• to banish (a person) from his or her native country.
• to withdraw (oneself) from residence in one’s native country.
• to withdraw (oneself) from allegiance to one’s country.
An attitude of gratitude is essential if one is to victoriously embrace the expatriate life of a disciple of Christ. To follow Christ requires a surrender of all things. A man or woman who yields their life by accepting whatever experiences Yahweh has chosen for them will both lose and gain many things. Yahshua told those who would be His disciples to count the cost of following Him. He told them the cost was exceedingly high. The cost includes surrendering every relationship to God, every possession, laying down our dreams and goals for life. He has promised that every sacrifice will be repaid in time, multiplied a hundred fold, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.
We can choose to focus daily on what we have given up. This, however, leads to depression, to murmuring and complaint. It is not hard to find examples of unworthy attitudes among the people of God. One of the greatest epic narratives of the Bible recounts the experiences of the descendants of Abraham who were loosed from bondage in Egypt as Yahweh led them on a journey to inherit the land of Canaan.
Every man, woman, and child who departed from Egypt on the night of the first Passover were truly expatriates. They were leaving behind houses and lands and various furnishings. They could take with them only what they could carry. They would dwell in tents and embrace a mobile lifestyle. They became wanderers upon the face of the earth. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased.
I Corinthians 10:1-5
For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased…
We learn the reason that Yahweh was not pleased with them. These people who adopted the expatriate lifestyle were continuously focused upon what it had cost them to follow God. They lamented the things left behind in Egypt, that fertile and prosperous land of slavery.
The inheritance Yahweh was leading them towards was far better. There they would live as a free people. They would inherit a land flowing with milk and honey. Yahweh was going to given them houses they had not built, vineyards and orchards they had not planted, cities they did not construct. Yet to arrive at their inheritance, the people of God had to first give up the life they had known and embark on a journey through the wilderness which Yahweh would use to test their hearts (attitudes).
And you shall remember all the way which Yahweh your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart…
Only in the hearts of a very small remnant was there found faith, gratitude, and an eagerness to follow Yahweh. Men like Moses, Joshua, and Caleb were the exception. The vast majority of men and women complained bitterly. Daily they murmured about the hardships and trials they faced. When Yahweh miraculously provided bread from heaven day after day, they complained that it was not as good as the quail, fish, leeks, onions, garlic, and melons of Egypt.
I Corinthians 10:6-12
Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved… Do not grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
During my years of public ministry I have had interaction with a large number of God’s people. I have corresponded with thousands through e-mail, and many in person. I have encountered many who manifest the same grumbling spirit of complaint that was observed among the people of Israel. Some find fault with every provision of Yahweh. They complain that the journey is too long, too difficult, that there are too many trials. Such ones seem to carry dark clouds around with them on sunny days. They speak at times of desiring to return to the life they once had. Their focus is backwards. Like Lot’s wife, they look back to that which they are leaving behind, rather than looking forward to the divine inheritance that lies ahead.
But Yahshua said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Like the person in the cartoon above, many believers fall short of an attitude of gratitude. Instead they manifest a “sentiment of resentment.” Their way becomes exceedingly difficult. They trudge on wearily, every step a herculean effort, for in their hearts they want to go backwards. They lack an eagerness to follow Yahweh to the new land of promise to which He would guide them.
There is a statement made in Moses’ account of the people’s wilderness wanderings that reveals that their main problem was not their experiences, but their attitude toward those experiences.
Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of Yahweh; and when Yahweh heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of Yahweh burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp… And the rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”
These words, divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit, reveal a profound truth. Men and women can make their journey with Yahweh exceedingly more difficult than it actually is by manifesting a spirit of complaint. The statement “Now the people became like those who complain of adversity” is pregnant with meaning. There was no actual adversity. Look at what they were complaining about. They grew tired of eating manna every day. Manna was pleasant. It had the flavor of wafers with honey. It had everything necessary to promote health and sustain those who ate it. It was provided in a miraculous manner, daily demonstrating Yahweh’s faithful care of His people. Yet, the people came to despise that which Yahweh had given to them.
Have you ever done the same? Have you come to despise something, or someone, that Yahweh placed in your life to provide something you needed? Have you ever murmured against Yahweh’s provision, speaking as if it was some great adversity? The apostle Paul tells us that the experiences of the Israelites were given to us as examples lest we fall in the same way.
Every Christian is called to follow the Spirit of Christ as the Israelites followed the pillar of fire and the cloud. Christ has promised to provide and care for His people along the way.
“Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.”
The church has been corrupted in this hour. Ministers regularly make false declarations to the people of God. They declare that Yahweh has promised His people the banquets and feasts of Egypt while they follow the Spirit through the wilderness. The prosperity gospel that is so wildly popular today, leads the people of God to believe that they can take Egypt with them as they walk with Christ. This is gross deception. Those who imbibe the poisonous waters of the prosperity message become unwilling to lay aside the things of the world. They are unwilling to make sacrifices now to attain a far better inheritance later.
Christ has promised to meet every need of those who follow Him, but He has not promised that He will sate their soul’s desires, nor give them that which is pleasing to the flesh. At times He chooses to feed His people with “the bread of privation, and the waters of affliction” (Isaiah 30:20). Surely bread of privation is better than no bread at all. It is the will of Yahweh that His people give thanks in ALL THINGS.
I Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Yahshua.
I find myself daily giving thanks to God for His myriad of blessings. Some people have written to me and said they would not like to live in a converted school bus as I do. I remember one man’s peckish comment as he compared my experience to that of the hippies of the 1960s. He asked me when I was going to hang beads up in the bus. Another dismissed such a life by suggesting that it would be nigh impossible to find a wife who would join a man in such an experience.
