Don’t Live for Lesser Things
From Gospel Translations
My guess is that in this room, being the average human beings that you are at your age, most of you are not entirely happy with your looks. Guys know they could be more handsome, stronger, taller; and women wish your hips or any number of things were different. Everybody is just dissatisfied with the way they look, except for a few.
And that’s okay, I think. We’re just plain, ordinary human beings, and that’s good. I wouldn’t want you to be distracted with too much thinking about your own looks. But I can give you an infallible path to great beauty with biblical authority. How beautiful are the feet of those who risked their lives to tell the good news to others (Romans 10:15).
Do you want to be a beautiful person? And if your feet are beautiful — goodness gracious! I mean, feet are ugly and gross. They smell. You have to wash them, and servants used to do that. So, if your feet are beautiful, God is saying, “I love looking at you. I love looking at you. You’re my child and you’re beautiful to me.” And we ought to see each other that way.
The reason I say “risk your lives” — I know I’m inserting that into the text in Romans 10 — is that Romans is crystal clear: if we suffer with him, we will be glorified with him (Romans 8:17). And that suffering refers both to the normal sorrows of life, and it refers to persecution as well. Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword — “as it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long’” (Romans 8:35–36).
Most of the unreached peoples remaining are in places that don’t want you to come, and will make it hard for you if you go there. Christ will build his church. Nothing will stop him. And Jesus promised,
“You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.” (Luke 21:16–19)
This mission will not be finished without martyrs. So at the end of Romans, Paul celebrates Prisca and Aquila. What does he celebrate about them? “Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life” (Romans 16:3–4). He thinks that’s wonderful. He’s thankful for it. And so it will be until the mission is finished.
My guess is most of you have never heard of John and Betty Stam. They graduated from Moody Bible Institute and went to China as missionaries when they were 25 with China Inland Mission. It was September 1932, and they ministered for two years until December 1934. On Thursday, December 6, 1934, the Communists swept into their village and took them captive. They were 25. The Reds announced in the streets that these foreigners would be executed. The reason: “The foreigners have ruined China.”
Christians have always been slandered. You would hope that if you were a martyr, they would say the real reason why you’re dying instead of shaming you with a lie. But that’s what they said. So, they stripped them of their outer clothing to make the shame even worse. They led them to Eagle Hill. The Stams had a baby. The baby was left behind in the village. They didn’t even know what would happen to this baby, and they went out of the city.
A young soldier lifted the sword while John knelt in front of his wife, and they took off his head in front of her. She didn’t scream. She trembled. She fell on his body, and the same sword dispatched her to King Jesus.
There is no way forward in this mission without at least a willingness for that to happen to you. If you say to Jesus anything but that, you’re not a faithful disciple. We didn’t urge you to come to this conference to make life easy for you; we urge you to come to make your life count — not to make it easy.
So, don’t waste your life on superficial things. Grow deep. Get ready to die well. Give your life unreservedly to what matters. Take hold of life, which is life indeed. Turn off the television. Shut down the empty computer games. Go deep with God. Be much alone with God.
The world needs godly people — not superficial, worldly people who happen to be culturally hip and cool. That doesn’t save anybody. You need to be weird, out of step, and full of sacrificial risk-taking love for people.
So, every day, preach to yourself this Romans text. In fact, I would just plead with you to memorize all of Romans 8. But here’s the end of it:
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things [mark that phrase] we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31–39)
That’s your message for the nations. That’s your hope in suffering. There is no greater message. There is no greater hope.