Missing the MISSION
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, the exclaimed, "Everyone is looking for you!"
Jesus replied, "Let us go somewhere else - to the nearby villages - so I can preach there also.
We live in a world starved for any sense of the "end game". For most of us, the days of our lives progress in the most disjointed manner imaginable, lacking any sense of cohesiveness, direction, or mission. Work hard, earn enough money to make it to the end of the year, try to avoid pain and suffering, do your best to deaden the longings for more Life, return to step 1, repeat. We don't live: we exist, we survive.
But to what end? What is the goal of our survival? To not die? Is that it? To keep doing what we are doing - going around in this endless cycle of simply existing - for as long as we possibly can? Do we even still hope that something, some day, will change?
Remember the story of The Count of Monte Cristo? Edmond Dantes spent fourteen years imprisoned in the hellish Chateau D'If for a crime he did not commit, betrayed by his own friends. Do you think he survived that long because he thought his life of imprisonment was better than death? Not on your life. He survived because he had a motivation. A mission. He knew his end game, and it wasn't to perish in a stone cell, agonizingly forsaken. No. He would live to breathe the free air again. He would live to see the star-studded heavens once more, to sail the mediterranean sea and feel the salty brine spraying his sun-drenched face, to feel the soft warmth of his true love's kiss. He would live to see injustice overturned. And if all else failed, he would live to have his vengeance.
But he never would have bothered to keep himself alive if he thought the Chateau D'If was going to have the last word, would turn out in fact to be his everlasting and eternal destination.
Edmond Dantes was certainly far wiser than you and I. And strangely enough, probably far happier, because he lived with purpose. In fact he lived with nothing else. We are drawn to his story, captivated by it because we see the great romance of the undistracted life - even in the context of horrible pain and suffering, we know that we have been confronted with something better, stronger, higher, more desirable than our lives of aimless dissipation.
But is this confusion, this lack of purpose and mission, this life lived without any firm and resolute grasp of our "end game" simply what it means to live under the Curse that fell on the race of Man once upon a time in that Garden back at the beginning of the Story? Maybe so. But even if we grant that this is exactly what we are dealing with, isn't there more to that Story? Wasn't the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Savior supposed to have some impact on all that? Some counteracting influence?
"For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ." - Romans 5:17
Jesus came to Earth to do a lot of things, some perhaps more important than others. (Wont every different church, denomination, and theologian make it very clear which ones you ought to place higher than the others? But that is why we say perhaps. We doubt very seriously ourselves that God sees holes, weaknesses, or incidentals in His Great Work). But certainly one of the things He came to do was restore a man's (and a woman's) original gift of living a significant life. Of finding answers to the questions "Why me?", "Why now?", "Why here?" "Why do I exist, and what is expected of me?"
Jesus actually was quite specific in answering the last question you know. Much. He said much was expected of you. "To whom much is given, much will be expected".
Of course, you will hear that message in plenty of Christian circles. I remember hearing that in my youth and feeling like I had just been assigned a 40 page research paper, with end notes. Just one more guilt trip. You better watch out. No skating into heaven on a free pass.
But there's another way to look at Jesus' words. To the one walking the Warrior's Path, these words are not just heaping one more duty on our burdened lives, they are the invitation to a magnificent gift.
The gift of a mission.
So, that's what God wants from my life? Much? Hey - so do I! You see, He's not the one behind the monotony of an insignificant life after all. We can choose to live one, certainly. But the offer is for something more. We can have the purposeful, driven, missional life that Edmond Dantes had - and we don't have to spend 14 years in the Chateau D'If to discover it.
In other words, we can live like Jesus.
Don't miss this. Don't rationalize it away, don't subordinate it beneath some favorite theological scheme that dismisses it as "optional". If we are to take Jesus as our Lord and King, then We must take Him as we find Him, not as we admire the parts of Him that reflect our own wishes. Jesus knew exactly who He was, exactly why He had come - like no other human before Him had ever known these things. There are some stirring images in Chesterton's writings about how Jesus marched towards His destiny with unswerving determination, and swept across the Jewish countryside like a whirlwind and a clap of thunder.
When you love Jesus, you are loving the kind of man who set out to do so much more than grow in His personal relationship with His Father while living at peace with his family and neighbors. You are loving a man who set out to save the world.
And then He invited us to walk that same path. To join Him in saving the world. To be drawn forward into the days ahead with an unquenchable sense of purpose, to live with "a touch of destiny" about us. To be so completely His that we, of all people who have ever lived, be the most completely our true intended selves.
What is your motivation for what you are going to do with the rest of today? This week? This summer? Do you know your mission? Do you know your end game? Do you know why you have come?
Yeah. Life can be like that.