Despite the murmuring of others, I find myself frequently bursting forth in spontaneous praise and words of thanksgiving to my Father for the wonderful home He has provided for me. I am truly, sincerely, and ecstatically grateful for the bus He has provided for me. It has everything I need. It is dry. It keeps the bugs out and is climate controlled inside. Since I was able to install an instant-on hot water heater about a year ago I have rejoiced every time I am able to take a shower in my converted motorhome. I am truly blessed and I sense the Father’s approval and pleasure when I give utterance to the thoughts of thanksgiving that arise in my soul.
I have known times when the only roof over my head was a tent in the woods. I was extremely grateful for the tent Yahweh provided. When it rained it kept me dry. When the woods were full of gnats and mosquitoes, it kept them outside so that I could sleep peacefully at night.
For an entire summer my home was the camper van Yahweh provided for me, parked on the property of a rescue mission in downtown Macon, Georgia. Across the street was the county jail. Behind me were rows of crack houses. I had no electricity, sewer, or water connections at the location. Yet I remember telling the Father on many occasions that summer that I had never been happier. Yahweh opened the door for me to get a membership at a gym downtown. For $32 a month I could visit every day, as long as I wanted. I could shower there. There was also a swimming pool, and all types of exercise equipment. There was a library nearby, and coffee houses that I could ride my bicycle to. I was able to spend my days writing, and return to my van at night to sleep.
There were some nights that the van stayed hot until after midnight. I lay on a towel so I would not soak my sheets with sweat. Yet, I was glad that I had a place of my own to lie down, for there were many homeless men and women in the town who had no such place. I also could look forward to a shower, and refreshment each day at the gym.
Even when I was twice cast in jail, once for 60 days, and another time for 74 days, I found that I had many things for which to be thankful. These experiences did not seem like unbearable hardships to me. Sure, there were elements that were hard to bear. I found the constant thunder of voices uttering profanity and obscenities to be difficult to bear. I longed at times for the peace of the countryside, and to experience the solitude that comes from being away from sinful humanity for a time. Yet, I appreciated the experiences for what they taught me. I was better able to understand the patience of Yahweh as He observes and hears all things every day. That He has not once more wiped the earth clean as He did in the days of Noah, is a testimony to His patience and longsuffering.
Through my experiences in jail, I learned a deep appreciation for things I had formerly taken for granted. I had previously thought little of the opportunities I had to pray out loud to God in my daily life. Yet, sharing a prison dorm with 80 other men, and always having another man in my small cell, made me relish the rare moments of privacy that I experienced in jail. I remember that one occasion my cell mate had to go to court. I had an hour or two alone in the cell by myself. It became a time of intense prayer as I paced from one end of the cell to the other, praying out loud, pouring forth my words of praise, hope, anticipation, and petition to my heavenly Father. That cell became to me a castle. It was my meeting room with the King of kings. His presence filled every corner. I relished the experience all the more because it was not readily available to me in that place.
I have frequently found that I have learned to appreciate something far more deeply by experiencing times when I had to do without. When the Father led me to experience two forty day periods of time camping in the woods, separated by a two day break, I came to appreciate a simple meal of bread and beans, or a bowl of soup. I learned this deep appreciation by having nothing to eat during much of this time, and little to eat the rest of the time. For the last seven days of my first forty day period of camping, I had no food. During the second forty day period, I ran out of food and had nothing other than water for my last seventeen days there.
Yahweh has taught me to look for the silver lining behind every cloud. He has taught me to praise Him in every experience. I remember during those seasons of fasting being grateful that I was out in a remote location. I was not tormented by watching others eat, or smelling food constantly, while I was doing without. I also experienced very little hunger, and knew this to be the grace of Yahweh. I thanked Him for these things. I found myself many times a day speaking out loud to the Father, confessing to Him my gratitude for the things I counted as blessings. I thanked Him for the former years of abundance that in my time of lack I was better able to appreciate.
Yesterday I found myself once more expressing to the Father my deep gratitude for the provision He sends my way each day. My spirit feels lightened when I begin expressing thanksgiving to my Father. Clouds give way to sunshine, and despair flees as hope emerges. There is something inherently empowering in the simple act of thanking Yahweh for the blessings He provides. Thanksgiving has become a way of life for me.
I don’t own a car. I ride my bike whenever I need to go to the store or post office. Some would find this to be a source of complaint, but I have found it to be cause for thanksgiving. I am afforded exercise that my body needs by riding a bicycle. I also see and smell many wonderful things along my bike rides.
To exit the property I am parked on, I travel down a dirt lane. It is shaded and for the past month it has smelled wonderfully of honeysuckle. It is like taking a cool drink on a hot day to encounter the aroma of the honeysuckle. Every time I ride down the lane I remark to the Father about how wonderful it smells. Just think, Yahweh designed certain plants to exude aromas that cause pleasure when inhaled by mankind. What a loving and thoughtful thing to do!
Along my bike ride I have found wild blackberries growing. At times I will stop and pick a few handfuls and eat them. I love the taste of blackberries, a fact which the Father surely knows for I tell Him so every time I put them in my mouth. If I were driving a car, I would miss these experiences. We have a choice to either find cause for thanksgiving, or cause for complaint, in all of our experiences. Thanksgiving seems far more befitting a son of God, and it brings with it many rewards.
If you are finding your way to be difficult; if your experiences seem excessively bitter; they can be made easier and sweeter by the exercise of an attitude of gratitude. It is not possible to walk victoriously as an alien and stranger in this world, following in the footsteps of Christ, apart from embracing a heart of thanksgiving.
This is an excerpt from the series Expatriates.
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