“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
I often find myself longing for the end result of something: a home renovation being completed, a writing deadline met, my kids finally seeing the meaninglessness of screens and wanting to only play outside! (sorry, maybe that last one is just me;)
I find myself always longing for the end result; often at the expense of what I have in the moment: a home full of love and laughter and a husband who gives of his time to take on house projects, an amazing opportunity to dive in and write about God’s Word, and two great kids who have an unbelievable understanding of how anything with a screen works.
This “hurry and get to the end” mentality recently caused me to wonder about our presentation of the Gospel. As a children’s curriculum writer, Sunday school teacher, and Mom, I have a great concern over the huge percentage of kids who walk away from church once they leave home. It pains my heart to think of how many little ones will one day walk out of the church doors and never look back.
There are so many theories, books and dissertations written by people far more intelligent and researched than I am, and so I will not pretend to have all (or any) of the answers. But, one thought I do have is this: what if we are putting too much emphasis on the end result and not enough on the here and now? What if, in our honest and good desire to win as many kids to the Lord as possible, we are putting all of the emphasis on eternal life and escaping hell, but are neglecting to emphasize and teach the greatest reward of all: life with Jesus.
The term “fire insurance” comes to mind: the idea that by trusting Jesus you are escaping hell. Of course that is true (if the repentance and acceptance is genuine), but if the focus is simply on avoiding hell then what does that mean for our time on earth? If Jesus is simply an insurance policy or escape clause, then we miss the greatest reward of all time: daily life with our King.
Here’s an analogy I have been mulling over in my head for awhile (warning: as with all analogies, it has many theological holes, so forgive me for those ;):
Imagine you are at the beach and decide to float on a raft for awhile. The sun is warm, the water is cool and life is good. But then a rip tide pulls you out into deep water and a sudden storm appears. You are pulled far out to sea, miles from shore. The sky grows dark, your raft is gone, you are surrounded by sharks, and you cannot swim anymore. You know that you are going to die. But then you see the light of a ship, and hear a voice. You are lifted out of the water and placed on a hard surface. You are so grateful that you have been rescued. You stay in a small cabin, and can only think about the fact that you almost died, but were saved. You just want to get to dry land. You are so focused on getting to shore that you stay in your cabin, unaware of anything going on around you. The day finally comes when the ship docks and you are escorted from your cabin. You step off the ship and turn around. You can hardly believe your eyes when you discover that you were one board the most luxurious cruise ship ever built. While you were sitting in your cabin just waiting to reach land, you could have been dining on delicious food, enjoying the spa, swimming in a beautiful pool, and watching Broadway style shows. You missed out on the entire cruise ship experience because all you were focused on was getting to land.
So the analogy has some holes (especially if you hate cruising;), but the idea is there. We run the risk of missing out on the experience of living everyday with the King of the Universe, when all we focus on is being saved from hell.
Jesus offers us life with Him, lived in His power, and wrapped in His love. He offers us strength, comfort, wisdom, peace, joy, discernment and so many more things. Eternal life starts the moment we accept Him as our Savior. He wants us to begin walking with Him through this life, aware of His presence and learning to be more like Him. We will walk everyday with Him, and then as we take our last breath on this earth, we will simply continue our walk with Him in heaven.
As God continues to bring these thoughts to the forefront of my mind, I have been challenged to help my kids, and those kids I have the privilege of teaching, to see Jesus as the greatest reward. Eternal life and being saved from hell are amazing gifts, but those come from knowing Jesus. Jesus is the greatest treasure, and I think that until we teach our kids that, and pray for God to open their hearts to fully grasp that truth, that our kids will find it easy to walk away from church and from Him.
If they think they have no real reward until the day they die, what motivation is there to live now for Him? Presenting the Gospel along with the realities of hell are vitally important and necessary, but to do so without presenting Jesus as the greatest reward of all, will most likely lead to shallow faith and the absence of a full life lived in His Presence.
Jesus is love and life and He longs for our children to know Him in a real and powerful way. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have everlasting life.” God loved us so much that He gave us His Son, first. The verse could have read: For God so loved the world that He gave us everlasting life through His Son…But it says He gave us His Son and then as a result of His Son, we also have eternal life.
God gave us the gift of Jesus. May we SEE Him as our greatest treasure and most fulfilling reward.
This was a ridiculously long post and if you have made it to the end, I feel like I should give you some kind of prize!
“Jesus, you are the greatest treasure and reward. Thank You for giving us Yourself. May we SEE You as our greatest reward and may we share that truth with your children.”
(My 7 year old daughter just read my blog and suggested it would have been way better if I titled it: “May we SEE You as way better than even the Disney Cruise Ship”, and add pictures of her being a princess on our Disney Cruise. So for my girl, here you go 😉