We are in the process of reading to our kids Little Pilgrim’s Progress, a children’s adaptation of the John Bunyan classic. (If you have never read the original, I recommend it. Even the children’s version will be a benefit to parents. It’s a great way to do family devotions. We sometimes read a chapter or two and then discuss it briefly with the kids.) Last night, we read of Passion and Patience, two little boys staying for a time in the house of the Interpreter. Little Christian observed that Passion was in constant miserable fits, while Patience was calm and serene. The Interpreter explained that Passion was overcome by his desire for present treasures. He simply could not be happy until his want was satiated. Patience on the other hand understood that the only true treasures are those given by the King in the Celestial City. He was willing to wait for those treasures, having his heart set on heavenly things, not temporal things.
That Pilgrim’s Progress was written more than 325 years ago shows that the human condition has not changed over the course of time. What plagued the hearts of men in the 1600’s plagues our hearts today. It is the common bent of man to look for comfort and treasures here and now, forfeiting greater riches in the Lord’s eternal presence.
How foolishly Passion pined away for gold and silver, things that will never stand the test of time. And yet, so many of us are like him. We spend our time and energy longing for and working for material things, and – in this country – we usually get them, but find that they do not satisfy, so we strive for other material things. There is always the next toy or convenience awaiting us, that thing after which we believe we will be happy, but the happiness always eludes us.
Jesus had much to say about this. "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also… No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matt 6:19-21, 24).
There is an incompatibility between seeking the Kingdom of God and seeking the kingdom of me. I can only have one god in my life. It will either be the God or it will be my own passions. God will share a throne with no one. So when I dedicate my thought life, my passion, my energy, and my time to seeking stuff, not only I have laid up for myself treasures on earth, but I have also made a decision about my worship – my heart cries “all hail King Mammon” rather than “all hail King Jesus.”
The story of the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-22 may hit closer to home that we would like to admit: And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'" And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth." And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
The young man sought eternal life but was not willing to sacrifice his “Best Life Now” to get it. He simply desired something more than he desired Christ. This story does not teach that we work our way to heaven or buy our way to heaven. It teaches that only those who desire Him above all things can be called His disciples.
The irony is that Christ offers riches far greater than anything that can ever be had on earth. When we pass Him up to lay our hands on earthly things, we have passed by the true prize for the sake of fools’ gold.
The epistles of the New Testament so clearly teach that our riches are tied up in the person, work, and presence of Christ (Rom 2:4; 9:23; 10:12; Eph 1:7, 1:18; 2:7; 3:8; Phil 4:19; Col 1:27; 2:2). Haven’t we seen this in our study of 1 Peter? Our salvation in Christ is described in 1:4 as “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.” The focus of our passion and joy is to be Christ alone: Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1Pe 1:8-9).
So which are you? Passion or Patience? Are you spending your life striving for perishable, defiled, and fading riches on earth? Or are you longing in your heart for the unfathomable riches of Christ? Are you holding on to your own things or to the Lord’s cross and kingdom?
There is longing on either side. The difference is that one pursuit will lead to frustration in the journey and dissatisfaction at the goal, and the other to hope in the journey and eternal joy at the goal. Pray that the Lord would reveal to you which one you are after, and beg Him for the grace to change if change is in order.
Psalm 16 is a good one to commit to memory for those who would prize Him above all else. It is the psalm of a heart that says to the Lord, I have no good beside You. If only we were all desiring to get to that place. Then we would find true contentment in patiently waiting for Him, knowing, “… in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”