Let’s say you were shopping for a religion. Wouldn’t you want to serve a higher being who was powerful and could do great things? Wouldn’t you want a religion that provided great after-death benefits? Wouldn’t you want the key leader of this religion to be absolutely trustworthy and able to forgive your sins?
When I talked to young men shortly before D-day during World War II, I observed that they were scared. None of them wanted to die. However, the vast majority expressed their conviction that the cause for which they were fighting was right and worthy of the risk.
A Christian knew he should visit a woman whose husband had recently died. He dreaded the idea because she had been despondent, yet he decided to go. He knew it was right “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27).
As Joshua was nearing the end of his life, he gathered the children of Israel together at Shechem. And there, from the lips of a man who was close to death, came an appeal that throughout the centuries has moved the hearts of many. Joshua said, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Josh. 24:15).
When I visit the zoo, I skip the eagles’ cage. I can’t stand the pain of seeing those majestic birds sit there on their perches day after day, their burnished brown wings draped over them like an ill-fitting old coat. They were created for the heights, to dance among the clouds, not to be prisoners in a cage. Those birds were made to fly.
In the fifth century, a man named Arsenius determined to live a holy life. So he abandoned the comforts of Egyptian society to follow an austere lifestyle in the desert. Yet whenever he visited the great city of Alexandria, he spent time wandering through its bazaars. Asked why, he explained that his heart rejoiced at the sight of all the things he didn’t need.
Our society sends mixed signals. I got a letter from my credit card company, saying, “Mr. Egner, you are one of our most valued customers. We would like to raise your buying power by $3,000.” The next day, because I was late in sending a payment of $36.96, I got another letter from the same company. It made me feel like a terrible person. It seemed to be saying that if I didn’t pay up immediately, they would take action against me.
When Gillian learned one Saturday morning that her daughter had been killed, she was plunged into despair. For 18 months she pleaded with God for help in her grief. “I’ve been told that God is love. Why won’t He show me His love?” she wrote.
I vividly remember a man saying to me, “Herb, I’ll go to church and give. But I’m not going to get too involved. I’m going to concentrate on my career.” Another man admitted, “I know I shouldn’t have gotten a divorce, but I think I’m entitled to some happiness.” Both of these men were really saying, “I don’t care what God says. I’m going to do things my way.”