When Jesus gave his disciples a talk on keeping their priorities straight, he said some tough things. He told them to deny themselves and take up their own crosses and follow him. He instructed them to grasp this life and its trappings lightly and instead learn to live with an eternal perspective (Luke 9:23-25). Jesus’ words hit our 21st century materialistic mindset right between the eyes. We, who are interested in comfort and pleasure and are more interested in living for the moment, have become very self-indulgent. We know little of what it means to deny ourselves. Our children aren’t raised that way. They want it, so they get it even if we can’t afford it.
How different it is when we catch a glimpse of what Jesus really wants from his disciples. How meaningful our lives are when we throw away our chances for self-aggrandizement and seek to lift Jesus up. How rewarding when we bear our cross gratefully because it is a privilege to suffer for Jesus. We begin to realize how much God loves us and what Jesus did for us when we live for him and not for ourselves. We begin to realize that the biggest events of our lives are ahead of us and not behind us. We live each day in expectation of being with Jesus for all eternity, and because of this, we are bold in our faith (Luke 9:26).
It was 1973, and Marilyn and I sat on a Pan Am flight in Los Angeles, California. We had just been told that the plane would have to wait for at least thirty minutes for a gate because another plane was blocking the way. We were anxious because our connection only allowed us one hour to make the connecting flight to Fresno. We had been gone for six months living in Chile and Guatemala. This was our first time to be away from home, and we were homesick. We knew our families would be waiting for us at the airport, so we didn’t want to miss our plane. When the plane finally moved, we couldn’t get off fast enough. Because we had just come from an international flight, we had to claim our bags and recheck them for Fresno. When no bags came on the belt, I persuaded a porter to find them.
We caught a taxi to the next stop, and then we ran as fast we could, checked the bags and continued our sprint toward the gate. Arriving at the plane, there were no attendants, so we proceeded down the ramp just as they were closing the door. The flight attendant was cooperative and let us on the plane.
We sighed with relief and breathed a prayer of gratitude for making the connection by the skin of our teeth. When we finally made it to Fresno, there seemed to be a lot of commotion inside the terminal. There was a huge crowd of people there for some reason. We concluded that everyone must be waiting for a celebrity to get off the plane. We looked around but couldn’t see anyone. Eventually, our turn came, and we made our way off the plane. To our total surprise we found the huge crowd of people was waiting to receive us. To this day when Marilyn and I talk about that day, we are glad we made the effort because it was one special occasion we did not want to miss. It was well worth the effort.
Someday the losers who have let go of their lives here and committed their way to Christ will be the winners. They will not be disappointed they lived with abandon and had chosen to live for Christ. The greatest celebration is ahead of you.