Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”
- John 21:20-23
When God, by His Spirit through His Word, gives you a clear vision of His will, you must “walk in the light” of that vision (1 John 1:7). Even though your mind and soul may be thrilled by it, if you don’t “walk in the light” of it you will sink to a level of bondage never envisioned by our Lord. Mentally disobeying the “heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19) will make you a slave to ideas and views that are completely foreign to Jesus Christ. Don’t look at someone else and say, “Well, if he can have those views and prosper, why can’t I?” You have to “walk in the light” of the vision that has been given to you. Don’t compare yourself with others or judge them— that is between God and them. When you find that one of your favorite and strongly held views clashes with the “heavenly vision,” do not begin to debate it. If you do, a sense of property and personal right will emerge in you— things on which Jesus placed no value. He was against these things as being the root of everything foreign to Himself— “…for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). If we don’t see and understand this, it is because we are ignoring the underlying principles of our Lord’s teaching.
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
I have mentioned before that we should not compare, but I compared to an extent in my recent year end review. I have written about the false teaching of the prosperity gospel peddlers, but does that mean that the rich guy in church is on the wrong track? Maybe, but maybe not. As Chambers said, we each have our path to follow. Just like the Apostles Peter and John, we may have vastly different lives to live.
My wife was born in Indonesia during troubled times there. Her father had a good education, but not much else. A friend invited him to the yacht club for dinner. My wife was a little girl at the time, and she was given more food than she could ever eat. She took the excess to the fence that kept the beggars out of the club and fed the beggar children through the fence. Her father became very angry. She was making a scene and he might never get another chance to hob nob with the rich and famous of their community if she did not stop. In a way, my wife has never lost that in her soul. If we have $5 left over today, she’ll give it away to someone who needs it, even though we might need it next month. That was her nature, even before she had a relationship with Jesus.
I grew up on a turkey farm in Mississippi. We had tens of thousands of turkeys, our own processing facility, and our own brand. When I was in first grade, the county named us the most outstanding family in the county with a big spread on the front page of the local newspaper. One year later, one disaster after another struck our family’s turkey processing plant. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) changed rules. A load of turkey’s spoiled due to a mechanical failure in sealing the bags. The equipment was fixed, and more turkeys were shipped at our cost to fix the spoilage, but the FDA rule changes meant that we had to build a new processing plant in town instead of the existing one at the farm. Then the rules changed before construction was complete, and we were ruined. My Dad went on the road, installing poultry equipment for the company for which he had once been a customer. Some people in town hated us, since many people lost their jobs, but that smoothed over in time. But I became something like my future father-in-law, a man with nothing other than a good education.
So, my wife and I should not think that the world is simply going to shower us with riches. We had to work hard. Now we barely eek out a living, but we have our faith in God. He will see us through.
Yet, we have friends that have had different paths. One friend, our Sunday school teacher, was complaining about being lax in getting back to me about something I had asked him. He had been to his lake house. There were things that needed to be fixed there. He had just gotten his snow blower out of the shop, and there were other things that he had to get fixed.
I told him that his problem was that he was cursed by his blessings. If he had none of those things, he would have plenty of time. I also told him that we had such meager resources, we could not dream of any of those things. I know. I should be ashamed of myself, and I will get around to an apology. (I did apologize before posting this, and our friend laughed.) But he thought that an engineer with a master’s degree should be somewhat equal in blessings. He is such a sweet soul that he never thought that our circumstances would differ.
My friend and I should each read the quote from Chambers again. We each need to walk in the light according to the path that God has set before us, each to our own path. Looking to the left or right at another person’s path just wastes our time and leads to many, many violations of the tenth commandment.
Can a rich man enter the kingdom of Heaven? Jesus said it was highly unlikely. They have so much that they can have faith in rather than resting solely upon God. But Jesus never said it was impossible. We need to pray for our rich friends. They have a harder path to follow – too many temptations that never enter our minds.
Should we look down on others who have less than we do? No. God has a path for them. If they call upon God as their Lord and Savior, He will see them through.
In our own life, if we see sin in our life, we must repent, but we must not listen to the friends of Job who say that our lesser state is a result of that sin. If we constantly grieve over our sinful state, where is the victory in Jesus? With guilt weighing us down, how can we move forward in service to God? In a way, we are internalizing the comparison. We are envying the earthly blessings of our neighbor and considering ourselves as unworthy of those blessings.
God loved us while we were sinners. Jesus died for us. What did we do to deserve such a sacrifice? Nothing. The gift of eternal life is a free gift. We should not be proud when we receive it, and we should not self-flagellate when we do not get the blessings that others receive.
For each of us, our journey of faith is done one step at a time, along our own path. Our paths will cross the paths of others. Enjoy their company for a season, praising God for our fellow travelers, and then continue to take the next step along our path. It may not make sense at the time, but God will reveal a bit of Himself as He illuminates our individual path in front of us.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.