Abram experiences a high after the LORD covenants with him. But then he slips into human reasoning when he hears what his wife, Sarai, is thinking. (See Genesis 16:1-6.)Because Sarai is barren she considers how the LORD might have her build a family.
“Take my Egyptian maid-servant, Hagar, and sleep with her,” Sarai says to Abram, resorting to a common practice of the times. “Perhaps this is how the LORD wills to give us children.”
Abram agrees with Sarai, and takes Hagar as his wife. Then when Hagar realizes she is pregnant she despises her mistress. Sarai becomes jealous and blames Abram.
But Abram answers his wife, “Your servant is in your hands. Do with her whatever you think best.”
Next time we’ll see just what Sarai thinks is best, and the resulting response and blessing from the LORD.
In the meantime, moving ahead to the New Testament era, we hear Jesus’ question, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?" And we hear Simon Peter responding: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
But then, he, too, as Abram, slips into human reasoning. When Jesus predicts all that He is to suffer, Peter responds, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!”
But Jesus rebukes Peter saying, “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
In later years, the apostle Paul challenges the Christians at Colosse how they (and us) should live in this world: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
From Matthew 16:13-28; Mark 8:31-38; Luke 9:22-27; Colossians 3:1-4
Zooming forward to the 19th Century, we meet Johanna Veenstra, born April 19, 1894, in Paterson, New Jersey.
At a tender age she loses her father to typhoid fever (he had just begun his pastoral ministry). His death brings hardship and poverty to Johanna’s mother and her five siblings. Attending Christian schools until 12 years of age, she drops out for secretarial training. At the age of 14 she gets a job as a stenographer in New York City to help support the family, commuting every day from Paterson.
Surrounded by the “temptations of riches and worldly pleasures” of New York City life, she nevertheless has no interest in such "earthly things." She is active in her Christian Reformed church; even so, it's while attending a Baptist church that God moves her to foreign missions. She applies with Sudan United Mission (SUM) for service in Africa. But she's too young at the time, so she undertakes further studies at CalvinCollege, where she becomes the first woman member of the Student Volunteer Board.
At the age of 25 she leaves America’s bountiful shores for Africa. There, in present-day Nigeria she is primarily engaged in medical work and preaching. She gives her life to “minding the things of God” for the spiritual, as well as the physical, well being of the African people, and treks from village to village to minister. She also helps set up a boarding school for training young men as evangelists.
On Palm Sunday, April 9, 1933, after suffering an illness, she dies at the age of 39.
Johanna Veenstra saw a greater pleasure in Africa than the temporal-ness of New York City. And, as she wrote, “There has never been a single regret that I left the ‘bright lights and [carefree] life’ of New York City, and came to this dark corner of [God’s] vineyard. There has been no sacrifice, because the Lord Jesus is my constant companion.”
God continues His search today for other “Johanna Veenstras" who will set their minds on things above, not on earthly things, for the spiritual good of all peoples.