Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” (John 18:36 NIV). The New Living Translation words it a bit differently, “My kingdom is not an earthly kingdom.” That doesn’t sell as many T-shirts as NOTW, which I love, but it does convey that there is far more to all this than we can see with human eyes. We can see a physical world all around us, but the Bible clearly teaches that there is also a spiritual world all around us, which is just as real, and would do well to kept in mind. It has a mathematical system we must understand if we are to live victoriously here on earth.
2 Corinthians 4:16b-18 says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Light and momentary? Christians around the world are being massacred or imprisoned, and closer to home we all know of godly people who are suffering from cancer, divorce, or the death of loved ones. None of that is light. And for those in prison for refusing to forsake Jesus, or those going through yet another bout of chemo, or reeling from the loss of a child, it’s not momentary—it seems never-ending. Where does God’s math take hold?
“By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” (Hebrews 11:24-25 NIV) He chose to be mistreated? He lived in the palace of the richest king on earth, Egypt’s Pharaoh, and he lived as a prince. Moses had access to more wealth than Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak combined. No one is going to trade all of that for a life of persecution and pain. Let’s do the earthly math here: giving up a life of mind-boggling luxury in exchange for decades of living in a tent made from goat’s hair, and being harassed by armies who have their hearts set on killing you? Not likely. But there is another math, God’s math, which makes all suffering light, momentary, and meaningful in the end, so much so that it becomes our first choice when we look at all our options. The next few verses in that same Hebrews passage unpack it for us: “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.” I’ve been to the Cairo Museum and seen just a bit of the gold which belonged to the king of Egypt in those days. I didn’t know there was that much gold in all the world. So, we’re to understand that Moses chose disgrace because it was worth more than all that gold. My calculator would melt down if I tried making sense of this in earthly math. But yes, he did make that choice, because it made good sense from the eternal point of view. He lived to be one-hundred-twenty years old, and then he would have seen the end of all the pleasure that gold could bring. But since he chose wisely, he has an eternity with the Maker of all that gold, which was only a dim hint of what God actually offers for those who join Him in eternity.
Jesus said, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:24 NIV) That makes no sense at all, by any earthly math. But Jesus was talking about the only math which makes any sense. He was talking about trading the temporary for the eternal. That makes all earthly pain light and momentary, and worth enduring for heaven’s reward.
Jim Elliot famously said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
This world’s math says we lose. God’s math says we win. “… we live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7