Sitting, reading, meditating this morning before the beginning of the work day and realizing its great value I think of those I meet in the course of the day.
The world around us is driven by action and by gain. The world we live in grieves because ‘the economy’ is not performing as it should. Even the church grieves the loss of the economic engine which drove its budget.
Yet in the midst of this lost of ‘economic engine’ we have continued to receive the same gift of time, 24 hours in each and every day, to be and to become.
Our loss of this economic engine, or more accurately, its sickness, has arguable given us more of this 24 hours in each day for the pursuit of being and becoming.
Yet instead of using this gift we seem stuck in a mode of lament over our loss of what the activity of this world gives and decline in money. This is the single greatest lament I hear from those in the church.
When I take time for ‘being’ I hear no applause. When I take time for doing, visiting, launching a new program, participating in the performance of music I hear applause of some kind.
Those in the church who reap the greatest accolades are not those who focus on being present for the Lord and abiding in Christ but those who make things look good, sound good and feel good whether they are good or not.
For this reason, increasingly, success in the eyes of God in the church today will look like failure in and to the church. The ones who are praised are the ones who put on the ‘best show’ at any cost. They receive the recognition, the money, and the accolades. They are the ones who are valued, esteemed and prized for their efforts.
Therefore, time and resources are set aside for them. Their praise is upon the lips of those around and their stature grows and becomes, with time, even legendary.
While this is happening, the one who focuses on the Living Christ and takes time, precious time that could be used for doing, is considered of lesser worth and in fact at times even considered a burden or blight to the church! This is a modern fulfillment of Jesus’ experience of rejection by the religious world of His day also in which quoting Psalm 118 He says, “The stone which was rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone’. (Matthew 21:42)
The Valley of Decision
Modern Christianity has a serious problem. It has been hijacked by a consumer culture dedicated to proclaiming what is popular, doing what is fun, and devoted to what makes us feel “ok” about everything. At some point down the road of authentic Christianity, each of us will discover why Jesus said that only those who took up their cross and hated their lives in this world could follow Him.
What we see in our culture today is not true Christianity. It is a hybrid of Christianity and political correctness designed to offend no one. When challenged by the claims of Jesus Christ it will not accept Him or anyone else who insists that He is the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life.
In looking at the life of Christ we see one which ended in a lonely, painful death. To the multitudes who followed him, the Jewish leaders, and the Roman authorities this is where His story ended. Only those who were empowered by His Holy Spirit ever learned of His resurrected life and The Rest of the Story. As it was then, so it is today. Why should we expect that the world would treat us as His followers any better than they treated Him and His disciples over 2000 years ago?
So – the question becomes this: why follow Him at all? Taken within the context of this world and an earthy life it makes no sense at all. However, Christ teaches us that this world is not our home. His Kingdom, our true Home, begins when this world ends. This is why Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourself riches that rust, get stolen or corrupted. Instead lay up for yourselves true riches that are safe from these things.” The problem is this: there is a big part of us that still wants much of what this world has to offer. We want its acceptance, its love, its opportunities. When we find ourselves in a place where these two worlds collide we come to the valley of decision.
God Never Fails
Believe it or not, I have endured a great many trials during my years of serving Christ. I have often felt that if I had known of them in advance, I would never have said “yes” to His call on my life. In having lived though some of the things that I have, there have been many, many lessons learned. About faith. About the true nature of God. About His enduring love. About how He never leaves us. There was a purpose for each trial I endured, though perhaps it was not evident at the time.
I am convinced that that each time I was asked to carry my cross and follow Him that it was not wasted. I believe that perhaps in ways hidden from my eyes God used or will use these things in a way that gives Him glory. This is what it means to trust Him. I do not even have to see in my lifetime the fruit of my obedience. Though there are times , I must admit, when when I struggle mightily to believe this truth. Yet I can so easily recall when His Spirit within me led faithfully as I walked hand in hand with Him into the dark night of the soul. I trusted then not seeing that anything He led me into would ultimately be for my good. There were times that I was terrified by the might and the verocity of the enemy and the total silence of any friendly voices around me. Though in the midst of what seemed at times total darkness, yet still I was never truly lost to faith. In the face of sometimes unrelenting pain, I learned to trust again and again and again.
I am convinced that any action done in trust and faith must yield fruit for eternity as surely as throwing a ball into the air will yield to the force of gravity and bring it crashing to the ground.. Anything, ANYTHING we do in faith yields eternal fruit. It is an absolute reliable, undeniable, unbreakable, thoroughly trustworthy truth that any action of faith in God yields eternal fruit. If it takes well beyond my death for the harvest to be realized, yet will I trust that each and every step taken along the broken road results in eternal glory and praise and power. There is nothing that can stand in the way of the power of God’s grace. He is. And He is eternal. As it was in my life then, so it is now. God is my rock and my salvation. I shall trust in Him and I shall not be afraid. This is my wish for you as well, my brothers and sisters in Christ. That when you face your own ” dark night of the soul”, as we all surely must, that you will know and trust that God never leads you into anything that He will not walk you through to the other side. Though you may not see the wisdom of it at the time, your trials will yield eternal fruit if you but trust that He always has your utmost good as His highest calling. Amen.
Set Apart by Grace
The Christian life is unlike any other way of living. Once we accept our need for the Savior, Christ Jesus, and for the redemption He offers, the Spirit of the Living God comes to dwell in each of us. This is not a minor event. This is completely life altering! Though we may look the same on the outside, our interior world begins to shift dramatically as we are lead no longer by our own desires but by His. All of this is reflected in our attitude throughout the remainder of our days. We have a new sense that our choices, our words, our decisions, our companions, our thoughts, the use of our time … all of it is more important than we ever realized. In a sense, our whole perspective on time changes, and we realize that every action has eternal consequences.
This is to say that all of life begins to look different to us from the foundation up. No longer is there a need to entertain the question, “What is the meaning of life?” or “Why am I here?”. It has all been answered, if not in detail, certainly we know that there is more purpose and meaning to our lives than we can begin to imagine. This puts everything we ever thought about ourselves and what we have, what we do, who we are, in a new light. This cannot happen without a tremendous shake up of our lives. We cannot help but look back on the “stuff of life” and re-evaluate our entire value system. Our lives have moved from this date and time into eternity. Though we are still in the world, we are no longer of it. We have become residents of eternity and citizens of the Kingdom of God.
We are a people set apart. Set apart by His grace, for His purposes. All around us we may witness those who act in order to preserve their power, influence, position, and other forms of worldliness. We must not be swayed by their actions or their influence, whether we meet such individuals inside or outside the walls of the church. Our highest calling is to remain true to the leading of the Spirit of God within us. This is our compass. This is our guide. This is the Voice which will not be ignored, no matter what conflicting messages we hear from the voices around us. We are His people, called by His name, set apart by His grace, for His eternal purposes. May we daily live in submission to His Lordship in our lives. Amen.