Some of our readers and many of our supporters are aware that Joy and I have started over-the-road-trucking in order to support ourselves and the ministry. As I type this we begin the first day of our second week with Covenant Transport. One of the reasons we chose this way of tent-making is that with modern technology we can carry on nearly all aspects of the ministry, at least all of the really important ones from the road. While driving and working with the trainer on our last trip I was thinking about this week’s blog and news stories like Catholic Abbot Says Disney Indoctrinates Kids , Words associated with Christianity and British history taken out of children’s dictionary and the faith. In the first story the Catholic Abbot is concerned that Disney has become a faith in competition with the Christian faith. In the second story British academics and headmasters are concerned that the removal of words associated with Christianity and the monarch by the Oxford University Press Junior Dictionary will result in disconnecting England from its past. A past that at one time included a vibrant church with a strong missions focus. It seems to me that in many ways the problem is truth-in-advertising. By that I mean the Christian faith has been under attack since its inception. More than that, the faith has been under attack since the Garden of Eden when Eve heard those famous words, “Has God really said …?”
Trucking has in some ways been a reminder to me of my early days as a believer. While Joy and I were in trucking school the first few days were spent telling us all of the ways we can kill ourselves and others with this vehicle that weighs 80,000 pounds or to put it another way, approximately 36 tons on wheels hurtling down the street directed by someone who just got their Commercial Drivers License (CDL). Now that should be a sobering thought. Each day we would go home and ask ourselves, “Do we want to do this? There is great risk and high cost for failure.” As schooling progressed we became focused on other things, like cornering without tipping over the trailer, backing up without running over a car, maintaining our composure when a car cuts in front of us or passes in a no passing zone so they don’t have to get stuck behind a truck. We soon came to understand that the average driver has no clue what imminent danger they are in when they engage in each of the maneuvers and challenges to get somewhere 5 minutes faster. The great risk and danger to ourselves and others was ever present with each new thing we learned.
Upon graduation we started with our finishing trainer at Covenant Transport. Since we began in December we find ourselves right away in winter driving conditions and are learning of yet other ways we can kill ourselves and others as well as many of the hardships of the business. Many of the recruiting advertisements portray trucking as a way to see the country and be paid to do it. Beautiful landscapes and sunsets with a truck in the foreground, a clean smiling well manicured driver behind the wheel. Some people view trucking with a bit of glamour akin to being the last vestige of the rugged cowboy spirit. A man (or woman) and their truck conquering the distances of geography to deliver goods to us who will buy them. It is true that we are seeing and will see some spectacular sights but it is also true there is a great cost. There are many grueling miles with few stops from pick up to delivery. Eating healthy is made more difficult due to limited choices and tight time schedules while enroute. Normal hygiene gives way to showers every few days when possible. Learning to sleep in the bunk while the vehicle is moving requires extreme trust in the driving abilities of one’s partner (or in our case partner and trainer). Maintaining a reasonably “normal” family life is a challenge. Phone, email (and hopefully soon a new laptop computer with a webcam) are the daily contacts with our kids and grandkids. The rewards can be great but the costs are great as well. At each point along the way, our instructors would say, “Are you sure you want to do this? It will cost you.”
When we went to orientation with Covenant Transport the underlying theme was “Are you sure you want to do this? It will cost you.” They were trying to practice truth in advertising. This can be a great life but is not for everyone. There are high expectations and many people will let you down, try to intimidate you and life will throw many unexpected curves. There are safer ways to live and support oneself.
In many ways modern Christianity, which once warned potential followers of the great risks and expectations involved in following Christ, has abandoned such ideas. Persecution is more or less being embarrassed when someone makes fun of Christians. The softness of the faith today may explain why Oxford University Press could even consider removing words that some may find offensive from their dictionary and thus assist erasing connections to the influence of Christianity on shaping Britain’s history. Perhaps the Catholic Abbot is correct. Disney has become a competing faith. After all, Disney offers, for a fee of course, happiness, fun, and a way to escape the worries of the world. After all, you deserve a fun filled life free from demands and commitments to anything but yourself. It is marketed well. The Abbot may be right about Disney being a competing faith but in reality it is the church that has followed a marketing mentality which they derived from corporations like Disney. The marketing includes such ideas as, Jesus died to make you financially well off, or to insure physical healing. He came to bring peace not a sword (contrary to His own words). He promises to fix your marriage, guide your business and give you well behaved kids if you sign on the dotted line. Seekers have everything to gain and no risks. Even the gospel presentation is relegated to the professionals in leadership in order to rescue their membership from potential embarrassment.
Don’t get me wrong, salvation is a free gift and even sanctification is something which God does to us and for us. But the faith brings about the process of believers becoming more like Jesus not a mandate to make the church try to try to appear more like the world in order for unbelievers to feel comfortable. The Lord promises salvation and redemption to those who call on Him and He is clear that many will suffer for righteousness. There is an underlying theme in Scripture of “Are you sure you want to do this? It will cost you.” It will potentially cost you friends and in some cases family. It may cost you your job. In some countries it may cost you your life. The strength of the first century church was their dedication to something bigger than themselves, dedication to God’s word and His calling, in spite of the costs. That has been true of God’s faithful throughout history. The words of Hebrews could not be more in contrast with much of what passes for Christianity today:
And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:32-40)
“Men of whom the world was not worthy.” It is difficult for me to read those words without weeping. They answer the questions, “Are you sure you want to do this? It will cost you” with their actions.