â€œâ€¦ but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.â€ (Philippians 3:20)
Since this is the last week of our Thriving in Tough Times series, Iâ€™ve been reading over the last ten letters (the whole series) in order to review what weâ€™ve covered and come away with the heart of what weâ€™ve learned. The series covered plenty. Hereâ€™s a rundown of what weâ€™ve looked at in the last ten weeks:
Â· Week One: Adopting a Christian Worldview
Â· Week Two: Putting Spiritual Priorities Ahead of Physical Priorities
Â· Week Three: Attending to Physical Priorities
Â· Week Four: Living a Stewardship Lifestyle
Â· Week Five: Pursuing Your God Ordained Purpose
Â· Week Seven: Tempering Your Faith in World Systems
Â· Week Eight: Living in Community
Â· Week Nine: Surviving the Next Three Days
Â· Week Ten: Light Shines Better in the Dark
The heart of what weâ€™ve learned about thriving in tough times? We are residents of this world, but our citizenship isnâ€™t here.
Why is that so important? Why is understanding that weâ€™re not citizens of this world the key to thriving in this world â€“ especially in tough times? Itâ€™s in understanding that our lives here are only a temporary situation â€“ 100 years at best, and most of us donâ€™t make it nearly that far. But thatâ€™s just our lives in this world. Our spirits (the important part of us) were made to last forever. Actually, it was originally intended that our bodies lasted forever too, but we broke that part of us a long time ago.
That brings up my other reason why, in order to thrive during tough times in this world, we need to consider ourselves residents, but not citizens. Like our bodies, originally intended to live forever, this world is broken too. It began dying when sin came into the creation.
Itâ€™s important to understand the difference between â€˜the worldâ€™ as a system – a way of seeing things and a way of behaving â€“ and â€˜the worldâ€™ as this earth, part of Godâ€™s creation, just like our bodies are part of Godâ€™s creation â€“ even though theyâ€™re both broken right now.
Our bodies and the earth itself suffer from living under the worldâ€™s system â€“ sin. Sin can be defined as exerting your own purpose and will above the purpose and will of your Creator. It started with an angel named Lucifer and he conned our great-great grandparents Adam and Eve into the same sin. Thatâ€™s the system we all live under now â€“ if weâ€™re citizens of this world.
Before Jesus provided a way out of the broken condition we and this planet live under by paying for what we broke, there wasnâ€™t any way not to be a citizen of this worldâ€™s system â€“ we didnâ€™t have a choice. But he came here from heaven to be born and live as a man in the midst of this worldâ€™s system and then gave himself as the only possible sacrifice that would pay the price required to eventually restore, in us and on the earth, what had been broken.
His death and resurrection opened up a path for us to die spiritually, renouncing our citizenship in this worldâ€™s system and be reborn into Godâ€™s kingdom, taking on the citizenship of that world. For the time being our bodies are stuck here, residents of this world, but not citizens of its system. Weâ€™re waiting patiently for things to be restored to their intended state when Jesus comes back to this planet to rightfully claim what he paid for 2,000 years ago. Not only will this earth undergo a restoration that will take it through the next thousand years, our old dead bodies will be swapped for new bodies that, according to their original intent, will never die.
â€œWe know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.â€ (Romans 8:22-23)
Thatâ€™s why treating this world as your home is like putting up drapes and hanging pictures on the walls of a ratty old bus station and forgetting that youâ€™re only there to wait for your bus. Wake up! Itâ€™s a ratty old bus station; itâ€™s not your home. Youâ€™re not a citizen of the bus station; youâ€™re just here waiting for a ride. Donâ€™t cling to the plastic bench and call it home.
Thriving in tough times â€“ down here at the bus station â€“ begins by remembering itâ€™s just a bus station. Remember too, that the One who has you at this station has promised to provide for you while youâ€™re here. Sure, the bus station has its own way of doing things, but youâ€™re not a citizen of the bus station; while youâ€™re here, live under the laws of the country you belong to.
By considering your work here and everything you possess as a stewardship to the One who really owns it, your time spent here will be far superior to living under the rules of the station. And stay away from the stationâ€™s easy credit policy; the last thing you need is to be indebted to a ratty old bus station.
And donâ€™t think for a minute that spending time waiting at the bus station is some sort of cosmic accident. Youâ€™re here for a purpose; make use of your time. Thereâ€™s a pretty good chance that the person picking out curtains and pillow shams on the bench next to you isnâ€™t aware that this isnâ€™t her home. You might want to share with her that thereâ€™s a bus coming and this is just a waypoint.
â€œSo then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of Godâ€™s household â€¦â€ (Ephesians 2:19)
What weâ€™ll cover next week? I have no idea. But Iâ€™ll go ask.
Until then, remember your citizenship.