The last 24 hours have been a brutal inconvenience. An hour and a half drive to the airport in Omaha. A flight to Minneapolis on a smaller jet. Hanging out, killing time in MSP until we board our 3 hour flight to JFK in New York. Then, things got interesting. We thought we had about 6 hours to kill, but we had not accounted for dealing with El Al security – that is no joke, folks. Some really invasive questioning and another trip through security. Then, we finally boarded a 747 for a ten hour flight to Tel Aviv. Without going into specifics, they do not engineer those seats for people who are 6’4″ tall, and they certainly don’t make them for a man as wide as I am. I slept in snatches throughout the flight, but never got comfortable enough to really sleep.
And I was excited about every minute of it!
I am not masochistic and I am certainly not above whining and complaining. In fact, I have an earned doctorate in grumbling – magna cum laude. But there were two factors that governed my attitude as I traveled, that prevented me from complaining even when that might have been normal for me!
First, I was excited about my destination. I can remember back in my seminary days when Dr. Donald Campbell would pull out his slides on Israel and tell us about his travels (yes, it was 1979, and it was old-fashioned carousel slides!). This current trip is the fulfillment of a 35 year old dream and for something this wonderful I am willing to endure hardships and suffering – they seem like nothing compared to the excitement of what lies ahead. I’m willing to endure an uncomfortable night squeezed into an undersized seat to get to visit Israel. I’m willing to endure boredom and invasive questions and any number of annoyances and hardships to see Gethsemane, Golgotha and the Garden Tomb.
Second, I am traveling at another’s expense. The best part of this wonderful trip is the three words that came attached to it – ALL EXPENSES PAID! Israel’s Board of Tourism is sponsoring us – a small group of Baptist pastors – in hopes, I assume, that we will want to come back (I already do) and that we will bring others with us (plans are in the works). There is someone from most of the state conventions affiliated with the SBC. Our flights were paid. Our hotel is paid. Our meals are paid (except for lunch – and based on the other meals, I should just skip lunch!). All I have to buy is souvenirs and this internet access! When someone else is footing the bill for a trip this wonderful, wouldn’t I be a louse to complain?
Okay, now you are seeing where I’m headed with this, aren’t you? It’s not exactly a subtle point, is it?
I have another trip I am on, one even more exciting that this trip to Israel. I have been included in Christ, redeemed by the Blood, indwelled by the Spirit and am gradually (all too slowly, I guess) being conformed to the image of Christ. I am a Saint – made righteous and holy by Christ. And one day, I will slip from this earth and be received into eternal glory. What an amazing trip that is!
Why would I complain about a few hardships along the way? Life as one of God’s saints is about the destination, not so much about the comfort of the travel from point to point.
And, even more wonderfully, I am on the journey “all expenses paid.” Jesus bore my sins, propitiated God’s Wrath and purchased my place in glory. I am anything but a self-made man. I am Christ-made. Don’t judge the imperfect progress too harshly, just remember the destination. By God’s grace and power, I will one day be made like Christ.
Paul told us that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us. What lies ahead is so great that anything we face int he meantime will seem like nothing in comparison. How can we complain, get discouraged, or grow despondent when God has called us his own, destined us for glory and provided all we need for the trip?
Why have I been such a moaner and complainer through the years? How, in the light of all the goodness of God, could I ever do such a thing?