I had nearly destroyed myself. I could feel the stress coursing through my body, and I knew the source. My love for the pleasures of this world was straining my soul. I had been seeking my meaning in them, and their uncertain nature made everything I was standing upon unstable, which had caused me to collapse in fear. Though I did not know it at the time, those ties to the world needed to be severed, or I was going to break.
It was then that I saw a man walking toward me. He was a smallish man with a stern face that made me question his intentions, but as he drew near, I saw kindness in his eyes that provided me with some relief. He looked at me, and he immediately noticed my distress. The windows of my soul were open to him, and he could see the treasure of my heart was the world’s admiration. He saw that earthly pleasures had my rapt attention and would not let me go.
He immediately showed me a picture of a man arrayed in full splendor. Never had I seen such an image. The portrait reached deep down into my soul. My lust grabbed hold and refused to let go because I wanted to be that man. Then something happened. I saw the man of splendor was disillusioned. He had everything I desired, but he was unsatisfied. He cried, “Vanities of vanities. All is vanity.”
How could this be? The man in the picture had everything I knew would make me happy, and he was still miserable. I felt myself take in a deep breath. Something that had been putting pressure on my chest broke free, and I felt my lungs begin to relax. With that, the small man was gone.
As I lay there pondering what had happened, I saw a man of great evil approach me, and in his hands, he had all the treasures of the world. He, too, had everything that I desired and had been investing my life and soul to attain, but he was hideous. Like the portrait of Dorian Gray, the evil of his heart manifested in his appearance. As I look upon the monster in front of me, a searing thought shot across my mind. “If the Lord of heaven and earth often allows the greatest portion of the world’s treasure to be held by the vilest of men, his avowed enemies, then they must not be the greatest treasures man can possess.” If earthly riches were part of God’s greatest gifts, the wicked would have no part in them. As he was walking away, I noticed the tension running up and down the back of my neck start to relax, and the years of chronic pain in my head began to fade.
As I sat there wondering if I had aimed all my life pursuits at the wrong targets, another man came into view. This one was the exact opposite of the last man. He was godly. I saw 11 more standing at a distance behind him, and all of them wore the clothes of poverty. The world mistreated them. They had no desires for earthly power, riches, or fame. They had given them up to possess something more significant. As the man in front stood there looking at me, I saw the joy in his eyes. He said, to me, “I count all things as dung compared to knowing Christ.” He smiled and walked away, and the others went with him.
I knew these were the men used by God to lay the foundation of the Church. The Holy Spirit had used them to write down the very words of God for all subsequent generations, and the man in front had just called all that I was pursuing “dung.” The cords of worldliness pulling at my strained nerves began to snap, and, contrary to what I would have expected, the snapping was not painful. Instead, the nerves loosened and began to regain their intended use. Feeling the life returning to my body, I stood to my feet, and then something even more remarkable happened.
I saw a man approaching riding a white horse, and he was beautiful. I knew right away that he had sent the first three visitors. As I looked upon him, my joints felt loose, my muscles began to give way, and I, once again, went down to my knees. Everything about me began to come undone. His voice shook my soul with comfort, and he showed me his hands, his feet, and his side. Up until this point, I had been pursuing the world’s crown, and he showed me what that crown entailed by showing me the scars on his head.
He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and he was despised and rejected by men. Foxes have dens, the birds of the air have nests, but he did not have a place to lay his head. If the treasures and esteem of this world were of eternal value, he would have had them. His beauty and worth emanated from his holiness, and the world’s riches had nothing to do with it. Compared to him, they were revolting and unnecessary.
At the sight of him, I felt something within me die. It was a former and perverse love for the things of the world. I knew at that moment that it was not wrong to possess them or use them; it was wrong to love them. The glorious cross of Jesus now stood between me and the world, and I no longer desired it, for the Pearl of Great Price overshadowed it. He then lifted me to my feet.
I knew his scars provided the forgiveness of my sin, but I never realized how much they were calling me away from the things of the world. Seeing them, I felt everything within me begin to rest. My former pursuits are coming to an end. They are vain, and I now realize that my ambition for the things of the world made me my own tormentor. Through these visitors, Jesus poured contempt on the things of the world in comparison to him. He continues to lead me further out of the darkness into his marvelous light.
Now I am here to visit you. You, who have been striving after riches, power, fame, and sexual prowess. You, who are striving to increase them. You, who place your hope in maintaining them. You, who fear to lose them. You, who find your delight in them. You, whose thoughts are continually upon them. You, whose conversation is always about them. Remember, they are unstable and cannot offer you the security and lasting pleasure you seek. Never forget, the Lord often allows his enemies to have the greatest portion of them. Keep in mind that his greatest servants rarely had any of the world’s goods, and they had everything in our Savior. Most importantly, look to Jesus and His cross. Compared to knowing him, they are rubbish
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. – 1 John 2:15