Remember when you couldn’t find toilet paper?
Chad McMillan, the pastor of students, evangelism, and missions at First Baptist Church in Navasota, Texas, had a novel idea. He put his pastor on a trailer surrounded by plexiglass and armed him with a T-shirt gun to distribute toilet paper rolls wrapped with Bible verses. It went so well, they added a pulpit, piano, and sound system to do pop-up worship services while flinging the TP.
Then McMillan started Barbecue Baptist Church. The church borrowed a catering truck from a member and traveled around the county, serving about four meals a day, four days a week, along with a short worship service. Last month, they took the ministry on the road from Navasota to Nashville, visiting first responders and medical professionals across six states in seven days.
Along with the meals, they are offering a message of hope and some humor as well. “Not to make light of what’s happening,” McMillan explained, “but to try to give people a moment of levity and joy to know that God loves them, and we love them.”
A price it’s easy for me to ask you to pay
When you’re offering free toilet paper and barbecue, people tend to be grateful. When you’re called to share unpopular biblical truth, they can be less so.
It is especially challenging to speak such truth to people when our success depends on their affirmation.
Most of you reading this article make your living in the secular world and are therefore measured by secular means. In such a culture, it can be risky to stand up for spiritual truth. As we’ve discussed before, if you defend biblical marriage, you’ll be branded a “homophobe.” If you advocate for life from conception, you’ll be accused of participating in a “war on women.” In these days of cancel culture (for more, see my paper here), those who oppose biblical truth have unprecedented means of attacking Christians.
At the same time, we are clearly called to be Jesus’ “witnesses” where we live and around the world (Acts 1:8). We are to be prepared “always” to defend our faith (1 Peter 3:15), whatever the circumstances or cost. The apostles risked their lives when they told the Sanhedrin, “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). Paul risked his life repeatedly to preach God’s word (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:22–33) and testified, “I am not ashamed of the gospel” (Romans 1:16).
As a result, I could exhort you today to risk your social status, your relationships, and perhaps even your job by standing courageously for God’s word and biblical morality. But that’s easy for me to say, since I work at a Christian ministry as a Christian minister and have little to lose when I do what I’m asking you to do.
David donated $158 billion in gold but was a “guest” in this world
This week, I found a biblical statement that may help us choose eternal obedience even at the cost of temporal sacrifice.
King David said to the Lord: “I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my fathers” (Psalm 39:12). The Hebrew word translated “sojourner” describes a person living away from their country. The word translated “guest” means a “temporary resident.”
In other words, David saw himself as someone who is temporarily living in a world that is not his home.
This despite the fact that he was celebrated as a warrior (1 Samuel 18:7) and a king who made Israel a regional superpower: “The fame of David went out into all lands, and the Lord brought the fear of him upon all nations” (1 Chronicles 14:17). He built a palace in Jerusalem (cf. 1 Chronicles 14:1) that is still being excavated today; I have visited it many times over the years.
And many people do not know that David was one of the wealthiest men in history. For example, he donated to the building of the temple “100,000 talents of gold, a million talents of silver, and bronze and iron beyond weighing” (1 Chronicles 22:14). It has been calculated that the gold he contributed was worth more than $158 billion; the silver would be worth $18 billion today.
And yet, David was inspired by the Holy Spirit to testify that he was a “guest” in this world. His true home was in the world to come (cf. 2 Samuel 12:23).
“What we call the process, God calls the end”
Like David, when we see ourselves as a “guest” in this world, we are encouraged to live for the world that is our true and eternal home. Paul stated, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
A friend once suggested to me that this life is the “dot before the line.” Ten thousand millennia after this fallen planet is forgotten, eternity will only have begun.
In the meantime, what does it mean to live as a “guest” on this planet? Here’s one answer: Who we are and who we are becoming is more important than where we are or what we have. Learning to depend on God redeems our present challenges, witnesses powerfully to our fallen culture, and wins eternal reward for present faithfulness (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:10–15).
Oswald Chambers noted: “We are apt to imagine that if Jesus Christ constrains us, and we obey him, he will lead us to great success. We must never put our dreams of success as God’s purpose for us; his purpose may be exactly the opposite. We have an idea that God is leading us to a particular end, a desired goal; he is not. The question of getting to a particular end is a mere incident. What we call the process, God calls the end.”
Chambers continued: “His purpose is that I depend on him and on his power now. If I can stay in the middle of the turmoil calm and unperplexed, that is the end of the purpose of God. . . . God’s end is to enable me to see that he can walk on the chaos of my life just now. If we have a further end in view, we do not pay sufficient attention to the immediate present; but if we realize that obedience is the end, then each moment as it comes is precious.”
Will obedience be your “end” today?
NOTE: For more on the significance of obedience under trial, please see Ryan Denison’s latest website article, “17 Miami Marlins team personnel test positive for COVID: A lesson on embracing trials from MLB’s first outbreak.”