That’s why I asked myself, “are you nuts?!” I will admit it: I say some pretty dumb things from time to time. Once of the most recent examples was flying to California to preach for Pastor Rob Scribner and the Lighthouse Church in Santa Monica. Traveling for me carries its share of potential for “drama” from the trivial to the trying. I landed in LAX with my usual excess of luggage: two suitcases, one duffle bag and my valise with my sermons, a briefcase, and a carry-on bag with my laptop, miscellaneous items, some medical supplies etc. Just the “normal” amount of things to elicit appropriate mockery from my friend, Rob Scribner. I got in to the passenger seat of his car and Rob went about loading the luggage and putting my wheelchair in his car (unfortunately, there were no Sherpas to help). I was staying at his house and had unpacked, settled in, and we had eaten dinner.
Afterwards I went to my room and did not see my carry-on bag. I asked Rob if he knew where it was or had brought it into the house. He wasn’t aware ofit but he checked his car just in case and...no bag! I assured him that it had been part of my luggage load when I landed. Oh, oh, we have a problem! He’s feeling bad because he wants to be a good host. I’m feeling bad because some of my things are missing. So, we both proceeded to call LAX-Southwest Airlines-airport authorities about the lost or left bag. In the midst of this situation I went and added more drama to things by turning up the “anxiety dial” by saying to Rob, “Some of these things are irreplaceable!” Now this story has a happy ending. Someone had found my carry-on bag sitting all by itself in the LAX parking garage (uhhmm, can you say security issue?!) where we left it by the car, and notified the authorities. I guess the bomb-sniffing dogs gave it a thumbs up so, by the time we called and described the bag and what had happened, they told us that they had it. Pastor Scribner then went to pick it up.
Phew! Relief! End of story, right? No, not really, because the Holy Spirit started dealing with me about what I had said, “some of these things are irreplaceable.” I thought, “Are you nuts?! Irreplaceable? You’ve got to be kidding?!” It’s just “stuff” and even if it’s an inconvenience, stuff can be replaced. You see, stuff is only temporary, it doesn’t last...none of it. It’s not “irreplaceable.” Needless to say, I had to repent, “God, forgive me, that really was a stupid thing to say.” I had to repent and apologize to Pastor Rob as well. One of the fundamental life lessons about spiritual maturity is being able to discern and live for what is eternal not what is temporary. Jesus instructed, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Listen up, stuff is only temporary, it cannot make you happy or secure, and it certainly is not “irreplaceable.” Scripture reminds us on different occasions, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” John Ortberg wrote, “We come in naked and penniless; we’re going out naked and penniless. In between we get some stuff to put on our bodies and some stuff in our pockets, but none of it is really ours. We borrow it for a while; then one day we will hand it all back.”
All of this made me think again and remind myself about some of the things that really are irreplaceable, and how these are the things I need to always give priority to. Consider a number of them, in no particular order.
The truth of God’s Word. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” In my book, that’s irreplaceable! When Peter was talking about the active instrument in the miracle of the new birth he said, “having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.” (1Pet.1:23) In the family setting of Martha and Mary’s house where Mary sat at Jesus’s feet and heard His word, and was criticized for doing so, Jesus came to her defense by saying, “there is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it — and I won't take it away from her." (Lk.10:42)
God and His wonderful presence. This is one thing in life that I can’t live without. It is irreplaceable! This is why in David’s prayer of repentance he said, “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.” More important than position or title or things was the sense of God’s presence.
Love and God-relationships. We know that love is not just one of but it is the greatest abiding quality. The circle of relationships and the deep friendships that have been cultivated are one of those irreplaceable things in life that we tend to take for granted or neglect. Patrick Morley writes that as a young businessman he always made it a habit to ask older men their regrets. At the top of the list was: “I was so busy trying to improve my family’s standard of living that, before I knew it, my children were grown and gone, and I never know them. Now they are too busy for me.” The lesson for us is it’s easy to find ourselves with little time for people that matter. Reality is that relationships cannot be microwaved; they take work and are never convenient.
Labor for Christ and the Gospel. The capstone teaching about the resurrection is a call to give ourselves to the work of the Gospel. Paul’s reasoning is that our labor is “not in vain in the Lord.” It is irreplaceable. He said, “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord's work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” (1Cor.15:58) Jesus even went so far to saythat something as small and seemingly insignificant as giving a cup of cold water to someone in His Name would mean, “he will certainly not lose his reward.” The old poem still rings true that says, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
God’s favor and a good testimony. Isn’t the ultimate and irreplaceable goal to hear those words from the Lord Jesus one day, “well done, good and faithful servant.” Nothing can top that. That’s why when Jesus was cautioning us against a man-pleasing spirit or doing things just for human recognition, He said, “they have received their reward in full.” There’s nothing more He said, that’s it. Nothing is worth selling out God’s glorious grace and favor and the testimony of a faithful life.
Precious souls won to Christ. We’ve had it drilled in to us that the true treasures of the kingdom are the trophies of God’s grace that we have witnessed and the people we have influenced for Christ. All of our “stuff” will perish or go to someone else, but souls won to Christ will be an eternal satisfaction. When the apostle Paul wanted the believers at Thessalonica to know his heart and motivation he wrote, “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.” (1Thess.2:19,20)
Money and resources invested in the Gospel. When you get this revelation things are never the same! God gives us the privilege of taking the money and “stuff” that ultimately does not belong to us, but He has entrusted to us, and use it for His glory and kingdom. He credits this to our account! Hey, what a deal this is! That’s why King David said, “Who am I, that I should be able to give like this?” Temporal riches given to God or used for the Gospel take on an eternal quality. They become irreplaceable.
So, back to my stupidity. Lord, remind me over and over about the things that are truly irreplaceable and let me focus on them. The Bible makes it clear that it is this kind of “sight” that is crucial for victory, for overcoming and for longevity. This was Paul’s “big secret” when he wrote, “That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are quite small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So we don't look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.” (2Cor.4:16-18)