Perhaps the most repeated “last words” are “here, hold my beer and watch this.” The person uttering those words then goes on to do one of the most idiotic things imaginable for the mere joy of succeeding in doing it; a joy that will fade in seconds. We laugh at those people and yet how many of us engage in activities that give us momentary pleasure but end up with a lifetime of anguish. A night out on the town that leads to a little too much to drink followed by a drunken driving crash, or perhaps “just” a ticket. An evening of passion followed by an unwanted pregnancy with all the resulting consequences. When we think of “momentary pleasures” I’m sure that most of us see them that way.
The author of Hebrews had a different perspective on “momentary pleasures.” He took a long range view of life. Imagine a lifetime of fame and fortune without God; that would be a lifetime of momentary pleasure, or “fleeting pleasure” when compared to all of eternity. Too often we make decisions based solely on this lifetime and fail to take eternity into account. Moses took eternity into account. “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)
Sacrifice was once thought of as a noble act. We give medals to those who make sacrifices in war: the “hold my beer” activities that are done not for fleeting pleasure but to save the lives of others. People who make those sacrifices understand the eternal nature of what they are doing even if they might not express it. People who rush into burning buildings: were they do it for a fleeting thrill would be involved in a “hold my beer” moment but when they do it to save someone’s life, that also is an heroic act looking at life from an eternal perspective. Moses could have let the Egyptian overlord continue to abuse the Hebrew slave – even joined in on the mistreatment. Instead, he remembered his heritage and stepped in to protect the slave. The only possible outcome of his intervention was that he would have to kill the overlord – which he did. He didn’t kill for fleeting pleasure; he killed to protect others. His decision to protect one who was helpless caused him to suffer mistreatment with his fellow Hebrews rather than ascend to the throne of Egypt. He made an eternal decision based on doing what was right. The author of Hebrews said that Moses regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ better than all the treasures of Egypt. No, Moses may not have known about a future coming of Jesus, but he understood the need to do what was right in God’s eyes and suffer the disgrace if it came. Which it did.
Too often when faced with moral or ethical dilemmas we base our decisions on earthly guidance. How will this look to others? What will happen to me if I do “A” or “B?” We don’t take into account the eternal value of our actions. Let’s be honest: following God will often look like a “hold my beer” moment. We may look like we are making rash, hasty decisions that will create ridicule from friends and strangers when it is often bathed in prayer. Do it God’s way. You may be exiled for 40 years before you can come back home. That’s ok. You may suffer momentary discomfort, ridicule, or worse. That’s ok. Do it God’s way and you can be assured of the eternal value of your actions.
Lord God, it would be so nice if following Your guidance meant that everything would always work out in this world. It doesn’t. Following You can lead to persecution. So be it. Give me the grace to endure persecution in any form when I commit to following You – and let me be true to that commitment. Always.