(Photo: Paul Tripp)
The experts say that there are only three things to consider when buying a piece of property: location, location, location. The same could be said about life. When you understand location, you live and minister in a radically different way. Confused? Let me point you to four ways in which location matters.
1. You live in a dramatically fallen world.
You have to be prepared. You have to live with realistic expectations. You simply must bring a biblical understanding to the place where you now live and minister, or you'll be constantly unprepared and disappointed. You and I live in a very broken world where there's trouble on every side. Your body and mind are affected by the Fall and don't always work as they should. Your family and friendships won't work as they were designed. The government over you doesn't function as it was created to function. The church you serve is filled with flawed people still in need of redemption. The broken physical environment suffers under the weight of the Fall. The apostle Paul says it very well in Romans 8: "the whole world groans, waiting for redemption."
There's no escaping it: you are located in a place where trouble of some kind will greet you every day. You live and minister in a place where somehow, some way, temptation will greet you every day. When you face this harsh reality, you will live prepared for the troubles that come your way.
2. The big battle is fought in your heart.
Acknowledging the brokenness of the world where you live and minister, you don't want to give way to spiritual environmentalism where you blame all your struggles on things outside you. That was the mistake of the medieval monastery; walled communities separated from the evil world and intended to foster righteous living. As it turned out, these communities tended to repeat all of the ills of the surrounding world from which they had separated.
Monasteries were a failure because they neglected one very significant biblical truth: the biggest danger to every human being, even those in ministry, is located inside of him, not outside of him. There's something dark and deceitful that still lurks in the heart of every one of God's children who hasn't yet been fully glorified: sin. It's only ever the sin inside me that draws and hooks me to the sin outside me. Every day there's a war fought for control of your heart. But your jealous Savior, with the zeal of gorgeous redemptive love, won't share your heart. He won't rest until your heart is ruled by him and him alone.
3. You will run somewhere for refuge.
In the middle of trouble, when you're in the heat of the battle, you'll run somewhere for refuge. You'll run somewhere for rest, comfort, peace, encouragement, wisdom, healing, and strength. There's only one place to run where true protection, rest, and strength can be found. You and I must learn, in life and ministry, to make the Lord our refuge.
Perhaps in trouble you run to other people, hoping that they can be your own personal messiah. Perhaps you run to entertainment, hoping to numb your troubles away. Maybe you run to a substance, trying your best to turn off the pain. Maybe you're tempted to run to food or sex, fighting pain with pleasure. Since none of these things can provide the refuge you seek, putting your hope there tends to only add disappointment to the trouble you're already experiencing.
God really is your refuge and strength. Only he rules every location where your trouble exists. Only he controls all the relationships where disappointment will rear its head. Only he has the power to rescue and deliver you. Only he has the grace you need to face what you're facing. Only he holds the wisdom that, in trouble, you so desperately need. Only he is in, with, and for you at all times. He's the refuge of refuges. Do you run to him?
4. Where you are heading, trouble will be no more.
You could argue that the biblical story is about three locations. The Garden in Genesis was a location of perfection and beauty but became a place of sin and trouble. The hill of Calvary was a place of both horrible suffering and also transforming grace. And the New Jerusalem, that place of peace and refuge lit by the brightness of the Son, will be our final refuge forever. Because of the cross of Jesus Christ, your story won't end with daily trouble and temporary refuge. No, your final location will be utterly unlike anything you have ever experienced, even on your best and brightest ministry day. You're headed for the New Jerusalem, where the final tear will be dried and trouble will be no more.
Today, in life and ministry, you'll face trouble of some kind. Today you'll run somewhere for refuge. Today there's hope and help to be found. May God be your refuge, and as you run to him, may you remember that he's promised you that there'll be a day when your trouble is no more.