Posted by February 8, 2011on
In a few days I will leave on a monthlong pastoral trip that will take me through eight countries in Africa and three islands in the Indian Ocean.
Many hours will be spent sitting in airplanes and slaloming over pothole-filled roads. There will be corrupt policemen and officials who will want bribes, which I will do my best to avoid paying. I’ll pay careful attention to hygiene, to what I eat, and to use mosquito repellant to reduce the chance of contracting malaria and dysentery, among other diseases. The U.S. State Department has officially advised against travel to three of the countries through which I will pass on this trip. But I know these countries pretty well and, while I’m careful to avoid tempting God (Matthew 4:7), the risks are acceptable. I won’t, however, be able to visit the Church members in Côte d’Ivoire this trip because civil war is threatening to break out again and there have already been many killed. In short, travel through much of Africa is often less than pleasant.
However, in exchange, there will be the joy of visiting and serving committed Christians, many of whom live in some of the most difficult places in the world. I will do my best to encourage them in their walk with God, and I know from past experience that they will encourage me. I look forward to that and try to keep my focus there.
These experiences in Africa emphasize to me a necessary key to success as Christians: We must be faithful to God in hard times as well as easy. We must keep our eyes on the goal, and for Christians that goal is the Kingdom of God.
As Scripture explains, “Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus voluntarily underwent the agony of crucifixion because He was motivated by the “joy that was set before Him.” He kept His eyes on the amazing goal of transforming mortal human beings into immortal children of God.
Abraham left “civilization” in Babylon to live as a nomad in tents for the rest of his life. When told to do so, he was willing to sacrifice the son God had promised him. Why? Because he kept his eyes on the goal—“for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10.)
Hebrews 11:25 states: “By faith Moses [chose] rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” Why? Verse 26 answers “He looked to the reward.”
Some of God’s people, who are not named by the Bible, accepted torture because they had their eyes set on the Christian goal: “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35). These people of faith knew that to be part of the first resurrection, which is to eternal life and will occur at the return of Christ, was worth any price one might have to pay. They kept their eyes on the goal.
Henry Ford said, “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” In many ways this is true for us as Christians.
We need to keep a clear and constant vision of the Kingdom of God that is sure to come. Here are some ways we can do this:
Keep your eyes on the Kingdom of God. It’s the best goal there is.
P.S. If you would like to follow news of my trip, which begins Feb. 13, I’ll be regularly updating my travel blog.