1. The Christian life includes privileges and responsibilities.
2. Even tragedies can serve God's purposes.
3. God has important work for each of us.
At the height of its power, the Roman Empire stretched 2,650 miles from west to east and 2,000 miles from south to north. From Rome, the Empire reached north to the North Sea, west to the Atlantic Ocean, south some 300 miles deep into the northern part of Africa, including 600 miles along either side of the Nile River, and west as far as Mesopotamia. A network of Rome’s imposing streets, aqueducts, and other building projects can still be seen today, making it easy to understand why the expression “All roads lead to Rome” was not only popular but true.
In contrast, most Roman citizens were far removed from the grandeur of the Empire. Many of them scratched out a living as farmers or tradesmen in the countryside. As long as they obeyed the law and paid their taxes on time, they could hope to escape the notice of oppressive rulers. All roads may have led to Rome, but they existed primarily for the benefit of government officials and the military. Few ordinary people ventured far from home.
As Christians, our job is to make every day of our existence on this earth count. We aren’t meant to dwell on our past or to be intimidated by our present. God wants us to move forward by keeping our eyes on Him and becoming who He created us to be.
The Christian Life Includes Privileges and Responsibilities
It might not have made much difference to the average Roman citizen that all roads led to Rome, but it makes a difference for us, as Christians, that all roads lead to heaven. Not one of us is a “mere” citizen of heaven, relegated to some insignificant outpost. Have you ever considered that there is no geographical center to God’s Kingdom? Our capital is wherever our King is, and He never leaves our side (Hebrews 13:5).
An average Roman citizen had little chance of gaining an audience with the emperor in Rome, but at any time or place, we are invited to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, emphasis added). It would have been laughable for a Roman citizen to request a personal bodyguard, yet the child of God has “ministering spirits [angels] sent to serve those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14, NIV). In other words, the legions of heaven have been dispatched to serve and protect us personally.
The privileges of God’s Kingdom are remarkable, but there’s another important aspect of heavenly citizenship to consider. Not only are all the privileges of the Kingdom of heaven ours, but all the responsibilities are as well. Every Christian must see their gifts, calling, location, resources—everything they are and have—as being vital in the Kingdom of heaven. God gave each of us a unique gift and purpose, and He expects us to fulfill them as only we can for as long as we can.
Even Tragedies Can Serve God’s Purposes
For those who are placed in trying circumstances, it can be difficult to look beyond our surroundings and view life with much significance. One young pastor in Zimbabwe, Africa, has written something that should challenge each of us:
I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit’s power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made—I’m a disciple of His. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals.
I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on [H]is presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, and I labor with power.
My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way rough, my companions are few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the enemy, pander at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops me. And, when He comes for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me . . . my banner will be clear.
Those words were found among that pastor’s belongings after he had been taken out and killed for his faith. But I can assure you, he did not die in vain. The people he impacted in his corner of the world were changed forever. He did not consider importance or wealth or position to be his qualifications for service. He simply had a passion for serving God—he knew his privileges and his responsibilities. One of the roads to heaven ran through Zimbabwe, and he was on it.
God Has Important Work for Each of Us
Have you heard the story about the guy who’d always wanted to be a pilot, so he tied a bunch of helium-filled weather balloons to a lawn chair and shot up to about 12,000 feet? When a Navy helicopter finally towed him back to earth, a news reporter asked him why he had done it. His answer? “Well, a man can’t just sit around.”
As Christians, we have a chance to share that fellow’s passion for life, for doing what we love. Instead of “sitting around,” we can embark on the road to heaven that runs through our part of the Kingdom. Let us not lose sight of the fact that our gifts and calling from God are critically important to the mission of God.
God treats each of us as if we were the sole citizen of heaven. We might have been insignificant in the Roman Empire, but in heaven, we fill the entire screen. There is no question about our value in God’s sight. The only question is this: Are we sitting around, or is our gaze fixed on the road that leads to heaven?
This article originally appeared in Turning Points devotional magazine.