One of the reasons most commonly cited by immigrants who leave their homeland in favor of coming to this country is opportunity. The opportunity they envision will often take many forms, but almost always involves prosperity and the chance of beginning a new and better life. However, this opportunity also brings with it a hefty price to pay. Think for a moment of all these immigrants forego: immediate family, personal and sentimental belongings, and their culture among many other things. Why are these foreigners so willing to surrender these precious things to come to a country of which they know little about? I believe the answer lies in that these people recognize that although the risk of leaving everything behind may be great, the reward of that which they can gain is much greater. When weighing the pros and cons of this decision, they determine what they will give up will pale in comparison to what they can attain in this land of opportunity.
Immigrants are not the only ones who have made sacrifices in the present in order to receive something better in the future. Genesis 12:1 tells us how God commanded Abraham to leave the land in which he resided, and go to a land which He would show him. As difficult as this command would have been to keep, Hebrews 11 shows that Abraham’s active faith coupled with the hope of receiving something better allowed him to fulfill God’s command. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going….for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:8, 10). Abraham’s ability to see past his current circumstances allowed him to go in search of that heavenly country of which we read about in Hebrews 11:16.
Brethren, have we learned to have this this type of vision? The type of foresight that permits us to sacrifice whatever would pose a risk to us inheriting that which is better. Throughout the New Testament Christians are often reminded of their status: strangers, foreigners, sojourners, and pilgrims (Ephesians 2:19, 1 Peter 2:11, respectively). Furthermore, in Philippians 3:20 Paul states that our loyalties do not belong to this world. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” With our kingdom not being from this world (John18:36), are we willing to make temporary sacrifices so that we may have everlasting glory? As easy as it is to cognitively know the answer is “yes,” are we actually refusing to “enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25) so that our death might be considered a gain (Philippians 1:21)?
While each and every sin will keep us from heaven, there are certain sins that seem to keep us tied more to this life. The forceful attraction of materialism did not allow the rich young ruler to have eternal life (Matthew 19:16-22). By all accounts it appears this young man was leading a pious life, yet he was not willing to exchange the moth and rust destroyed treasures of earth (Matthew 6:19) for the incorruptible and undefiled inheritance of which 1 Peter 1:4 promises. What a sad trade! Seeing the shortsightedness of the ruler’s decision is easy, but are we making similar choices today?
There is little doubt that money is a prominent driver in our society today. The accumulation of status, possessions, and wealth is commonly set as the benchmark for happiness. No, being prosperous is nothing to be ashamed of, nor is it ever regarded as sinful in the bible; Abraham himself was not lacking (Genesis 13:2). However, without a proper perspective of the future, the love of money will consume our present. How do we overcome this? “Yet indeed I also count all things lost for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). If you know that your reward will be far greater than what you can have here on earth, then it will not be a challenge to say “no” to the overtime that would require you to miss services. This knowledge will help us turn down job proposals that could force us to compromise our character, or reject shady business deals that would engage us in dishonest practices. If we are confident the offers of this life do not measure up to the prize that awaits us, then let us “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33), knowing that the sacrifice really is not a sacrifice at all.
As immigrants on earth, let’s be more than willing to suffer now that we may have glory later. Let’s place our heart in heaven, that our treasure may also be there (Matthew 6:21). Is there a sin you are not willing to dismiss because of the temporary pleasure it provides? Consider the words of Christ in Matthew 16:26: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Perhaps materialism is not your struggle, but whatever the sin, ask yourself if its value exceeds that of heaven.
“….and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:17, 18).