Imagine a TSA checkpoint at an airport. What if the qualification of passing from our current status to the one we are meant to be in is that we must shed some luggage? — only those who are traveling light can pass through. Would we do it, or would we stay behind, unwilling to comply? What if it was God who defined those terms, and the requirements were personalized?
I know most people from church culture would say, “Of course, to love God is to obey God, I always do.” But what people say and what people do are often very different. I have traveled many miles, so to speak, with people who claimed God as their priority, and commander and King, but witnessed them unwilling to leave behind their massive pile of luggage at the TSA checkpoint. Had they only left it, as asked and encouraged, they could have passed through to what God had planned for them (plans to prosper and not to harm, plans to give hope and a future).
But alas, their priority was there in their luggage.
Although they begged the TSA agents, and tried to claim, “I’m with him” or “I’m with her”, with intentions to sneak in with someone who willingly shed all that God asked, they were left behind.
With their piles of luggage.
Believing they were treated unfairly. Resenting those who got through the checkpoint and quickly moved out of sight. Inventing something to condemn them, to justify discreditation or dismissal of the forward movers. All the while turning a blind eye to the clearly-stated signs at the airport, those personalized stipulations meant for them, too, but conveniently ignored, the posted requirements with which those who passed through did comply. Deciding themselves victims, not causes of their own circumstances.
Dejected and angry, they gather their piles of suitcases and drag them back home. There they unpack the bags to inspect item after item, relishing their worth, reinforcing their decision to hold tight to them. Arguing with God, but not calling it so: believing themselves “right” and the travelers “wrong”. Making themselves feel better by bashing the blameless. Redefining themselves as “the staid”, “the consistent”, “the pillars”, “the holy”, and by compare calling the innocents who traveled forward “rebels”, “flashes in the pan”, “backsliders”, “amoral”.
Which is understandable, perhaps, considering human nature, and maybe not the end of the story for the noncompliant. As long as they don’t settle in where they are and continue to lunge for the future. As long as they look for the Lord’s pillar of cloud by day to guide them on their way, and pillar of fire by night to give them light, as the Israelites wandering the desert did, they may yet come to the passage to their promised land.
But keep in mind, God doesn’t conform to people, people must conform to him. Don’t expect him to change his terms for each person; expect the requirements and enforcements to be unchanged. As long as each is intent on hearing directly from the Holy Spirit and no other voice (including their own), they may yet hear and obey and perhaps even catch up with those who traveled before them.
But why do it the difficult way when it can be done with ease? Why refuse to comply and play all those mind games to hide misplaced idolatry? (It’s not as hidden as you imagine, by the way.) Why forego the good things that would have come with simple obedience and singular godship?
If God asks us to see it his way, or do it his way, then do it. Do that over and over as often as he asks, and expect to ultimately arrive at portals and gates of things new, things wonderful, things grand, things possible only with God.
We can fake “the promised land”, “blessed”, and “favored” only until the real deal comes along, then the fake is overshadowed by the brilliant light of those who truly loved enough to obey, and who ultimately were planted by God as oaks of righteousness for the display of his splendor.
We can keep all those bags of preferred values, ideals, worldview, people, theologies, paradigms, prejudices, material things, party politics, pride, bitterness, self-pity, untruths, elitism, power — whatever it is we value more than him — and stay in the familiar world we like to control. Just don’t fool ourselves that we’ve arrived at the best stuff.
For those who have been trimmed and thrashed and forged and refined by fires, — for those who have loved and obeyed — through the TSA gate they go. They may have only wee little backpacks with next to nothing inside, but they have willingly thrown off everything that hinders. Their eyes are fixed on hope and a marvelous future. They know who God is. They let him be the commander or King or father or coach or any of his many roles in their lives. They are headed to all things good.
My friend, if God asks you to drop a suitcase or two or three or fifteen, don’t be oppositional. Do what he asks. Travel light. There is no other way to go through to the real deal.
Philippians 3:7. I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.
Jeremiah 29:11 . For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Exodus 13:21 . By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.
Isaiah 61:3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
Hebrews 12:1-2 . Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.