Saturday, August 26, 2006

"the sentence of death": to be avoided?

So the Apostle Paul writes about tough times in 2 Corinthians.
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
2 Corinthians 1.8-9
When I read this passage, I have two thoughts. One is that it's really good to rely on God rather than ourselves. Don't the proverbs say, He who trusts in himself is a fool?

But the other one is this: for Paul and Timothy (see 1.1) to make this change - viz., from relying on themselves to relying upon God instead - they had to suffer hardships. And I'm not really into hardships. I mean, this "sentence of death" thing doesn't sound so good. I don't like the sound of "far beyond our ability to endure," and "despaired even of life." Where do I opt out of that?

OK, I'm not 100% serious. I mean, given the choice of a long, meaningless life where I fade into oblivion, versus a shorter life, albeit one filled with adventure and learning and greatness -- it's obvious which is the better option, isn't it?

Or is it? How do I arrange my life? I have car insurance, life insurance, homeowners insurance, earthquake insurance, a 401(k) account, an IRA, 529 college savings accounts for the kids. Our cars have airbags and we always wear our seatbelts.

As you can tell, I have some cognitive dissonance between what I say I think is important versus how I live. I'm a little concerned about this. I don't feel in dire straits, though, because we serve and give and pray and worship and fellowship.

It's a hard thing to figure out, because at my age I often feel that lifestyle is all about sustainability. Some guys work out 30-60-90 minutes... and quit after a month. So I swim once a week, ride my bike sometimes, and work out 10 minutes 2-3 times a week. It's not as much as some people say we should do, but I can keep on doing this for years.

Because I don't want to quit. In the words of the song,
O let me never never
Outlive my love for thee
from O Sacred Head, now Wounded
Many have quit over the years -- starting at least in John 6, as Dr. Dan writes on his site

So it's not easy. I don't think it's totally silly to think in terms of sustainable discipleship, but I don't want to end up pursuing the "long but meaningless" life I mentioned above.

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