I used to be all about some trading cards. Granted, I never managed to jump on board the major trains (shout out to Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Magic, etc.). Instead, I amassed stacks upon stacks of Young Jedi cards (a trading card game based on Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace), Marvel’s Recharge trading card game (complete with images from the first Spider-man movie), and, finally, The Lord of the Rings trading card game. For all the inherent nerdiness, trading card games captivated me for years. I loved to collect, to display, and, whenever I found an opportunity, I loved to trade.
There was an art to trading, however. Some cards I found were more rare than others, and, thus, carried more weight in a trade. Just like you wouldn’t trade $50 for a hot dog at the fair, so too you wouldn’t trade a rare Aragorn card for a common orc (I know we’re delving deep into the recesses of geekdom, but stay with me). Good trades were fair trades, i.e., trades where each person gained. But I’ve found exceptions to that rule. You see, I happened to meet a group of young adults who played The Lord of the Rings trading card game regularly. They had more cards than I could ever dream of possessing, and they, desiring to help me, would often give me more than they could ever gain from me. They gave out of their abundance; they felt no loss from giving the cards. Yet I gained immensely from their generosity. Indeed, it would have been foolish for me to pass up some of their offers for trades. I knew I was gaining more than I was losing, and that made it all worthwhile.
So how does this connect to the Christian life? In short, I’ve noticed that we have a tendency to cling to what is relatively worthless when eternal joy and peace is offered us. In a familiar passage, Jesus says,
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
Simply put, I find myself too often ashamed of Christ. I find myself attempting to hold onto the things of this world, be they material possessions, friendships, opportunities, status, times of rest, authority, hobbies, freedom, etc. Though each of these things may be used by God for his glory, I usually do not see them in that light. My lens is often far more selfish, coloring everything I see so that I look not to how I can serve, but rather to how I can be served. And as soon as selfishness becomes my perspective, the commands of Christ become burdensome rather than burden-lifting. I start to see this very promise of Jesus, where he makes it clear that total surrender to him will is the actual road to life, as too much work. Sin distorts the truth so much that joyful submission to a loving Lord who promises eternal life by grace through faith is somehow too difficult and not worth the effort, and the things of this world that will, not might, but will result in my death begin to look more appealing and more promising than my Savior and my God. This is madness.
So my encouragement, nay, my challenge for the day is this: fight the lies with truth and don’t get duped into missing the trade of a lifetime. Jesus is offering eternal life for your sin and death. Don’t assume you’re already holding the best hand; trade up while God’s still granted time. And if you know Christ, that is, if you have surrendered to him and have tasted and seen his goodness, then don’t let Satan’s lies distract you in your walk. Stop seeing the call of Christ as a burden, and look at the bigger picture. See that all you surrender for him is worth it in the grand scope of eternity. See the lunacy of one bemoaning the sacrifice of earthly wealth when he or she has eternity to gain. Focus on God and on his reward, not on your perceived loss. See through the lies. And spread the good news of life to those who don’t yet know him.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”