Heavenly Paradox

This morning I had the opportunity to hear Dr. John Dendiu speak at Keller Park Church. It being the first time I had visited Keller Park for a Sunday morning service, I didn’t have a great idea of what to expect. In a sense, I guess I didn’t get the full Keller Park experience since their Pastor was out sick and Dr. Dendiu filled in, but the wisdom of Dendiu’s words and the spirit of the Church gave me a great first impression. I’d like to write a bit about the theme of Dr. Dendiu’s sermon, some of which will be taken directly from said sermon and some won’t be, but I’ll try to give credit where credit is due.

Dr. Dendiu asked us, the small congregation gathered to worship and learn, “Do we worship God because of who he is, period?” This statement was poignant enough, but he went onto to ask if instead we worshiped God because of the gifts and the blessings he bestows upon us. Now I come from a very blessed family. Never have we had trouble with basic needs (i.e. shelter, clothing, food, etc.) and we have been able to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, for which I am incredibly grateful. The blessings God has given me and my family are far, far too numerous to list here. But this question of why I worship God has been at the center of my thoughts lately. Do I know what it really means to need God? I seem to have adequate, and in all actuality, probably above adequate possessions and connections to live what would generally be considered a “happy life” by many in our culture. So why God?

Hebrews 11 was the key text in the sermon this morning. The author of this passage gives a history of many Old Testament characters that have showed extreme faith. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, etc. served God through faith. Verse 16 (ESV) says “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” All these great Old Testament personalities, through faith, were unashamed of God as they desired a better country. This is my favorite part of the verse. They recognized that this world (or this country) holds nothing for them and it is only in this better country that they will achieve their heart’s first desire, to be one with God. It is then not because of the blessings that God has for us on this Earth, but because of the promise of being with God in this better country, this “heavenly one.”

Verse 35 marks a shift in the chapter. Verses 35-40 talk of a different sort of people that had faith. Everyone mentioned above had faith in God and received many blessings from God. Abraham became the father of all nations. Enoch was taken up with God, not experiencing death. Isaac gave a blessing to both his first and second born sons, something that hadn’t been done before. However, these last verses of the chapter speak of those who “were tortured”, “suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment”, and “were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword.” These sort of people did not, for whatever reason receive all the blessings that others did. You might say their life was harder. But I’d like to propose a different conclusion. These people had no choice but to lean on the might and majesty of God. They were persecuted, impoverished, and even put to death for having faith in God. Is their anything more telling of complete faith than being willing to lose everything they have? These people understood the paradox of when they lost everything for God, they gained everything in God.

It is hard for me to put complete trust in God because I have what the world tells me is all I need. In a sense, I don’t NEED God to make it through this life. But of course, I NEED God to make it into the life that really matters. I NEED God to enter the heavenly country. God has prepared for me a city, and he wants me to live an unashamed life of worship and proclamation of his name, whether or not I have been afforded great blessings in this life.

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