The Problem of Egypt

Lately I’ve been blessed reading a book by Nelson Dy, a Filipino author whose Finding Comfort is a wonderful set of contemplations based on his years of journaling. I’ve also been enjoying Steward Leader Meditations by author R. Scott Rodin. Both of these men are new personal acquaintances, and their writings and thoughts are a real blessing.

Today I’ve been challenged again to consider where I am at in my faith journey in my heart. After 36 years of knowing and serving the Lord as a missionary, how much more do I know the God who saved me and changed my life? How much more -or less- of my personal time do I give to Him? How much more -or less- am I committed to Him and His purposes in me and in the world? And how much more -or less- do I love Him? I’m not going to air a long line of dirty laundry here, but I will admit I’m not satisfied with my progress and response to the living God of the universe, who loves us as much as He does.

In the book of Revelation the Lord said to one group of believers that they had left their “first love.” This is one of the most commonly cited verses where it comes to the subject of drifting away from what matters most. They had somehow and for some reasons strayed away from the most important reason for serving God in the first place, which should always be related to the first and greatest commandment of all – to Love the Lord your God with all our heart.

Nelson Dy laid it out well in referencing Israel in Egypt. They went there as a large family of “70 souls” during a time of regional suffering; a terrible and widespread famine. Joseph had amazingly risen to the role of Vice Pharaoh, and suddenly their lot in life was remarkably improved. Surely they must have reached the promised land? God had revealed to them that He had a plan all along to care for them and bless them abundantly.  However, we read later that what they had just entered into was -in reality- a furnace of suffering (Deut 4:2).

Perspective is an interesting thing isn’t it? As they say, things are not always as they appear. How true. From our perspective, we may see things good when in fact they are not good in the way we may be thinking.  Good can be a highly subjective term. In the same way things that look and feel bad are not always bad in the way we may be thinking.

I remember a time when, interestingly enough, another author (and now friend) Ron Jenson was speaking to our company staff at RemoteLink Philippines. He asked us to make a graph starting from childhood to the current time, and on the graph to plot the high and low points of our lives. Invariably all the graphs had very pronounced spikes of ups and downs, looking like the all-time worst roller coast ride of the stock market! We were then asked to explain a bit about the peaks and the dips. After some discussions, I remember commenting that we see the ups and downs only from our perspective. But, from heaven’s perspective, we may find one day that our graphs are actually inverted. We may someday  realize that our deepest valleys were in many aspects our best moments; times we learned the most and drew closest to God. Conversely, our best times may not be as good as we thought, potentially being times of drifting toward self-sufficiency and spiritual neglect.

It is true that God led this new family-to-be-nation into a place and time of protection and provision. But it is also true that Israel ended up enslaved and in bondage there. They ended up being abused and ridiculed by the Egyptians. And eventually “cried out to God.”

As Nelson Dy says it:

“Similarly, we are but aliens and strangers in this world. Thus, we are not to love this world, which is passing away anyway. We are rather to be preoccupied with advancing the Kingdom of God. Yet, as we prosper in our careers, finances, marriages, hobbies — whatever pleasure this world has to offer — the danger is similar. We might no longer long for our real home and more importantly, for God Himself.”

I pray that I might be re-enlightened to recognize the truth of our current state. And -being enlightened- that I might have wisdom to see beyond and below the surface of “good” and “bad.” To be reminded again that ultimately loving God intensely and keeping our eyes and hearts set on heaven is our truest “best life now.”

May the Lord keep us on the straight and narrow path where He alone is our great reward.

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