Life was one, on going, never ending good time. If there was a party to be thrown, a beer to be drank, a bud to be smoked, or a girl to bed down, Rick was there. At eighteen years old and a senior at Parkview High School, Rick wasnt that much different than many teenagers today. Rick was just living by standards set by the world we live in. This is an example of the norm in society. Rick was a star athlete in school and very popular as well. His parents were well off and even in his home life, he had pretty much whatever he wanted.
Rick had entertained the notion of going into the military when he graduated from high school. He marveled at the idea of traveling the world and he knew that the ladies couldnt resist a man in uniform. Rick even joined a junior cadets type of club where they had military type drills on the weekends. But those drills were only a very small taste of what it meant to really be a solder. Rick enlisted to go into the army after graduating high school. He envisioned living a similar version of the life he had been currently living, only scattered with a few minor changes. Rick had no idea of the changes that were soon to take place.
The first day of his enlistment definitely shook him up a bit. His wavey, golden locks of hair that the girls loved to run their fingers through we shaved off leaving only stubble on his head. His flashy ear rings and belly button piercings….permantly removed by threat of the drill sergeant ripping them out. Shortly afterwards, Rick was shipped out to boot camp. There was no partying. There were no hook ups with the girls. There were no drugs or alcohol. Rick’s days of living life on his selfish terms were gone. He made that choice to give them up the day he committed to the military. Had he truly known what it would be costing him, he may have thought twice about enlisting.
Back in Rick’s home town, a few of his high school buddies were planning on coming to see him graduate from boot camp. They had missed ole “Party Time Rick” and we’re anxious to see their friend. But upon seeing their friend Rick after the ceremony was over, it was apparent that he wasnt the same guy they had always known. Immediately, their was something different. He carried himself in a different way. He stood a little straighter and walked a little bolder. Like he now had some sort of purpose in life.
Rick’s friends talked about the big party they wanted to throw for him that evening in celebration of his graduating boot camp. To their surprise, Rick denied the invite. Rick went on to share with his friends that he was shipping out in the next few days on a very important mission over seas for the US military. Where before leaving, Rick had told his buddies that he was only enlisting part time, he had now made the decision to go full time into the military. Rick said he felt his life now had a real purpose. Rick had made a choice. He had to give up many of the things he loved that served no real purpose, in exchange for living a life filled with making a difference in the world.
Rick had committed to something bigger than himself. Any commitment in life requires some sort of change. Some commitments as large as joining the army involved and require radical life changes. It is impossible to sign on to serving our military and not be changed. In the military, you cannot live selfishly. Its impossible. The life of a solder demands sacrifice and putting the good of the country before yourself. You no longer behave like a regular civilian. You behave like a solder. You no longer live life on your terms, but on the terms given by your commanding officer.
“No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” 2 Timothy 2:4.
This is what the apostle Paul writes to his disciple Timothy in the bible regarding the christian lifestyle! Paul likens our commitment to God to that of a military solder. There are so many people today living out a false salvation because they do not know the commitment to which in Christ they have signed up for. So many adults will make the commitment to give their lives to Jesus only to continue living only for themselves. So many youth will walk down the aisle asking to be baptised yet their Facebook pages continue to expose their unchanged hearts.
We all gravitate towards the idea of eternal life. Who wouldnt want that? So when we hear the offer of living forever by giving our lives to Christ, it seems a no brainer. Sadly, the people that make this commitment with no life change are the very people that had they understood the true gospel….had they understood the commitment…they would probably have never signed on to begin with. We put so much emphasis on the “believe” part of salvation, but water down “repentance” to the point of being optional.
When a person truly give their life to Christ, they change. If someone enjoys getting drunk, having sexual relations out of wedlock, and living for the pleasures of the flesh, yet they claim to be a Christian, they make themselves a fool before God. Because they do not know him. Ive used this example many times, but even if we find enjoyment in movies and entertainment that glorify sins that nailed Jesus to the cross, then we should be greatly afraid for our souls, because we dont know him.
If we read in the newspaper that someone we have never met was killed by a drunk driver, we may hate that it happened, but it really doesnt effect our personal lives. However, if a family member or loved one of ours is killed by a drunk driver, then it becomes very personal. We would more than likely have a disdain for alcohol and a heart for those who operate under its influence to understand the pain it cost you in hurting your loved one.
Our sins nailed Jesus to a cross. He is our father in Heaven and he gave his life so that we might have eternal life! So why would we view our relationship with Christ any differently? As children of God, we ought to have a repulsion to the perversions of this world because we know the pain in which our Father endured for them. If you can continue to live a sinful lifestyle and claim to be a christian, then what did Jesus die for? He died so that we may be changed! Not to harm us as it says in Jeremiah 29:11, but to give us a hope and a future!
Imagine that someone close to you was thrown into prison awaiting the death penalty for a crime they had committed. You do not want them to die, so you sell everything you have in order to raise enough money to free them. By the time you are finished, you have nothing left. You go before the judge and you pay their bail, and your loved one is set free. Yet in spite of the sacrifice you made to free this loved one, they go back to committing the very same crime that you gave away your life to save them from! How would you feel? Would you feel that this loved one had any kind of respect or gratitude towards you? This person wouldnt be showing you love. Because they would be taking advantage of your sacrifice, and in not changing their lives, they would be mocking what you did for them.
