July 1, 2021

[American Dream or Kingdom Dream] - Paul Sungro Lee

After describing the cost of following him and carrying one’s cross, Jesus laid out the meaning of possibly the best life one could live out. That is to save one’s own soul and, in turn, to be used by God for others to do the same. Jesus repeats the same question in Mark 8:36 and Luke 9:25. Deeply sunken into this life-changing inspiration, it slowly but surely dawned on me that dedicating my life for soul-winning would be more meaningful than cherishing my petty ambition to pursue a comfortable life. It was my initial desire to somehow make good money, retire early, enjoy the rest of my life by traveling the world, and hopefully live healthily and die later without sickness. When this grand “kingdom dream” was incubated in me, my so-called American dream seemed so tiny and fractional. The confession of C. T. Studd often made my heart resonate in those early days.

If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.

I knew I would be answerable to Jesus on those disturbing and unavoidable issues. The spiritual honeymoon period slowly faded away. The testing period of my faith and commitment arrived. I had to choose between the American dream and the kingdom dream. The Lord kept wrestling with me about the purpose of life in those days. My existence seemed so tiny and insignificant in this universe, like sand on the seashore that comes today and will be swept away tomorrow by the waves of history. I did not want to waste my life, which Jesus purchased with his sacrificial love. Would my life be counted worthwhile? Would I have lived a life of positive influence on others? Would my life be pleasing to God? What would the life God wants from me look like? Such meaningful questions lingered in my soul. The Lord Jesus guided me again with this scripture.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

There are people whose lives are lived to steal, kill, and destroy others. People are hurting because of their life. Jesus was challenging me to pursue the life of following his footsteps. I was challenged again to make my goal-post a life that makes other people live an abundant life and that, in turn, makes this world a better place. At the prevailing thought that I’m renting this life from Christ with a lease that expires in about eighty years, I knew I’d have to wisely set a course of my life. What would remain after my time on earth is over? A deep contemplation led me to figure that I’d be able to leave two things behind: first, the cause of Christ, and second, people I’ve influenced for it. I had to rearrange my priorities in line with these criteria. Finance, education, time, relationship—everything had to be aligned to this new worldview. That was the clincher. Surprisingly, it wasn’t quite difficult. Once this worldview was engraved in my soul, the rest of the pieces of life details came to find their matches to complete the puzzle of life.

Of what use is money in the hand of a fool, since he has no desire to get wisdom? (Proverbs 17:16)

The Lord knew that only dreams with eternal value would bequeath the true meaning of life and produce indestructible happiness in the process. It is no wonder that “we are materially so much better off than we were 50 years ago, but we’re not one iota happier,” said Chris Peterson, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan. (Farino, 2011) I chose to pursue the kingdom dream. I sensed God’s tugging to dedicate my life to serve in full-time ministry. I was saturated by the kingdom rationales. God’s faithful seasonal leadings toward it have won me over. A life dedicated to making disciples of the nations has been worth it. It is worth it indeed. Besides, I’ve been happy to walk on this path for well over three decades by now. As I wished earlier, people of far and near have found a better life on account of me. Most of all, God is magnified in my life. This is the life I dreamt about.

Following Christ and making disciples of all nations is God’s command. Those who obey get to find genuine meaning and happiness in life. That is God’s unchanging promise.

“If you, Israel, will return, then return to me," declares the Lord. "If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray, and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’ then the nations will invoke blessings by him and in him they will boast.” (Jeremiah 4:1–3)

Works Cited:
Farino, Lisa. “How happy Is Your City?” MSN Health & Fitness, July 14, 2011. http:// health.msn.com/health-topics/depression/slideshow.aspx?cp-documentid=10017 3391>1=31036.

* This article is excerpted from [Disciples of the Nations: Multiplying Disciples and Churches in Global Contexts]. To purchase and read the rest of the book, please visit Amazon or Wipf & Stock Publishers