Looking back and desiring the things God wants us to let go can be dangerous! Lot’s wife disobeyed God and looked back to the alluring sights of Sodom and Gomorrah – that wicked city that God had delivered Lot’s family from – and immediately she became a pillar of salt! The children of Israel, soon after they left Egypt and were wandering in the wilderness, looked back and longed for the things they missed in Egypt, like the melons, garlic, cucumber, etc. So quickly they had forgotten that they were in bondage in Egypt and had cried out to God to rescue them from slavery.
Our theme for 2016 is “Joyful Exiles”. We can never be joyful if we continue to look back and crave for the things of this world. These things are transient – here today and gone tomorrow. If we merely live this world as if it is the only world we have, we will be disappointed. This world is “not our home”. We are pilgrims in transit – just “passing through”, from here to eternity. But for now, God has placed us here and He wants us to make the most of what we have – to live well, enjoy His bountiful provisions, come under His Lordship and do all things for His glory. He wants us to live each day in the light of eternity.
Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, promising us that after He ascended, the Holy Spirit will descend and take residence in the lives of God’s children. It is this resurrected power that gave the early Christians the boldness to live and suffer for Christ.
Paul was a joyful exile. He did look back, but only for the right reason! He gave thanks to God for rescuing him from darkness, bringing him into God’s marvelous light, and for commissioning him to become an apostle to the Gentiles. Paul knew what it meant to be a pilgrim and a prisoner for Jesus Christ. He wrote the Epistle to the Philippians while in prison. Yet this letter is characterized by the words ‘joy’ and ‘rejoice’ numerous times. After he encountered the living Christ, Paul never looked back on his human accomplishments. He considered them “refuse”, and the only thing that really mattered was Christ:
“I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24)
It is this resurrected power that enables us today to live joyful lives in the midst of pain, sorrow, sickness and death. The resurrection is not only a future reality but a present hope. “Because He lives”, was penned by Bill and Gloria Gaither when America was going through tumultuous and uncertain times. Our world has not gotten any better today. There is so much violence, hatred and terrorism today. The very power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in our lives because He resides in us.
Therefore we have a sure hope that we can face all our tomorrows because of the resurrected Christ and we can continue to be joyful pilgrims as we live this life in the context of eternity.
By Violet James, Associate Pastoral Staff (YCKC Bulletin 30&31 January 2016)