By BRUCE GREEN
Teaching Minister at 10th Street Church of Christ
It was Philip Yancey, who, when asked about the difference between disciples in the United States and China had this to say:
At my church, when something bad happens, people immediately ask God to fix it: get me a job, heal my aunt, whatever … In China, though, I heard different prayers, not “God, take away this burden,” but “God, give me the strength to bear this burden.”
What kind of people pray such prayers?
The quick answer is: people who have somewhere better to go.
But that’s not enough, there’s more to it than that. It’s not just that they have somewhere better to go — it’s that they have already sent their things ahead. They’ve forwarded their address. They might still be living here on earth, but in their hearts and minds they have moved on (Colossians 3:1-4).
And what is it they’ve moved on from?
They’ve moved on from centering their lives around themselves and the things of this world. Of course, they still have families, friends, jobs, school and other interests like everyone else — but they no longer think of defining themselves by these things or putting them at the center of their lives. That place belongs exclusively to the Lord Jesus. Paul reminds us of this in v. 4 when he speaks of “Christ, who is your life.”
To Yancey’s point, the church in the West tends to view Jesus as rounding out their lives rather than being their life. This is a formula for lukewarmness if ever there was one. It’s a failure of faith to be sure, but it’s also a failure to realize that when Christ is at the center of our lives we have healthier families, enhanced relationships and a better perspective on everything else in life. No one “sacrifices” anything to make Jesus Lord of their life and live with their hearts and minds set on things above.
In fact, peace and liberation become the order of the day. Disciples find that they don’t have to be held hostage by every worry, care or concern that comes their way (see the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:25ff). Neither do we need to fret about every sneeze, sniffle or discomfort we might have. By the power of God, we can live outside ourselves and our phobias, failures and frustrations.
Of course, that doesn’t mean everything is perfect or we’re invulnerable (both of these are laughable to true disciples). However, it does mean we have a different perspective about such things through Christ. We no longer look at them with the eyes of this world but as citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20).
And that makes all the difference in the world.
You can find more of Bruce’s writings at his website: a-taste-of-grace-with-bruce-green.com