May 23, 2007

A Planet of Losers

2007 1515 page24 cap HATE TO LOSE.
That’s an unusual statement for me. Because although I enjoy competing in road races, my probability of finishing ahead of anyone else is next to zero. However, I run all my races with intensity and vigor—as if I’ll be the first to cross the finish line, never mind the thousands of people ahead of me. In my age group division I occasionally place in the top three spots—which is not to complain or excuse my performance, but simply to acknowledge the fact that although one runs smarter the older one gets, the slower one becomes as a runner.
Running marathons is addictive. I started in 2001. Each run has been unique and memorable. Finishing a marathon the same day I start it, without needing medical attention, has brought unspeakable joy. It doesn’t matter how badly I hurt at the finish line, I immediately set my goal on the next race. Only those who have completed a marathon can truly understand the exhilarating satisfaction, excitement, and joy it brings to finish.
The most interesting thing about competing in marathons is that although thousands of people may run, only a few of the fastest individuals (the elite) receive the big, prestigious recognition at the end—with special medals, ribbons, and even cash. The rest of us go home with the satisfaction that we ran and finished. Sometimes we go home beating our chests because we missed recognition by only a few minutes or seconds. If only . . . , we lament.
2007 1515 page24The best thing about completing a marathon, however, is that all finishers are awarded medals (lesser grade) and certificates. In most races, they’re given commemorative T-shirts and other goodies.
Another Race
Marathons remind me of the Christian journey. Every time I read the Bible I learn new gems, gain new understandings. The stories are awesome, and I love to hear them over and over. It’s encouraging to know that we are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us (Rom. 8:37). It’s humbling to learn that when we listened to the devil and lost our place in Paradise (Gen. 3), God forgave us, instead of destroying us (because the wages of sin is death—Rom. 6:23). Rather than create new human beings, God came and lived among us, and died in our place. In that cruel death on Calvary, Jesus took our sins away and bore them in His precious body to seal our salvation.
And wonder of wonders, all He wants us to do in return is surrender our sins and sorrows to Him in exchange for life eternal!
Because of our sinful nature, we cannot fight the devil and his angels on our own and win. Jesus is the only person who lived as a human and never sinned. We don’t serve a Savior who “cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but [One who] was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15, KJV). He triumphed on our behalf. Previously condemned to die, we do not have to suffer that fate any more.
Jesus is our burden bearer. He delights in lifting the load from us. We cannot overburden Him. He says: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30, KJV).
I find this invitation difficult to embrace because it calls for surrender, something I don’t want to do. Yet in the kingdom of heaven it is only in surrendering my will and self to Christ that I find rest and life eternal as well as “the glory that should follow” (1 Peter 1:11, KJV). One day I will lose this old body, when mortality will put on immortality and corruption will put on incorruption (1 Cor. 15:51-54). I will be transformed into His likeness when my earthly body will be exchanged for a glorious one. “Beloved, now we are the sons of God,” the apostle says, “and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2, KJV).
Citizens in God’s coming kingdom lose their sorrows, their pain, their cancer, their tears, and every guilty stain (Rev. 21:1-5) in return for a vibrant and peaceful life, with all sin wiped out. In that kingdom nobody will say “I am sick” because “the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity” (Isa. 33:24, KJV). Our greatest imagination cannot fathom such a kingdom. The brightest minds of Disney World and Hollywood combined couldn’t imagine it. The greatest, most creative artist on earth couldn’t paint it. The most eloquent preacher couldn’t articulate it. The best pen on earth cannot describe it. For “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9, KJV).
What a God!
Frail as we might be, in Christ’s kingdom we “are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Rom. 8:37, KJV). When Jesus defeated the devil on the cross and rose from the grave, He sealed the salvation of all those who would call upon His name. God Almighty, who has never lost a battle (and never will), deserves our greatest admiration, humble worship, and total allegiance. He is both our Lord and our God (John 20:28).
2007 1515 page24Jesus calls us to a kingdom that is not like any other kingdom. He has prepared a new earth where citizens serve each other in love and unity. In that kingdom Jesus blesses and comforts those who mourn, bestows benefits on the poor in spirit, pours out blessings on the meek, and encourages people to be glad when persecuted for His name’s sake, because they will inherit the earth (Matt. 5).
Life is sweeter for sinners when they give their sins, sorrows, and burdens to Jesus. Life is better when they receive more love because they share their love. People are happy when they trade in their guilt, their hopelessness, their helplessness, their discouragement, their cancers, their pain, and their mortality for “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (see Gal. 5:22, 23, KJV), and immortality.
It is an unequal exchange, I know, but it comes from the loving hand of our loving God. Nothing is too good for His children. Nothing is too precious for Him to share it with us. He is crazy about us! What a God we serve!
Can’t Wait!
As I look at our world today I can’t wait for Christ to come. In this dog-eat-dog existence we’re trampling on one another to get to the top of the food chain. But Scripture paints a different path. Jesus encourages us to love one another (John 15:17; 1 John 4:11, 12, 20; 1 Cor. 13). He commands us to think of others first before we think of ourselves. Most important, He tells us to do to others what we would like them to do to us (Matt. 7:12; Luke 6:31). He saw our day coming long before we experienced it.
As I look at the things that are happening around me, I find the Bible to be more current than tomorrow’s newspapers. Surely, the One behind the Bible can be trusted. Only God can craft such a beautiful story. The first two chapters in Genesis and the last two chapters in Revelation portray a peaceful, joyous, and perfect world. God designed a world of happiness for His children. God’s intention for us before the foundation of the earth was for a joyous and glorious family.
Living today, we rarely observe that beauty. Instead we see the ugliness of sin everywhere. But we’re looking for a better country—that is, a heavenly one “whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10, 16, KJV). The best news is that “God is not ashamed to be called [our] God: for he hath prepared for [us] a city” (verse 16).
What a privilege we have to be friends of Jesus, the Creator and Redeemer! In His presence troubles vanish, broken hearts are mended, dreams are fulfilled, mountains are moved, prayers are answered, peace reigns supreme, storms are calmed, unspeakable joy reigns, and sin is forgiven. Jesus loves us even when we fall, because He is crazy about us. His mercy endures forever. God’s love is still supreme. We should therefore draw near to Him and bask in the ocean of His love. In His “presence is fullness of joy; and at [his] right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11, KJV).
Everyone a Winner
In God’s kingdom we all are winners. God calls those who belong to Him saints. Very soon Jesus will come to take them home. He will come as a mighty Conqueror, Lord of lords, and King of kings. I picture that glorious day when the saints will be marching into that great city, New Jerusalem, exuberant and triumphant. I picture that moment the redeemed of earth will place their crowns at His feet and worship Him as they sing songs of redemption. And through the ceaseless ages of eternity Jesus will reign with the saints of all the ages.
I love Jesus. I love His assurance that all who believe in Him will be “awarded” eternal life, not only a selected few. As Christians, we are in a battle—a race. We cannot lose unless we choose to.
Jesus has already defeated the devil for us. All we need is to claim our place in the kingdom by believing in Him. In Him we are more than conquerors. Without Him, we are absolutely nothing.
Only those who’ve been washed in the blood of the Lamb can understand the joy and happiness Jesus brings. Only sinners saved by grace can appreciate what Jesus means to them. He is more than wonderful!
D. Chongo Mundende is director of the Policy Research and Analysis Center at Langston University and Pathfinder director at Edmond Seventh-day Adventist Church, in Oklahoma, U.S.A.