So many young people say that they accept Christ as their savior, yet they continue in their sins of the flesh. So many people never realize that coming to Christ like joining the Rotary Club. Its more like joining the military. Its a life long commitment. Our lives should look radically different when we turn to Jesus. Our life should look more missional.
Instead of living for ourselves, we now live for a purpose in Jesus. We have a heart for seeking out those who are in danger and do not know him, and we take the gospel to them….in our communities and if necessary, to the ends of the earth. If our lives do not resemble the disciples in the Bible regarding our commitment level to Christ, then somethings not right. If we are more concerned with saving money to buy that new big screen television rather than putting that money towards saving for a mission trip to bring the gospel to those in need, maybe we need to reevaluate our lives.
You may read this and think I am going to far and making life seem like its all about Jesus. Isnt it? Isnt that what Paul meant when he said “To live is Christ and to die is gain?” Isnt that what Peter meant by telling his persecutors to crucify him upside down? Isnt that what John told the Romans when they told him they would let him go if he denied Christ, and boil him in hot oil if he didnt….and he choose the oil?
How can we read stories in scripture and history about these men who were so dearly devoted to the cause of Christ and we….having not even half of their commitment claim to be disciples just like them? Their whole lives were about HIM! Their whole lives were as one big mission for the kingdom! Is this to say that to have times of joy is a sin? By no means. Their greatest joy came from serving Jesus Christ!! And its a joy that is unlike anything this earth can offer. But so few people experience this type of joy. And its because they base their own personal walk with Christ more on how other modern day believers look and act rather than the example that has been given to us in Gods word? If we compare the majority Christians in our modern world to those in scripture, their lives look NOTHING alike!!
The greatest joy one will ever experience is in serving Jesus. Jesus said that which we have done to help the very least of people, we have done in service to him! In hearing this, what joy could I possibly draw in wasting money or time on my own selfish, fleshly desires? Why wouldnt I want to put all my efforts….everything I do into serving the kingdom? This is the life we were called towards. This is what Jesus meant when he said,” Follow me.”
Are you walking in the path of fleshly and selfish desires? Jesus didnt follow that path, so it is not him that you are following. The majority of pain in this world we inflict upon ourselves because we seek joy in things that have no eternal significance. Material things, intimate relationships, and earthly vices entice us with promises of eternal joy only to eventually lead us to a dead end. Ask yourself what is it that you find your joy in? Is it your spouse? Because your spouse is only human and will at times disappoint you. Is your joy ultimately found in your children or grand children? If so, what happens when they leave the nest? Or is it found in the person who formed every aspect of your being in your mothers womb? Why do we not look to the one who gave us our mind, our heart, even our deepest desires?
“Take delight in the Lord,and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4.
God knows the deepest desires of our hearts. We think we know those desires outside of God, but we are mistaken. Ask any alcoholic who once sought joy at the bottom of a glass and he’ll tell you he was left empty. Ask any person who searched for joy in an intimate relationship and they’ll tell you that happiness can never be found in any human being, because they are not perfect and will at times disappoint. And ask any parent or grandparent if they have found never ending joy in their children and their their answer will be no.
So why do we continue seek the desires of our hearts everywhere but in Christ alone? In him we find purpose for our lives, and in finding purpose comes a joy that is amazing. You see, as a Christian, we are called to a mission. We are called to live a life of sacrifice. And we are called to fight against our carnal, fleshly instincts. Those are the instincts that Satan wants us to focus on. And those are the instincts which our world does focus on. But look at our world. Its shattered since the fall of creation. Its broken. And Satan would have us stay fixated on the broken, because he doesnt want you to ever find real joy by seeking Jesus.
Real joy is found in commitment. Real joy is found in sacrifice. Real joy is found in surrendering life, every aspect of it, to Christ. Before coming to Jesus, I thought my joy was found in fitness. I thought my joy was found in acting and the pursuit of fame. If you had asked me, thats what I thought made me happy. But I really didnt know me. Because I didnt know the one who made me.
Flash forward to God saving me. I have found that I have a heart for foreign missions. Not only a heart, I have a joy found in serving the Great Commission. A happiness and fulfillment springs forth inside of me that I never knew existed at even the thought of bringing the gospel to an area that is in need of Christ. Its a passion that greatly outweighs any earthly venture or even relationship Ive experienced in my life. I have a passion that is fueled and driven by glorifying Christ! And in finding this passion, it makes sense to me.
All my life I had heard of finding joy in the lord. But had never understood how I could find my deepest joy in someone I couldnt physically see or touch. Thats why Christ calls us to know him. To know him through his word. And to trust in his promises. And as he promises, in that he gives us the desires of our hearts. Desires that we would have never known outside of Christ!
Following Jesus is a mission. Its a life contrary to this world. And it offers us so much more. But we have to be willing to follow. We have to be willing to not pick and choose what areas we will turn over and surrender to Jesus. Its all or nothing. If you havent found your joy in the Lord yet, examine yourself and determine what it is your are holding back from him. What area of your life are you still seeking fulfillment in as a substitute for him? Maybe its that you’ve claimed to be a solder of Christ, but are still living like a civilian of this world. And if you still walk like a civilian and talk like a civilian, then your not a solder. If we are true children of the king nothing of this earth will ever be able to satisfy us. Find your joy in the Lord, and find rest for your ever searching heart and soul. Following Christ is not for the weak willed. It takes a soldier’s commitment.