When it comes to value, most of us are interested in bargains. It doesn’t really matter what it is. It may be a home, clothes, cars or food, but we are incredible in our pursuit of getting something for nothing.
That is why “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” are so popular. Those who would invest the time and energy in participating in such events as those are the kinds who are looking for bargains no matter what the cost.
Even though I rarely go out to shop (or hunt for bargains, as the case may be!) on the Friday after Thanksgiving, or even the Monday after Thanksgiving on the internet, that pursuit of the once-a-year exclusive (and elusive) reduction in price on the product of the decade can be exciting and more than attractive!
At other times, we wait till the last minute to buy, hoping the seller is willing to take less than the asking price for whatever it is that he is selling.
As a matter of fact, our bargain-hunting penchant sometimes is self-defeating. The other week I caught myself driving 15 miles round trip to save two cents per gallon to fill up my golf cart with gasoline (it has a five-gallon tank!). That is not very smart!
Probably the most annoying bargain-hunter of all is that characteristic individual known as the coupon clipper. You know them, they are the individuals who are so driven to get a bargain for the food that they buy that they are cutting coupons out for everything – including that simple little pack of chewing gum you get off the candy shelf as you are waiting in line for the coupon-clipper in front of you to finish checking out.
And they always have lots of them too! Thirty-eight coupons to redeem for ten items or less. Oh, and one other thing – they always manage to get right in front of me in the check-out line!
Now really, I don’t hate them. In fact, in some ways I admire their tenacity.
I heard about a tenacious young Irishman who walked into a London pawnbroker, pawned a valuable camera, and then went across the store to the jewelry counter and purchased a wedding ring. The next day he returned with his bride, pawned the ring, redeemed the camera, went outside and photographed her in her wedding dress.
Two hours later, the couple returned to the pawn shop, pawned the camera and the wedding dress, and then departed on their honeymoon.
Most of us are notorious for asking one question when it comes to buying and selling – how can I get the most for the least?
We are bargain-hunting people. But if we are not careful it is easy for that same mentality we have in what we buy to carry over into the area of what we believe.
We are told that salvation is free and does not cost anything! What a bargain! Who would not want to grab onto that one?
But if you have been told that, you have been grossly misled. Whoever told you that the ticket to heaven was free and easy was not telling you the truth.
In fact, it cost the Son of God His very life. It cost “Our Father, who art in heaven” the love of His life.
And if you are genuinely interested in being a disciple and follower of Jesus Christ, it will cost you your will. It could cost you your dreams, your hopes, your plans.
I’m sorry if someone has lied to you to give you the impression that heaven cost nothing in order to get you to believe.
The Christ-following life is anything but easy. The valleys are more in number than the mountaintop experiences some would have you believe are the norm for the Christ-follower.
And the reason is simple: the way to the crown is a cross. Christ had to go there, but He did that for you!
And if you are going to be conformed to the image of Christ, which is true for every genuine follower of Christ, then you too will suffer.
The Apostle Paul gives us the life cry of every believer, when he says, in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, “ (emphasis mine!).
While we like the idea of knowing Christ, and the power associated with His resurrection, we sort of pass over the last phrase there! We would just as soon not experience the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, wouldn’t we?
I don’t know about you, but I would love to spend the rest of my life here on earth basking in the sunshine of knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection.
But that verse includes the whole thing about suffering. There is no way you and I can avoid it.
Suffering is as much a part of the Christian life as the joy of experiencing Him and His power on a daily basis.
One prominent pastor has made the statement that not one of us spends all our lives on the mountaintops. In fact, by definition, a mountaintop is the experience we have right after we have struggled to get to the peak, and just before we descend into a valley.
Every mountaintop, as beautiful as it may seem, is surrounded by valleys! But remarkably, God is with us in the valleys as well as on the mountaintops! David knew it. That’s why he could say to the Lord, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
As we reflect on this Christmas past, and look forward to the New Year, may the joy of knowing Jesus, including His suffering, empower us each and every day!
Happy New Year!
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Hillsboro Times-Gazette and the Wilmington News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Faith Community Church in Hillsboro and Port William UMC.