“Are You Missing Out?”
If you grew up in a family committed to Christ, you may have felt, especially during your adolescent years, that you were missing out on many of the common experiences that your other ‘normal’ friends enjoyed. There may have been times when you felt, with more than a little bitterness, the “thou-shalt-nots” of the Bible governed your life. And that incessant voice was always whispering, “Go on, what’s the big deal? Everyone else is doing it.” This temptation is especially strong in our youth but it doesn’t go away entirely with age. Living as a Christian at any stage in life can feel like being an island in the middle of a sea.
When we’re tempted to go with the flow of culture around us instead of being set apart for God in the world (Jn. 17:15-18), we need to hear the voice of wisdom and reason that says, “All that glitters is not gold… gilded tombs do worms enfold.” Or, if you’re not hip to Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, all is not what it seems. Some things that attract us are far less so when seen beneath the surface (Lk. 16:15).
There is a Biblical story that speaks to this struggle. In Hebrews 11:24-26, the author gives us a brief summary of Moses’ life that is meant to encourage faithfulness to Christ against peer pressure.
MOSES’ REFUSAL (v.24)
“By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter”
Pharaoh’s daughter found the infant Moses in a basket at edge of the river Nile and adopted him as her son (Ex. 2:5-10). He was raised in the royal household and was “trained in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22). Moses knew he wasn’t an Egyptian and when he grew up, he decided to renounce his Egyptian identity to be counted among his kinsmen, the Hebrews, instead. He cut ties with the family that raised him and embraced a life with the people of promise. That choice was a demonstration of his “faith.”
Moses’ story mirrors our own. Our choice to follow the Lord was a choice to forsake the world. We knew certain behaviors were off limits when we made that choice. We “counted the cost” (Lk. 14:25-33) and were joined to a new family and a new way of life in Christ. As a Christian, just by abstaining from certain things, others “malign” us (1 Pet. 4:4). So it was with Moses and all those who choose to live “by faith.”
MOSES’ CHOICE (v.25)
“choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.”
Moses’ choice put him in a position of disgrace. He forfeited his social standing, his dignity in the eyes of the Egyptians and his adoptive family, and a life of luxury in the royal house. He chose instead to be associated with Hebrew slaves, a kind of double stigma (Gen. 43:32; 46:34). Why would he make such a radical choice?
At some point, Moses understood it would have been sinful for him to remain in Pharaoh’s house. Pharaoh considered himself the son of a god. He brutally oppressed Moses’ people and even committed infanticide against them (Ex. 1). Egyptian culture was idolatrous and materialistic. As Moses matured, his conscience would not have allow him to live in that world any longer.
He knew any pleasure he would have enjoyed as an Egyptian would have been temporary. By faith, he looked into the future that God promised his people and saw that there was something far better and longer lasting than any earthly pleasure. He cherished his relationship with God more than he cherished his relationship with his adoptive family. He could not live in both worlds. He had to make a choice (cf. Mt. 6:24; Jas. 4:4).
He chose to sacrifice the easy life and take up with slaves. Was Moses missing out? Absolutely! But what was he missing out on? A life of ease, wealth, status and pleasure. But Moses knew “the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 Jn. 2:17). Moses also 'missed out' on a life of sin, saving himself the heartache of regret that would have come if he stayed in Egypt.
MOSES’ TREASURE (v.26)
“He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.”
In what historians call the New Kingdom Period, Egypt’s wealth was legendary. The temples were storehouses for Pharaoh's gold. The archeological evidence of such wealth during this time only serves to emphasize the magnitude of Moses’ choice and the sacrifice it entailed. Was he missing out? Only on the most wealthy, opulent lifestyle imaginable! But Moses forsook the great wealth of Egypt because he believed he would gain an even “greater” treasure with God's people.
Moses’ choice foreshadowed the kind of choice you and I make to follow Jesus. We either choose the “reproach of Christ” or the deceptive comfort of the world. Like us, when Moses “considered” the two choices, the answer was obvious because “he was looking to the reward.” He was looking toward an unseen but promised future. Yes, the problems and temptations of the present seem more pressing. But by faith, Moses was able to look past all those hardships and sacrifices of the present to see the true reward of following Lord.
What can we learn from the story of Moses?
- Faithful choices result in temporary loss. If we choose to follow Jesus, we will miss out on many things. Like Moses, we may lose family relationships (Mt. 10:34-49). We will miss out on the passing pleasures of sin (1 Jn. 2:17). By identifying with Christ and his people we will lose face with our peers in the world (1 Pet. 3:16). Most of all, we will lose ourselves (Lk. 9:23-25). But, like Moses, this temporary loss results in eternal gain!
- Faithful choices result in eternal gain. We gain a supportive spiritual family network in the Lord (Mk. 3:31-35). We gain far greater riches in Christ (Eph. 2:4-9). We gain a greater reward than anything we can find on earth (1 Pet. 1:3-5). Ironically, in losing ourselves, we gain Christ and find ourselves in him (Phil. 3:8; Lk. 9:23-27). In Christ, we lose the shame, guilt and punishment associated with sin and we gain the eternal love, grace and mercy of God!
- This eternal reward comes only to those who live “by faith.” Living “by faith” doesn’t mean we close our eyes and turn off our brain, however. Like Moses, faithful choices are carefully considered. Our decisions have far-reaching consequences and require weighing short-term gains against long-term gains. Faith banks on the eternal reward (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17). Heaven will be so great we will wonder why we ever doubted making the choice of faith!
Let us “count the cost” like Moses by weighing passing pleasures against eternal pain, momentary affliction against eternal joy. Whatever choice we make, we’re going to miss out on some things. We will either miss out on the fake, temporary stuff now or the real, eternal stuff later. As one man said, "If you miss out on heaven, you've missed it all."