. Jim Elliot was an American missionary who left the states to live in South America and preach the gospel. Before leaving, his family was distraught that Jim had chosen to leave the states and live in such a desolate part of the world. Here is an excerpt from a letter Elliot wrote to his parents;
“I do not wonder that you were saddened at the word of my going to South America. This is nothing else than what the Lord Jesus warned us of when He told the disciples that they must become so infatuated with the kingdom and following Him that all other allegiances must become as though they were not. And he never excluded the family tie. In fact, those loves which we regard as closest, He told us must become as hate in comparison with our desires to uphold His cause. Grieve not, then, if your sons seem to desert you, but rejoice, rather, seeing the will of God done gladly. Remember how the Psalmist described children? He said that they were as an heritage from the Lord, and that every man should be happy who had his quiver full of them. And what is a quiver full of but arrows? And what are arrows for but to shoot? So, with the strong arms of prayer, draw the bowstring back and let the arrows fly–all of them, straight at the Enemy’s hosts.” -Jim Elliot
These words have really opened my eyes to this radical calling of Christianity. We are so infatuated with the things of this world that we cannot imagine putting worldly comforts aside to live as Christ. We shout “amens” in church to the stories of Jesus telling us to deny ourselves and leave behind everything to live as Christ, yet we don’t want this call of self denial to apply to us.
And as it pertains to children I was awestruck at what Elliot had to say about them. He mentioned a verse in Psalm I listed below.
Psalm 127:3-5 “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”
The Psalmist says blessed are parents who have many children. To put it as scripture reads, “a quiver full of them”. A quiver is a satchel that one would use to hold arrows for a bow or crossbow.
Elliot says, “And what are arrows for but to shoot? So, with the strong arms of prayer, draw the bowstring back and let the arrows fly–all of them, straight at the Enemy’s hosts.”
Scripture compares children to arrows. And as Elliot says, “What are arrows for?” They are for shooting the enemy. In other words, our children are to be raised up to be on mission for Christ. To be sent out as warrior and proclaimers of the Gospel…even if it means going to the dark parts of the world. This gives a whole new meaning to the call “to be fruitful and multiply” in Genesis. Why does God want us to be fruitful and have children? So that our world would be saturated with people glorifying the Lord and being sent out to proclaim His great name….regardless of the sacrifice.
Children Are Not Merely For Our Joy, But They are Vessels…arrows to be sent out to Glorify HIM. God said for humanity to be fruitful and multiply. So that they would grow up to be on mission for Christ.
In embracing this truth, I could find no greater joy in the lives of my children than to see them live for Christ on mission, no matter if that is in the states close to me…..or if God sends them to serve HIM in a far off land.
They are but arrows given by the Lord to fill my blessed quiver.
The ultimate purpose of a child is not to bring joy to the parent, but to bring glory to God. And in raising their child in the ways of the Lord, it is there that a parent will find true joy. Our children are gifts from God. But they were never meant to be a means for our ultimate joy. Because again, true joy cannot be found in things that are not eternal. Once again, let this sink in….
Our greatest joy is eternally linked to God’s glory.
And if we want our kids to have their greatest joy, we need to teach them to show the glory of God in all things. And to view the world through the eyes of Christ.
Luke 14:26-29 “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
What if we read scriptures like this and applied it to our lives? What if it wasn’t just a good little story that we all hear in church? What if we loved Jesus so passionately that everything else in our lives; money, possessions and even family, paled in comparison? What if we truly realized what it meant to “count the costs” of following Christ? I truly believe if all Christians honestly counted the costs of denying themselves in exchange for Gods glory, sadly many would cease to follow Christ.
Living for Christ is self denial in every aspect of our lives. Its seeing that all opportunities and relationships are not about you, but about HIM. And in following Christ, you will no doubt lose earthly things. But in the exchange you will gain new sight. In the quest of self denial, you will live life with an open hand, and not tightly clinging to the things and relationships of this world as if they were yours to begin with. Im beginning to see what it is like to see the kingdom of God. But there are still many worldly things that must be removed from my window. The hymn Amazing Grace is not just about sinners, but also a great many professing Christians. In the words of the hymn, I once was blind, and in my case, Im beginning to see.” This life was never about me. My money, my possessions, even my family is not given by God for my joy. These things were given to me as a means to glorify God. And its in that glorification that I am finding my greatest satisfaction in life and greatest joy!
“God is most glorified IN US when we are most SATISFIED in Him.” – John Piper