Monday, April 30, 2018
Philippians 2:16-18 …so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
How well do you know American history? The Homestead Act of 1862 declared that any citizen or intended citizen of the United States could claim 160 acres of surveyed government land west of the Mississippi River, simply by going to the land and staking a claim. Claimants were required to improve the plot with a dwelling and grow crops. After five years, if the original filer was still on the land, it was his property, free and clear. Thousands of people moved west in an attempt to own a part of what they thought would be paradise, though in most cases it wasn’t. Only a small percentage of the original claimants were able to last five years and receive the full blessing of land ownership.
Imagine the excitement of that era. It appeals to the adventuresome spirit in me. I know the thrill that would flow through me if I had been there to hear about a land to the west that offered risk and reward. I know I would have been one of those going to stake a claim. Once on that land I would have worked it with all my strength and guarded it with all my heart. I would have posted the claim papers on the wall of my cabin as soon as it was completed, to remind me of my long-term objective. I would have worked hard to accomplish that goal.
In much the same way, we have heard about a land called heaven, and we have staked our claim to it by faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior. We did not have to work for it; we simply had to go for it. We ran to the open arms of Jesus and received from Him our ownership papers. But here’s one big difference – we don’t have to earn the permanent ownership of the land by working for it. God has granted us a permanent inheritance and it is kept for us by His power, not ours. (1 Peter 1:3 – 5 says “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”)
Along with the claim to the place, comes a responsibility to act like an owner. The homesteader had to act like an owner of the land because his eventual ownership depended on it. As Christians we act like owners of the land because of the guarantee of possession of heaven. But far too many of us are not claiming all the rights that go with ownership. We have the privilege to claim the right to build, to plant, to harvest, to occupy, and to boldly proclaim our ownership, and we are authorized as owners to claim the blessings that go with it. How foolish it would have been to travel all that distance to stake a claim to a piece of land and then never do anything with it. How equally foolish it is for us as Christians to have been granted a claim to heaven and then not do anything to claim all of the benefits that go with it.
Paul says that at the end of His life, he wanted to be able to look back and boast about what He was able to accomplish for God so that his life would not have been for nothing. When we stand before the Father in heaven one day, and He reviews our lives, will He be able to say to us, “Well done! You are a good and faithful servant”? We will not lose the possession of heaven, but we certainly will miss out on a great blessing – blessings that could have been ours if we had acted like owners and heirs.
We may be missing out on some great blessings today because we are living beneath our privilege. God has promised His heirs the blessings of joy, peace, contentment, confidence, and security. All these and more come from having an abiding faith in the work of God in our lives.
Paul says that even though his life is being poured out as a sacrifice on behalf of others (he was in prison near the end of his life when he wrote this), he is glad and rejoices that the people were living their lives in faithful service to Jesus Christ. He even asked them to rejoice with him over his current situation.
That’s the blessing I think we need to claim – that in the darkest times of our lives we can rejoice that we are faithfully serving God and His work is being accomplished. Stake your claim to that kind of joy, and start living like an owner of it.