Misery and Mission

Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.  And he said to his people, ‘Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us.’  So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field.  In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.”

Exodus 1:8-9, 13-14

Israel was thriving in Egypt.  The fertile land of Goshen was perfectly suited for the growth of herds and livestock.  Things really could not have been much better.  The problem was, Goshen was not the land God intended for Israel to inhabit.  This was a problem because satisfied people are difficult to motivate.  Why should Israel pack up and leave when everything was going so well?

Eagles know how to motivate their contented young.  When it is time for young eagles to leave the nest, the adult eagles will fly over them carrying freshly caught food.  The eagles will chirp and flap their wings, but the adult does not come to the nest.  The adult eagles will continue to do this until the young ones become hungryeagle enough to leave the comfort and safety of home.  Adult eagles create discomfort in order to motivate their young.

A new Pharaoh came to power in Egypt who had no idea who Joseph was.  When this Pharaoh looked toward Goshen, he did not see the descendants of the man who saved Egypt from famine.  He saw a million or so potential dissidents.  Pharaoh was concerned that Israel might entertain thoughts of uprising, so he determined to preemptively crush their spirits.  He subjected Israel to slave labor and ordered the killing of every newborn Hebrew boy.  “The people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help.  Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God.  “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.  God saw the people of Israel – and God knew” (Exodus 2:23-25).  Israel was feeling discomfort and it was creating in them a hunger for escape from this home that had been so comfortable and safe.

Most of us do not want to mess with things when they are going well.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Don’t rock the boat.  We want the comfortable, prosperous times to last as long as possible.  Consider this: what if God gives us these good times to serve as rest and preparation for the conflict and difficulty of His mission?  If this is the case, but we try to hang on to the comfort and prosperity, God must create discomfort and hunger in us.  Difficulties may be God’s way of prodding us out of our nests of complacency and into His mission.

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Heirs of the World

“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”

1 Timothy 6:6-9

Discontentment is at first a whispered promise of something better. When the imagination is seduced by the romance of what could be, the whisper becomes a gale-force wind that drives us into the pursuit of more, better, newer.

This is the heartbeat of our culture. Discontent motivates political movements and business decisions. It is the reason athletes risk their reputations and careers by taking performance-enhancing drugs. Advertisers do not merely capitalize on the public’s discontent, they seek to create it. I could be wrong, but I think it would be fair to say that discontentment is the primary reason for personal debt.

We, as Christians, are not exempt from the lure of material things. Who hasn’t seen the anticipated Powerball jackpot and envisioned a new house, a new car, and, of course, a large check to the church? Personally, I like gadgets. I like kitchen gadgets and tech gadgets. I love my Kuerig. I miss my Galaxy Note tablet (it needs a new screen). We all feel the gravitational pull of discontentment, don’t we?

So, how do we keep ourselves from being swept away in the current of materialism? We must be anchored to the gospel. Romans 4:13-16 says, “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring – not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.”

What is the promise guaranteed to those of faith? It is that we are heirs of the world. We stand to inherit everything! Because of the cross, we share in God’s promise to Abraham that it is all ours. We do not need to have it all now. When this vapor-like life has passed, we will possess more than we have ever dared dreamed. How foolish we would be to spend our lives amassing all we can in the brevity of the here and now at the expense of eternally reigning with Christ (Luke 12:13-21).

Set your hope fully on the promises of the gospel. The trinkets we often desire will be broken, or stolen, or become outdated. But, David says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). Seek to treasure God such that poverty and wealth are irrelevant to the joy of your heart.