First Things @ First
I was reminded the other day in reading about how little attention most people pay to warnings that are clearly and often communicated. One instance being the plane attendant prior to take-off. Most who travel by air have been through the routine. In case you haven't, it's where those who are attending the passengers go through the 'what to do if this happens' information. When I am flying, I notice very few who care enough to pay attention. The steward/stewardess is busily sharing important information while most everyone sits mesmerized, staring at their cell phones or laptops as they attempt to get out that last minute text or email before they're required to turn it off for 15 minutes while the plane reaches cruising altitude.
Maybe most don't pay attention because familiarity causes us to ignore it take for granted what's truly important. And maybe it's because they're so 'into' themselves that the information provided doesn't seem necessary, especially considering everything else they're dealing with. After all, most who fly have been through this routine 100 times or more and nothing has ever come of it, right? I wonder if there would be any more attention given if a video was played prior to takeoff of an actual plane crash with all the debris and destruction vividly pictured? I'm certain the steward would then have a more attentive audience, at least for a while. More likely, in this culture someone would get fired or sued for being so direct.
What is true of preparing for flight is often true of preparing for eternity. The word of warning and the need for preparedness goes out repeatedly and most are so 'in' to themselves that they ignore the information that's vital to their safety. They're exposed to the correct information, but they don't pay attention because it's just not as important in the moment as something more pressing.
Dr. Luke records a story in chapter 16 of the gospel which bears his name that many have heard but not as many pay close attention to. It is an account that give the hearer a warning of an event that may not happen today but will happen eventually for everyone. Luke writes about a man who was so 'into' himself that he paid no attention to his surroundings or what was ahead of him. This person is not named. (Your name or mine could easily be inserted) The person is only given the title, 'the rich man'. The rich man was not concerned with much of anything around him that did not profit him personally. The Bible says that the 'rich' man lived in luxury all the days of his life on earth, sparing nothing on comfort and spending all he could to make his life better than anyone else. This very wealthy materially minded man couldn't conceive of having to suffer while another man named Lazuras never knew anything else. The story reveals that Lazuras was laid at the entrance to the rich man's lavish property every day. From the information given, Lazuras never experienced a day of comfort while the rich man made sure he never experienced a day of discomfort.
Then the account takes a sudden turn. Both died. Death has a way of impacting life and it's often very suddenly. The one; Lazuras, by name, was delivered from the suffering he'd known for most of his life. However, for the other; the rich man, it was a sudden fiery crash of destruction that resulted in unimaginable suffering.
The Bible says that Lazuras went to heaven to be with God and was comforted while the rich man went to hell where God is not present and tormented day and night.
Revelation 14:11 reveals that the smoke of the torment of those who reject grace and God goes up forever. They have no rest, day or night. No rest and no reprieve!
I realize it's hard for the tolerant, take it easy crowd to imagine that a God of love would even permit such pain and suffering on any human, rich or poor. Nevertheless, the warnings are given for good reason and should be taken very seriously.
God loves the whole of mankind. (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 2 Peter 3:9) That's why God sent Jesus to experience the suffering of sin for anyone willing to take His word of instruction and caution seriously. On the other hand, God is just and holy. He cannot be anything else and therefore will not tolerate sin on any level from anyone, no matter their social status.
By the way, for point of clarification, when you hear someone say that God surely would not send people to hell, love them enough to set the record straight. God does not 'send' anyone to hell. He simply honors their will, their God given right of refusal.
As C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying, "either a person will say to God in this life, 'Thy will be done' OR they will hear God say to them in the next, 'thy will be done'.
The other misunderstanding that is wrongly assumed in this culture is that God sends 'people' to hell. Again, that would be incorrect. God separates Himself from the unrepentant sinner, the rebellious, the disobedient, the liar, the cheat, the willfully intolerant and the like. The judgment of God is not directed at 'people' in general. The punitive judgment of God is directed squarely toward sinners who were so 'into' themselves that they refused to pay attention to the warning. They were so 'into' themselves they had no time for God. Some are rich and some aren't, but all go where they've prepared to go, eventually.
There's a word of warning given for those who are good 'stewards' of the word, those who repeatedly and tirelessly repeat the instructions for preparedness. Only those who have embraced the instruction will receive the benefit because the Bible nowhere teaches or even implies that everyone will be saved. Only those who took the time to listen and prepare will be! And yet there are still some, possibly seated right next to you that think, why is any of this so important anyway with everything else I'm facing in this life? Max Lucado best answers that question, in his book on 'When Jesus Comes' with this statement; 'this 'plane' won't fly forever!'
If you're aboard, (alive) are you prepared for the fiery crash that is coming one day for this world and all who have not prepared? That should give those of us who have listened and are prepared a reminder of the urgency of getting the word out on the need for preparedness. Therefore, I urge you brethren, be a good steward of the gospel of grace this week!
And when no one pays any attention, keep on sharing because one or two could well be listening and get it!
May the Lord bless each of you with His best in order to in response give His best to those around you this week!