Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 29: Purpose Stealer - Materialism and the American Way

"Is this the day I die?" asks Li Quan. Growing up as a young boy in China, these are the words his father taught him to recite daily. A member of an underground Christian church, Li Quan must be prepared to die. On any given day, local government officials might raid his house church and kill every member present.

Across the ocean in the United States, Ben Fielding lives a comfortable life as a business executive. His life is consumed with business deals, management team meetings and his palm pilot. When business takes him to China, he reunites with his old college buddy and roommate Li Quan. Ben hasn't seen his old friend in twenty years, and has no idea of the endangered life he's been living.

Until he visits Li Quan's house church. From that day on, neither man's life is ever the same.

Though a work of fiction, Safely Home, written by Randy Alcorn in 2001, speaks volumes about the persecuted church in China. For a North American girl that sits on padded seats in an air-conditioned in the summer/heated in the winter church building, it's unfathomable to me that my brothers and sisters in other lands suffer for their identification with Christ. Many Christians in Asia, Africa and the Middle East meet secretly for church services and Bible studies, often risking imprisonment, torture and even death if discovered by their government.

In Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream, David Platt gives a real-life account of his involvement with the underground church in Asia. He describes the believers he met there and their hunger for the Word of God, their hunger for Jesus. During house church meetings, they sat on hard floors in very hot -- or very cold -- rooms. They took turns arriving, so passersby wouldn't suspect a large gathering. And they are prepared to die for their faith.

Here's Platt's description of the culture shock he experienced when he returned to his home church in the States:
"Three weeks after my third trip to underground house churches in Asia, I began my first Sunday as the pastor of a church in America. The scene was much different. Dimly lit rooms were now replaced by an auditorium with theater-style lights. Instead of traveling for miles by foot or bike to gather for worship, we had arrived in millions of dollars' worth of vehicles. Dressed in our fine clothes, we sat down in our cushioned chairs."
And that brings us to today's -- and our final -- purpose stealer: materialism and the American way.

Reading Platt's book, after the suggestion of my husband and my blogger-sister Monique Zackery, has been convicting for me. This is no feel good self-help book on the shelves of your local Christian bookstore. I am trudging my way through it, painfully aware of how short my life falls from complete surrender to Christ.

I've often scorned the rich young man found in the book of Mark. While reading Radical, I'm seeing how closely my life has resembled his. This young man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus mentions the Ten Commandments; the man claims to have kept all of God's commandments since he was a boy. So Jesus raises the stakes.
"Jesus looked at him and loved him. 'One thing you lack,' he said. 'Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.' At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, 'How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!'" Mark 10:21-23
I've had to examine my own heart in this regard. Would I sell everything I have and give to the poor? Do I sacrificially give to the poor or only out of my abundance? If I'm honest, I've got more of the rich young man in my heart than I'd want to admit. How about you?

Are we American Christians approaching our faith in the way God's calling us to? I believe we're spending most of our time, money, gifts and talents on ourselves and our families, rather than spending them on those around us. People all around the world are dying, while we spend our weekends at the mall. Even worse, people all around the world -- and around the corner -- are dying and spending an eternity separated from God... while we spend our weekends at the mall.

Here's what Platt has to say about that:
"Based on what we have heard from Jesus in the Gospels, we would have to agree that the cost of discipleship is great. But I wonder if the cost of nondiscipleship is even greater. The price is certainly high for people who don't know Christ and who live in a world where Christians shrink back from self-denying faith and settle into self-indulging faith. While Christians choose to spend their lives fulfilling the American dream instead of giving their lives to proclaiming the kingdom of God, literally billions in need of the gospel remain in the dark."
I won't belabor this point, folks. I'm not sure if I can handle any more conviction over this myself. But if we're going to follow Christ wholeheartedly and pursue His purpose for us, we've got to dream His dreams, not the American dream.

I want to take my faith back from the American dream. Will you take yours back too?

Purposed For Him,



  1. All I can say is, "ouch." Great words today.

  2. Thanks Michelle. Trust me, I said a double "ouch" while writing this!

  3. We see the American dream impacted our families too. Both parents working so they can have that car and dream house they've always wanted, while their kids sit in day care being raised by complete strangers. This is a great word Carla, I'm questing my self now. What am I really doing? The pride we Americans have, or maybe it's just me, to live like we do and be able to ignore those around us.


  4. Very convicting topic and a much needed reminder

  5. Amen, Dan! We can choose to do things differently than many ahead of us.

  6. Great post, Carla. The Lord has been moving our hearts on the issue of the American Dream as well! I blogged about finances today also! :) Thanks for this convicting word, my friend.