Researching your family tree can be a fun and rewarding hobby. For one Minnesota man, it was a life-changing experience.
Marty Johnson knew he was the product of two young college students who had a brief affair. Neither parent was prepared to deal with raising a child, so Johnson was given up for adoption and grew up in a loving home in Minnesota.
Years later as an adult, he started digging through past records and got in contact with his birth mother.
Then a letter arrived one day that said, “Welcome to the Ogike dynasty! You come from a noble and prestigious family.”
The letter went on to explain that Johnson was the next in line to inherit the position of village chief from his biological father, John Ogike, the current chief of Aboh village in Nigeria.
Johnson flew to Nigeria to meet his new family. He went from having no knowledge about any blood relatives to a noisy celebration in the village. There he was united with brothers and sisters, numerous aunts and uncles, cousins, and of course, his father.
In a similar way, Jesus is God’s wonderful surprise letter declaring that we are his sons, heirs of God, and co-heirs with Christ.
In another seemingly-unrelated story, on September 2, 1945, the documents of surrender officially ending World War II were signed by the Japanese and designated representatives of allied nations. General Douglas MacArthur officiated the ceremony aboard the USS Missouri and was the last to sign on behalf of the United States.
MacArthur, flanked by his military colleagues, took his Parker fountain pen and simply signed his first name “Douglas.” He then passed the pen to General Wainwright, who signed “Mac.” MacArthur then handed the pen to General Percival, who signed “Arthur.”
This unusual procedure was MacArthur’s way of honoring the two United States generals who had suffered severe persecution as prisoners of war. They had persevered, and now they were allowed to share in the glory of victory.
One of the main principles this illustrates is the truth of Romans 8:17 (“and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”), that those who persevere in the battles we fight this side of heaven will receive honor and glory there. In fact, we will be called joint-heirs.
Those who share in the sufferings of Christ will also share in His glory.
While it is difficult to continue thinking and talking about persevering when we are suffering, the point is clear: if you and I are to be known as Christ-followers in the real world today, we have a wonderful inheritance, as heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.
As fellow heirs with Christ, we still live in an imperfect world and will continue to experience pain and sadness and disappointment and tribulation and troubles and what the Bible calls (in James 1:2) “diverse trials.”
Life on this side of heaven is not easy.
But the bottom line for the follower of Christ is that as we endure the various trials we face in life, we will grow to maturity and thus will receive the glory and honor as hers of Christ. We tend to complain when we go through the trials of life, rather than “consider it pure joy”, as James encourages us to do.
I am convinced that God allows us to experience trials just so we can see what it means to persevere under the pressure of living each day for Him. He promises to honor us, much as General MacArthur did the two Generals who were POW’s. The reward of living for Christ is great and it will be worth it.
Several years ago, the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office published a list of names of people who were the rightful owners of abandoned safe deposit boxes, forgotten bank accounts, security deposit checks, uncashed paychecks, and dividend checks.
More than a billion dollars is owed to nearly five million people and businesses that the Treasurer’s Office could not trace. The front page of the supplement listed the names and last known addresses of 10 individuals or couples each owed over $100,000.
And what followed were 116 pages packed tightly with names from Lucilee Aakeberg to Leonard E. Zyzda — 113,000 names of people all owed more than $100 in cash and/or stock!
Many, if not most, Christ-followers live their lives in defeat and discouragement, not faring very well when the pressures of life seem to engulf them on every side.
They have a virtual plethora of unclaimed treasures that are theirs for the claiming – things like God’s peace, strength, comfort, wisdom, love, and many other spiritual treasures to which all the heirs of God are entitled.
Even in light of the suffering and trials, you go through, what treasures might God be holding in trust for you to claim?
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at [email protected] .