I paused momentarily in my brisk walk through the shopping centre to reread the sign that had caught my eye. It featured a serene-looking woman in a warm coat, with the words ‘Enjoy life – live comfortably’. I smiled to myself.
And I thought of Abraham. He left his home in one of the most magnificent cities of his time, and followed God as a nomad, though he didn’t know where he was going. Yet God had great riches planned for him; deep joy in the blessing of a long-awaited son; and an intimate relationship with Himself, which could only be experienced as he trusted each impossible promise and obeyed each difficult command.
I thought of the former fishermen, who had left their family business to follow a penniless itinerant preacher who couldn’t even offer them a bed to sleep on. Later, they were imprisoned, threatened and flogged for preaching the same message, yet counted it a privilege and a joy to suffer disgrace for the sake of their Master. They prayed not for relief from opposition, but for greater boldness as they proclaimed salvation through Jesus.
I thought of Paul, dictating a letter to his Phillipian friends while under house arrest, admitting it felt like his life was being poured out like wine on the altar, yet overflowing with joy and a passionate desire to know Christ in an ever-deepening way, despising the prestige of the world as garbage in comparison.
I thought of Jesus, who promised, not a life of ease, but of persecution – yet also promised an abundant and fulfilling life.
I thought of the petite young mother I had recently met, who was bringing up her children in a remote Asian jungle in order to bring the Gospel to the people there. As she recounted her experiences of medical emergencies, hardships and tragedies, she concluded by smiling, ‘I would never trade any of that for a comfortable life back in America. The Lord has brought me so much closer to Himself through the difficulties.’
I thought of my own plans to move to a developing nation to give people access to God’s Word. Living comfortably didn’t really fit into that picture. It seemed rather insipid in comparison.