This is a seven-part series on why everyone should be a Christian.
Click on the following links to explore the various installments:
(5) The Care of Christ
Thus far, we have explored the objective case for becoming a Christian (see parts one through four above). In the next three studies, we’ll consider the subjective case.
There are several personal or emotional reasons to be a Christian, not the least of which is Christ’s care for every soul on earth.
The “Hound of Heaven”
English poet Francis Thompson (1859-1907) lived a hard life. He suffered a lifetime of ill health. In his late twenties, an opium addiction ruined him, rendering him homeless and starving for three years. Eventually, Thompson perished from tuberculosis at only 47 years old.
However, amid all that pain and despair, Thompson wrote a masterpiece: The Hound of Heaven (1890). The poem describes Thompson’s futile efforts to flee from God:
“I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him…”
As he ran and hid, however, he still felt God pursuing him like a hound on the hunt “with unhurrying chase, and unperturbed pace.”
At last, the bard realizes that all his privations and hardships were actually manifestations of God’s care for his soul. The Lord wanted Francis to seek blessedness from the hand of God, not from Francis’ own ignoble pursuits (which offer only misery and dashed hope). When the poet was finally ready and willing to embrace God, the loving hound of heaven came and rescued him from himself.
The poem is a stunning expression of God’s constant and relentless pursuit of even the wretchedest soul on earth.
Years later, Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990) spoke of God’s care for him in similar fashion:
“I had a notion that somehow, besides questing, I was being pursued. Footsteps padding behind me; a following shadow, a Hound of Heaven, so near that I could feel the warm breath on my neck. I knew I was making for somewhere, some place of light; seeking some ultimate fulfillment in which another reborn me would extricate itself from the existing husk of a fleshly egotistic me, like a butterfly from a chrysalis. I was also in flight. Chasing and being chased; the pursuing and the pursuit, the quest and the flight, merging at last into one single immanence or luminosity” (Muggeridge, p. 125).
Ordinarily, a hound in pursuit invokes dread and fear. But what if that hound were a sheepdog? And what if you were a lost sheep?
In his immortal “Shepherd’s psalm” (Psalm 23) — which might more accurately be styled, “the sheep’s psalm” — David appears to have alluded to this concept:
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…” (Psalm 23.6).
“Follow” comes from a term (radaph) that means to pursue or chase like a hound. Even when David fled from God by seeking happiness in the wrong places, God kept pursuing his sheep, ever ready to shower his blessings upon him.
Likewise, while Saul of Tarsus was persecuting Christians, the Lord described himself as poking and prodding Saul with “goads,” like a rancher breaking in an iron-willed ox or colt (Acts 9.5). Jesus was chasing Saul. The more Saul resisted his pursuit, the more Saul hurt himself (cf. Stott, p. 19).
Indeed, no matter how much we kick against him, God still cares for us. His love for us is so vibrant that he was willing to suffer and die that we might be well (Jn. 3.16; Rm. 5.8; Eph. 2.4; Gal. 1.4). Indeed, his love “surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3.19, ESV). And that love envelops the entire “world” (Jn. 3.16), which means he is pursuing you too, even if you refuse to acknowledge him.
Have there been times in your life when you felt things came together perfectly? The hound of heaven was on your tail.
Have there been times in your life when all hope seemed lost — leaving you longing for something more than things this vain world has to offer? The hound of heaven was howling for you.
It is God's love for us that draws us to him. Napoleon Bonaparte put it like this:
“Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself have founded empires, but upon what do these creations of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded His empire upon love: and to this very day millions would die for Him” (quoted in Ankerberg, et al., p. 29).
Why should you be a Christian? Let John put it simply:
“We love Him because He first loved us” (1 Jn. 4.19).
Acceptance In The Beloved
The love of God for the people of the world is one thing, but God reserves a special care only for his people.
Writing to the church of Christ in Ephesus, Paul affirmed that Christians have become “accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1.6).
“Accepted” (chairtoo) stems from the Greek word for grace (charis—he be-graced us). It is used in the sense of gifted, to “honor with blessings” (Thayer, p. 667), or to “favor highly, bless” (Bauer, p. 887). Strong suggests it means to “indue with special honor” (Strong, #5487).
