Thursday, September 17, 2009

Our Calling: A Wartime Lifestyle; Living on the brink of eternity

The title was stolen :) from two subtitles in the book "Desiring God" by Pastor John Piper, Chapter 7, "Money, the currency of Christian Hedonism". This book is available to read online as well as in PDF format if you'd like to read it for yourself.

What is a "Wartime Lifestyle" you may ask and why in the world would it be your calling? As a Christian, the bible tells us that we are in a constant battle with the unseen spiritual world which manifests in our visible physical world in the form of sin, poverty, lack of food and shelter, sickness, disease, malnutrition, etc, in our world (see Ephesians chapter 6, verses 10 through 20.) A wartime lifestyle is about living our lives in such a way as to use our money, our resources whatever they may be, to battle against this physical manifestations of spiritual battles unseen. In other words, there are people who are hungry - feed them! There are people who have no shelter - build them one or share your own! There are people who are unloved - LOVE them! There are people who are sick - comfort them and heal their wounds!

What this means in a practical every day sense is:

1.) "Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that... Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life" 1 Timothy chapter 6, verses 6 through 8 and 17 through 19.

2.)Ralphi Winter gives a good picture of a wartime lifestyle:

The Queen Mary, lying in repose in the harbor at Long Beach, California, is a fascinating museum of the past. Used both as a luxury liner in peacetime and a troop transport during the Second World War, its present status as a museum the length of three football fields affords a stunning contrast between the lifestyles appropriate in peace and war. On one side of a partition you see the dining room reconstructed to depict the peacetime table setting that was appropriate to the wealthy patrons of high culture for whom a dazzling array of knives and forks and spoons held no mysteries. On the other side of the partition the evidences of wartime austerities are in sharp contrast. One metal tray with indentations replaces fifteen plates and saucers. Bunks, not just double but eight tiers high, explain why the peacetime complement of 3000 gave way to 15,000 people on board in wartime. How repugnant to the peacetime masters this transformation must have been! To do it took a national emergency, of course. The survival of a nation depended upon it. The essence of the Great Commission today is that the survival of many millions of people depends on its fulfillment.5

America today is a save-yourself society if there ever was one. But does it really work? The underdeveloped societies suffer from one set of diseases: tuberculosis, malnutrition, pneumonia, parasites, typhoid, cholera, typhus, etc. Affluent America has virtually invented a whole new set of diseases: obesity, arteriosclerosis, heart disease, strokes, lung cancer, venereal disease, cirrhosis of the liver, drug addiction, alcoholism, divorce, battered children, suicide, murder. Take your choice. Laborsaving machines have turned out to be body-killing devices. Our affluence has allowed both mobility and isolation of the nuclear family, and as a result our divorce courts, our prisons and our mental institutions are flooded. In saving ourselves we have nearly lost ourselves

How hard have we tried to save others? Consider the fact that the U.S. evangelical slogan, "Pray, give, or go" allows people merely to pray, if that iS their choice! By contrast the Friends Missionary Prayer Band of South India numbers 8000 people in their prayer bands and supports 80 full-time missionaries in North India. If my denomination (with its unbelievably greater wealth per person) were to do that well, we would not be sending 500 missionaries, but 26,000. In spite of their true poverty, those poor people in South India are sending 50 times as many cross-cultural missionaries as we are.6

This illustration begs us to ask the question, what is it that we think we need, but could actually do without and instead be able to meet the urgent need of someone else in the name of Jesus Christ? Do we really need the spiffy newer car or could we make do with a used one that isn't so flashy, but get's the job done? Do we really need all 500 channels coming into our TV via a satellite or cable connection or would just the basic local channels give you what you really need from TV? Do we really need for each child to have their own bedroom (ie. "we NEED to buy a bigger house") or can they share and learn to live with another human being in close proximity (can we say preparation for being married to one person for the rest of your life anyone??).

Here is something to think about for today, yet another excerpt from Desiring God, chapter 7, pp. 202-203:

In Ephesians 4:28, Paul says 'Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.' In other words, there are three levels of how to live with things: (1) you can steal to get; (2) or you can work to get; (3) or you can work to get in order to give.

Too many professing Christians live on level 2. Almost all the forces of our culture urge them to live on level two. But the Bible pushes us relentlessly to level three. 'God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work' (2 Corinthians 9:8). Why does God bless us with abundance? So we can have enough to live on, and then use the rest for all manner of good works to alleviate spiritual and physical misery. Enough for us; abundance for others.

The issue is not how much a person makes. Big industry and big salaries are a fact of our times, and they are not necessarily evil. The evil is in being deceived into thinking a six-digit salary must be accompanies by a six-digit lifestyle. God has made us to be conduits of His grace. The danger is in thinking the conduit should be lined with gold. It shouldn't. Copper will do.

No comments: