Keith Bauer took time off work last week. There was no point in showing up on the job because he knew at the end of the week he would not get a pay cheque for his work as a tractor-trailer driver.

Instead of going to work, Bauer travelled 4,830km, from Maryland to California, to be near the heart of the action when the world came to an end and the true believers were caught up into heaven.

What is it that made thousands of believers put their lives and their money on the line for the wild apocalyptic predictions of Harold Camping?

Keith Bauer may have the answer. When asked why he looked forward so eagerly to the end of the world, he replied,

I was hoping for it because I think heaven would be a lot better than this earth.

Rapture is an escape plan from a life that feels overwhelming and unsatisfying. It is the religious equivalent of buying a lottery ticket, except that, for the true believers, the end brings eternal rewards.

There is no doubt life here on this earth can at times be difficult. Turmoil and suffering are real. When we feel powerless to escape the hardships of our lives, it can be tempting to buy into the convictions of a person who guarantees a better future in the sweet by and by.

There has always been a strain of Christianity that has believed the true rewards of faith lie beyond this veil of tears for those who are finally rewarded with eternal bliss in the welcoming bosom of God. And the sooner we get there, the better. But longing for a final reward after this life does not offer a lot of assistance for living a deep healthy human existence in this world. If you pin all your hopes on finding your way to a better place far removed from the hardships of this physical realm, you will be unlikely to live a rich spiritually rewarding life before you escape to heaven.

In the New Testament, Paul offers the possibility of a different vision for life here on earth.

I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)

Paul wrote these words from a Roman prison. His circumstances were certainly less than ideal. It would not be surprising had he prayed for deliverance. But Paul did not need to escape the struggles and difficulties of life. He was able to live in the midst of turmoil and pain with a sense of contentment and peace.

In spite of the difficulties of his own situation, Paul counseled the Philippians to

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

Spiritual teaching that hopes only for escape from this life is not worth our attention. Christian faith offers the possibility of a life lived today with peace and contentment. Paul understood that “The Lord is near.” It is that nearness of God we long to know.

The point of Christian faith is that God is present. We have not been abandoned. Even when the circumstances of our life are difficult and unsatisfying, God is with us. As our awareness of God’s presence grows and deepens, we can know, in this life a peace that “surpasses all understanding.” There is no need to escape. God is here. What else do you need?

You do not have to wait for the Rapture. God’s richness and peace can be found right now.