Storing our treasure in heaven
These days we are encouraged to put our important data and information on the cloud where we are told everything is stored safely. But recently we have heard that even cloud providers can be hacked. In line with this, we are taught to do all we can to protect our bank accounts, our investments, our retirement benefits, even our own identities. But even the most well-known provider of identity theft protection, Life Lock, acknowledges that “no one can protect all identity theft.”
The Lord Jesus Christ will return someday to reign. He taught us: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19)
American Christianity interprets Jesus’ words in line with the culture in which we live and breathe. The underlying assumption is that we can have our pie in heaven and also enjoy a tiny slice of it here on earth. We believe in God “who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” here on earth (1 Timothy 6:17b). And so not unreasonably we want to enjoy life on earth as much as possible and also make it to the next age where Christ reigns. And in a country like present-day (2014) America, it’s possible. We are saved by grace through faith, not by works—as we have been assured over and over.
Just prior this promise, however, we should note that Paul admonished Timothy to “command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God…”
Exactly how are the rich to put their hope in God?
“Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:18-19)
Some wealthy believers have chosen to obey the Lord’s command, and indeed have been very generous and willing to share. As well as laying up treasure for themselves for the age to come, they are also able to enjoy their lives on earth. Amen.
We are very thankful to the Lord for such committed believers.
Our personal calling from the Lord
It’s quite different from that of most other believers.
When I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior in the 1970s, I was within about a year of getting my doctorate in Experimental Psychology at one of the top graduate programs in the country at the time. My undergraduate degree was in Physics. To get a bigger slice of the American Dream, I even applied to and was offered admission at one of the top five MBA programs in the nation. But after I came to know Jesus, the revelation and experience of his love for me was so profound and stirring that I lost all interest in my profession and career. All I wanted to do was to tell others about Jesus. And so in preparation for full-time ministry I gained admission to Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California. (Later however I decided instead to enroll at a different Seminary in Southern California.)
The desire to tell people about the love of God through His Son Jesus was intense. When not in class I would roam the streets and preach the gospel to innocent bystanders with my trusty bullhorn. But this unquenchable desire caused me to become impatient with my Seminary studies. I wanted to DO what I saw in the Bible, and not simply read textbooks written by fallible men about the Bible and then write papers for the class.
At that time thirty-seven years ago (1977), our pastor declared to my wife and me, “If you obey the Lord like Abraham and Sarah, your days on earth will be like heaven.”
We know that Abraham and Sarah obeyed the Lord by packing up and leaving their country for a land the Lord would later show them. Later Abraham again obeyed the Lord radically by his extraordinary willingness to give Isaac back to God by offering him up as a sacrifice at Mt. Moriah. We made the decision to obey the Lord radically as did Abraham.
And so in the summer of 1978 well before finishing Seminary we gave up “the American Dream” and flew halfway around the world to Indonesia to share the gospel with those who never heard. We went completely by faith—without being sent or trained by any mission board, without any financial support from any church (we had $300 on us when we left the US), and without an invitation by any church or organization in Indonesia. A recent believer at the time, I had not yet preached a sermon or even taught Sunday School in church.
Since we went by faith we had no idea of what we were going to do after arriving in Indonesia. But no matter what, I was going to obey the Lord and preach the gospel. Very earnestly we sought the Lord in prayer asking him to open doors for us and to teach us how to preach the gospel to resistant pagan peoples. The following year the Lord graciously opened the door for us to preach the gospel in villages deep in the Indonesian jungle where the people had never heard the name of Jesus. Incredibly, within three months we had planted two churches in those unreached jungle villages. Nothing is impossible with God.
And so began a walk of faith in the Lord which continues to this day, thirty-six years later. Today we do not “charge” for our ministry as many well-known ministers do, and offerings are not requested from believers who attend our meetings to be trained. We don’t live in a million-dollar upscale home, drive a luxury car, take expensive vacations, or own a private jet to fly us to ministry engagements. (Such things do not occur to us even in our dreams.) We live very simply on a very modest income.
The Lord has been extremely gracious to us, and now we are enjoying heaven on earth—not in a material sense, but in terms of joy, peace, good health, and fruitfulness for His Kingdom.
Our heaven on earth
In 2000 He opened the way for us to start The Elijah Challenge. Within fourteen years we had ministered in over forty countries of the world and had trained tens of thousands of God’s servants and disciples how to preach the gospel as Jesus did and as He taught and commanded His disciples. “Heal the sick and tell them, ‘the kingdom of God has come near to you.’” Some of these servants of God have gone on to be exceedingly fruitful for the gospel of Jesus Christ and for the Great Commission.
Our three beautiful daughters, all born on the mission field in Indonesia in the 1980s, now follow the Lord faithfully.
In June 2014 we celebrated the milestone of forty years in our marriage. The Lord has graciously kept us physically “fresh and green” and some people seeing us can’t imagine that we’ve been married that long. Neither of us has ever taken prescription medication to speak of; we cannot recall the last time we saw a doctor for medical attention. Since 1987 we have had no medical insurance at all until the Affordable Care Act and the coverage mandated by Medicare forced us to start paying premiums. We never needed it before. And by God’s grace, we will never need it. We are enjoying heaven on earth.
It was the Lord taught us how to stay “fresh and green” by living according to His word. Walking by the Holy Spirit we are experiencing love, peace and harmony in our home along with very good physical health. We do not argue with one another. With self-control and wisdom from the Holy Spirit, we eat only that which is beneficial to our physical bodies (although of course all things are permitted). I stay very physically fit with nearly daily physical exercise. My blood pressure hovers under 110.
The Lord is graciously keeping us in perfect health for us to bear fruit for Him for many more years. Caleb in the Bible is our example. At the advanced age of eighty-five he was still able to go to war to take possession of the Promised Land as commanded by the Lord. The Lord willing, we will be training His disciples to “take the land” for many more years.
Compared to other Americans of our age and level of education, we have but a pittance set aside for retirement. But with the Lord’s help we will not need it. We will continue to teach and train His people for the Great Commission until He takes us home. And when we leave, it won’t be because our physical bodies have grown weak and helpless, but rather because we will have finished our race. When we go up we will still be “fresh and green”. (In this way of course we won’t be a burden to our children as often happens with elderly parents.)
By God’s wonderful grace, we are now enjoying heaven on earth. It started 36 years ago when we stored our treasure exclusively in the Cloud by radical obedience to the Lord. With eternity drawing closer and closer with each passing moment, we will make the most of every opportunity because the days are indeed evil.
The important question for us now is not “where we will be spending eternity?” That was indeed settled long ago when we made Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Rather, the important question is “what will we be doing in eternity”?
The answer to that question will be determined by what and how much we have stored in the Cloud before we leave this life.
Matthew 19:21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Praise the Lord for His exceedingly wonderful grace! We are overflowing with thanksgiving to Him ~