Thursday, June 30, 2005

What's It Worth?

I'm moved. As I got into bed last night I picked up an old, small paperback and started to read. The story was that of Jim Elliot and four friends; missionaries who had chosen to go to Ecuador to reach the unreachable and truly savage Auca Indians. I read of a sparkling young man full of promise, top of his class, physically fit with the world at his fingertips. I read of his attainment in school and ministry and love for God which lead him to desire to serve God in the world. I read how when he spoke to others in his life, family and friends, about the desire and call to go to South America and spend his life reaching the remote and savage tribe, many tried to persuade him to stay in America where his passion and giftings could be put to good use and not waste his life out in the middle of nowhere. On the matter of wasting his life I heard him say this:

"The Lord has given me a hunger for righteousness and piety that can alone be of himself. Such hungering He alone can satisfy, yet Satan would delude and cast up all sorts of other baubles, social life, a name renowned, a position of importance, scholastic attainment. What are these but the objects of the 'desire of the Gentiles' whose cravings are warped and perverted. Surely they can mean nothing to the soul who has seen the beauty of Jesus Christ.... No doubt you will hear of my receiving preliminary honors at school. They carry the same brand and will lie not long hence in the basement in a battered trunk beside the special gold 'B' pin, with the 'ruby' in it for which I studied four years at Benson. All is vanity below the sun and a 'striving after wind'. Life is not here, but hid above with Christ in God, and herein I rejoice and sing as I think on such exaltation."
"There is no such thing as attainment in this life; as soon as one arrives at a long-coveted position he only jacks up his desire a notch or so and looks for higher achievement-a process which is ultimately suspended by the intervention of death. Life is truly likened to a rising vapour, coiling, evanescent, shifting. May the Lord teach us what it means to live in terms of the end, like Paul who said, 'Neither count I my life dear unto myself, that I might finish my course with joy....'"

For what are we living? How are we spending our lives? And take note of that word, 'spending' because I believe there is a lot of truth tied up with it. Each day is an allowance from our Heavenly Father. How will we spend it? We know how to spend money. We hold notes in our wallets - notes which could be used for anything. We consider what it is that we want and we make a decision. We walk up to the counter and we hand over the notes losing them forever and receiving in return some product or other.

Many of us know the experience of spending our money on that which was not worth it. The feeling of waste, wishing we could get our money back, but having to resign ourselves to learning a lesson for wiser future spending. We also know the joy of money well-spent. We would not trade it for the world. The question is, how are we spending our days, our lives?

It was only last week I heard that the average American child watches 3-5 hours of television a day. 3-5 hours! Do they not know what can be done with 3-5 hours? Do we not know? What has life become? Is it simply a matter of filling our time with as much distraction as possible - trying to stay as entertained as possible until we die? Even our work is geared toward earning more money that we can have nicer houses and wider screen TV's so that we can be entertained more comfortably and more sharply. We are a people of comfortable entertainees. What a waste.

I can watch a thousand movies and if I'm lucky or clever I can have a million thoughts about them, but at the end of those movies, what have I? My body is fatter, slower, and my knowledge of the screen expansive. Yet if I step outside my door what have I there? When I go to my neighbour what do I offer? When the time comes when all TV's pass away and the millions of dollars to produce shows, and the scripts and the clever ideas all pass away, what is left? What are we aiming at?

There is no joy there.

In his diary of the summer he wrote: "'He makes His ministers flames of fire.' Am I ignitable? God deliver me from the dread asbestos of 'other things.' Saturate me with the oil of the Spirit that I may be a flame. But flame is transient, often short-lived. Canst thou bear this, my soul- short life? In me there dwells the Spirit of the Great Short-Lived, whose zeal for God's house consumed Him. Make me Thy Fuel, Flame of God.'"

Wake up. Look outside your window. Consider the breeze and the width of the world. Consider all that life has been. The working of hands, the learning of skills, the trials and journey to make a better life - the growth of humanity - for what? To know about a fictional realm? Consider the plans of God. What are His plans for humanity? What are His plans for your life or the life of your neighbour? For what purpose did He create you?

We are experts at distraction. We concoct drugs of all types and all potencies. Physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. We miss the point.

"I dare not stay home while the Quichuas perish. What if the well-filled church in the homeland needs stirring? They have the Scriptures, Moses, and the prophets, and a whole lot more. Their condemnation is written on their bank books and in the dust on their Bible covers."
Look out your window and consider the potential and the need.

Half a world away there may be some tribe who haven't even heard of God. They have not heard the words 'Jesus' 'Christ' or 'eternal' 'life', and were they to hear them, they would have no definition.

Half a city away there are those who are running out of hope. They feel trapped or abused and their lives are quickly draining away, if they don't cut it short.

Next door there is a neighbour who never had the opportunities you did. She hasn't heard your stories. She doesn't know your God. She may be crying each night away.

In your room, there's a TV and a computer on, and you sit there involved in the lives of those who don't exist or living your life that exists only in your mind.

Look out the window instead of watching the TV and ask God who you are. Ask Him what He's up to. See if He has anything for you to do.

Such is love.