Do You Want the Present or the Future?, By Femi Aribisala
God makes us promises, and then waits to see if we shall remain in him.
The Lord asked me a loaded question. All the Lord’s questions are loaded. When the Creator asks the created a question, he should not be in a hurry to answer. He knows my answer before I answer. So why is he asking?
God asked Ezekiel: “Can these bones live?” Ezekiel answers with wisdom: “The bones can live if you want them to live. It all depends on you.”
A motivational preacher would have come up with five strategies or seven keys for getting the bones to live: “The bones will live if you preach the gospel to them. They will live if you read the bible to them. They will live if you make sure they go to church on Sundays.”
But Ezekiel said: “Lord, only you know if they would live or not.” Therefore, if God asks you a question, do not be in a hurry to answer. Better still; consult the Holy Spirit for the answer.
So, the Lord asked me a question. He said: “Femi, what would you prefer: a gift or a promise?”
The Lord used this question to teach me a vital kingdom dynamic. For those who have received Jesus, the heavenly promise of God is far more valuable than any earthly gift. He who has Jesus has received the fulsome gift of God. (John 4:10).
Isaac or Ishmael
Abraham, what would you prefer; to have a son or to have God? Christian, what would you prefer; to have riches or to have Christ? Esau is down to earth. “What is the value of my birthright? Can I spend it when I go to the supermarket? I would rather have something I can use now.”
Therefore, Esau addressed the more pressing needs of his life. He was hungry, so he sold his intangible birthright for a tangible mess of pottage. We are horny, so we despise our salvation to satisfy our lust. We are angry, so we satisfy our flesh and ignore the Holy Spirit.
Abraham, who do you prefer: Ishmael or Isaac? Ishmael is a gift in the here and now: Isaac is a future promise. Can’t I have both? Not on your life. If you want Isaac, then you have to send Ishmael away.
Make a choice. Do you want to gain the world or to gain Christ? Can’t I have both? Not on your life. Remember Lot’s wife. She wanted salvation but also wanted Sodom and Gomorrah. She ended up as a pillar of salt. Remember the children of Israel. They wanted the Promised Land but also longed after Egypt. Therefore, all but two of them died in the wilderness. Jesus warns: “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25).
Example of Moses
Once Moses received the promise, he left the palace and Egypt. What kind of idiocy was that? Why could he not remain in the palace until the time came for the fulfillment of the promise?
“Moses, when he grew up, refused to be treated as the grandson of the king, but chose to share ill-treatment with God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought that it was better to suffer for the promised Christ than to own all the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking forward to the great reward that God would give him.” (Hebrews 11:24-26).
God himself was the desire of Moses. He would not even leave for the Promised Land without God. He said to the Lord: “If you aren’t going with us, don’t let us move a step from this place.” (Exodus 33:15). Heaven is only of interest because God is there.
The great desire of David is simply to dwell in God’s presence: “The one thing I want from God, the thing I seek most of all, is the privilege of meditating in his Temple, living in his presence every day of my life, delighting in his incomparable perfections and glory.” (Psalm 27:4).
Initially, Peter followed Jesus for what he could get immediately. Therefore, when Jesus said a rich man could not enter the kingdom of God, Peter had a crisis of faith. He decided to review his contract with Jesus: “Then Peter said to him, ‘We left everything to follow you. What will we get out of it?’” (Matthew 19:27).
Peter had his eye on some lands and houses and Jesus had seemed a sure bet for that. Therefore, he could not understand the relevance of the cross in that equation. But when he rejected the cross, he must have been surprised by the gravity of the rebuke he got: “(Jesus) turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an offense to me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23).
When Jesus rose from the dead, he made a point of telling Peter he would also have to die for the gospel. Peter did not appreciate such an unenviable distinction. He turned to John and asked Jesus: “What kind of death would he die?” He might have preferred it if he was told a lion would eat John. But Jesus simply told him to mind his business. (John 21:18-23).
Peter’s dilemma is our dilemma. Can we forgo the present for the sake of the future? Can we endure the hardships of the present in light of the certainty of the glories of the future?
Let me present it as a parable. The Christian has just won the pools. How much did he win? He won one hundred million dollars. Now he has certain options. God says: “You can take all the money now, or I can give it to you in the future.” The Christian says: “Give it all to me now.” God says: “I can give you a down-payment now, and give you the rest in the future.” The Christian says: “Give it all to me now.” God says: “I can give it all to you now, or I can give it to you little by little in the future.” The Christian says: “Give it all to me now.”
Observe this disposition in the Prodigal Son. He told his father: “I want my share of your estate now, instead of waiting until you die.” (Luke 15:12). Once he received his share, he had no more need of his father. He went as far away from him as possible. Clearly, the inheritance was his objective and not the father. But if he had not received his inheritance but only had hope of receiving it, he would certainly have remained with the father.
As believers, we are heirs of God. But we cannot come into the inheritance without Christ? The promises of God are not without Christ but in him. And so God makes us promises, and then waits to see if we shall remain in him:
“Therefore the LORD will wait, that he may be gracious to you; and therefore he will be exalted, that he may have mercy on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. (Isaiah 30:18).