In this context, Paul affirms that those who are “in Christ,” “in the Beloved one,” or “in him” are in the sphere in which “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” is available (cf. Eph. 1.3, 4, 6), including being
(1) “chosen in him” (Eph. 1.4a),
(2) “holy and without blame before him in love” (Eph 1.4b),
(3) “adopted as sons” (Eph. 1.5), and
(4) “accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1.6).
Conversely, in the next chapter, Paul observes that those who are “without Christ” are
“aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2.12).
Hence, there is a unique sense of blessedness and divine favor available to Christians, which no non-Christian possesses.
Furthermore, Peter says that Christians are God’s “own special people” (1 Pt. 2.9; cf. Tit. 2.14; Acts 15.14). The phrase alludes to several Old Testament verses, in which God describes his people as his “treasured possession,” uniquely chosen and distinguished from “all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (cf. Ex. 19.5-6; Dt. 7.6; Isa. 43.21; Mal. 3.17).
In Malachi’s prophecy concerning the age of the Messiah particularly, the prophet observes that there is a clear
“distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him” (Mal. 3.18).
Moreover, Jesus argued that this special kind of love from God — in which God sustains a unique “home”-like relationship “with” us — is contingent upon obeying him:
“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (Jn. 14.23; cf. v. 21).
“The Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God” (Jn. 16.27; cf. Jn. 17.23).
Finally, Paul noted that the “saints” especially are the “beloved of God” (Rm. 1.7).
In short, while God certainly cares for the entire world, only Christians are the objects of God’s special love and care.
The Promise To Be With Him In Heaven
Not only does God uniquely care for Christians in this life, but his love motivates him to dwell with us forever in the next life.
In John 14, Jesus promised his disciples that he would welcome us to Heaven,
“that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn. 14.3).
Heaven is a delightful place, full of “joy” and “pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16.11).
First, its descriptions are delightful. It is a place of:
(1) Room — there’s plenty of it. Jesus said there are “many rooms” (monai—places to stay) in God’s dwelling place (Jn. 14.2, ESV). It shall not be crowded and uncomfortable. Even if millions will be there, there shall “still” be “room” in the kingdom of God (Lk. 14.22).
(2) Rest — the rest of Heaven shall be revitalizing to the soul (Heb. 4.11; Rev. 14.13). We shall never tire nor be in pain. It is a place of purity and rehabilitation (Rev. 21.1-4).
(3) Reward — Heaven is a place of “reward” (Heb. 11.26) — indeed, a “full reward” (2 Jn. 8) — which can neither fade nor be taken away (Mt. 25.46; 6.20).
(4) Rejoicing — When at last we enter into God’s caring presence forever, we shall “enter into the joy of [our] Lord” (Mt. 25.21). Indeed, we shall “be glad and rejoice and give him glory” (Rev. 19.7; cf. Rev. 12.11-12).
(5) Responsibility — Heaven is not a place for couch potatoes. There, God’s people shall have the privilege of rendering meaningful, soul-enhancing service to our creator (cf. Rev. 22.3; Lk. 18.16-19).
Second, its denizens are delightful.
(1) God himself will dwell among us (cf. Ps. 11.4; Col. 4.1; Rev. 21.3).
(2) The holy angels are there too (cf. Mt. 18.10; 22.30).
(3) Heaven shall also be filled with good and righteous human beings who do the will of God (cf. Mt. 7.21ff). We shall be reunited with our faithful friends who have long since passed from this vale of tears (cf. 2 Sam. 12.23; 1 Th. 2.19-20), and we shall have the opportunity to meet new friends who also love and serve God (Mt. 8.11).
God "cares for you" (1 Pt. 5.7). He gives you rain and sunshine, food and gladness, etc. (Mt. 5.45; Acts 14.17).
But while all these earthly things bless the lives of every human being, they are but temporary. God’s love for Christians, however, is deep and abiding. While we are on earth, the Christian alone is blessed as a participant in God’s covenant.
And if we “endure to the end” (Mk. 13.13), his care for Christians shall culminate in Heaven. Indeed, it is comforting to know that God cares so much for Christians that he shall let us live with him forever, free from hardship and turmoil in a place of belonging and cheer.
If that is what you want for yourself, why not consider becoming a Christian?
Why not keep studying? Move on to part 6: