When traveling for work I recently found myself on the road in the days leading up to my birthday. It was well after midnight by the time I checked in and all I wanted at that moment was to go to bed. Then it happened.
The lady at hotel registration said, “Mr. Keating, we saw that your birthday was coming up and so we have placed you in the Presidential Suite for your stay with us.” I was pretty amazed and very gratefully accepted.
When I got to the room and started looking around I had only one reaction – “I wish my wife was here. She would love it.”
Having possession of such a wonderful place totally changed my point of view. It gave me energy. I wasn’t tired anymore. I immediately dialed up my wife on FaceTime so I could show her everything I was seeing. I was already writing online reviews in my head so I could tell total strangers about it. Seeing this wonderful place and knowing it was mine changed me.
More than that, I knew I was paying our meager corporate rate for this luxury palace. It was so clear I didn’t deserve this. I knew it was nothing but the kindness of the hotel that had given me this possession. According to the hotel website, I deserved a 40 square meter room without a view and no amenities, but I was living in a 240 square meter room with every amenity imaginable. Rather than being treated like everyone else, I was being treated like a prince or head of state that visited the city.
Here’s the thing – Jesus is better than the Presidential Suite.
It wasn’t long before I started asking myself why I wasn’t this eager to tell others about Jesus. What was it about the Presidential Suite that made me an enthusiastic evangelist for it?
First, I could see it. I knew it was real. I didn’t have to fight for faith in anything, I just had to look around. It’s hard not to be amazed at a private gym, 10-person dining room, luxury bath, etc. It took no imagination whatsoever. I didn’t need anyone to remind me of the truth of its magnificence – it was obvious.
Second, I connected the magnificence of the place to my real life in a way that stirred my affections. If I hadn’t connected the wonder of that place with my desire to share it with Kristen I don’t think my juices would have been flowing at all. I have had lots of experiences that many people would consider incredible that bored me because I knew they would not be something that would have any impact on the people I cared about.
Third, it really was the shock of how much my expectations had been exceeded. Generally speaking, the inside of a hotel room in Tokyo or London is pretty much the same as the inside of a hotel room in Clarkston, Tennessee or Cleveland, Ohio. I knew what my reservation deserved and it was incredibly more than I deserved. I suppose people who have stayed in other Presidential Suites may actually have been disappointed. I don’t know. I only know that for me, it was shocking grace compared to what I deserved.
Translate this into the Christian life for a minute and ask yourself the same kinds of questions I asked myself.
- Do you believe, I mean do you really believe, what the Bible promises to be true? Do you believe it in such a way that it alters your behavior and countenance? Consider Hebrews 10:34 – For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. What was it that made the Hebrew Christians give up their time, talent and treasure? It was their knowledge that they had something better. They didn’t think they had something better – they knew it.
- Are you others focused in the way you view the blessings God has given you now and promises in the future. How quickly do you look for ways you can bless others with the blessing you have received from God? In Genesis 12:2 God tells Abraham the point of God’s kindness to us is as a vehicle for Him to bless others. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. When we miss this, we become consumers rather than Christians. The extent to which our identity is wrapped up in how well we point people to a generous God who sacrificially gives is the extent to which we are truly Christian.
- Finally, when was the last time you reflected how much you do not deserve even the smallest kindness from God. Americans see the conditions at the Guantanamo Bay terrorist prison with its library and air conditioning and private cells and cable TV and are in some sense justifiably outraged at how much kinder we are to terrorists than they have been to us. How often do you see yourself as someone who was a cosmic terrorist before Jesus rescued you? All of us were by our nature enemies of God deserving of an eternal prison camp called Hell. Do you realize that? Do you meditate on the fact that you don’t deserve a working shower, a child that obeys, a car that starts or a bus that is on time, clear air and water or anything else good in all creation? BTW – you will know the answer to this question by the number of times you thank God for these things.