Thursday, August 16, 2012

Faith like mad

23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9)

Do you know why Christianity is a lot more popular in third world nations and among oppressed and suffering people?  Neither do I.  I have a guess though.  It goes something like this.

If your life is horrific, if you are helpless, hopeless, bereaved and bereft, Jesus is beautifully attractive.  The promise of eternal life beyond this one to someone whose temporal life promises to be brutish, short and end nastily, enables them to endure to persevere.  To the homeless, the promise of rooms prepared for them warms them in cold nights.  To the hungry, the promise of a meal with their Savior and fruits that bloom every season enrich the dreams of their energy deprived bodies.  To the prisoners and the slaves, he promises freedom.  To the sick and broken, health.  To the lonely, a friend closer than a brother, a lover of their very soul.  To the guilty, the vile, the ashamed, the violated, Christ offers not retribution but redemption! And while it is hard to understand why the terrible things have to happen to you now, beyond even the promise that all the suffering will be worth it, Christ gives you a family, a people who, right here, right now, can bond in fellowship and shared belief, they can support each other and band together for strength, warmth and community!  No wonder they cling to Christ!  They’re already laying down their lives, they have no choice in that, Christ makes it an honor, a glory and a passage to something infinitely better!

Seeing this, it is no wonder Jesus is losing his popularity among Westerners.  It is one thing to for those with nothing to lose to believe, it is quite a bit different for those with everything to lose.  23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”” (Mark 10)  Yeah, yeah, I know you don’t think of yourself as rich.  I won’t bore you with the statistics again but trust me, compared to the rest of the world, if you have a house to live in, a car to drive, a cellphone and three meals a day, you are.  If you don’t believe me, look up the price of rice, the standard food for most of the world, and how much of the world cannot afford it.  On second thought, don’t, it’ll make you cry.  But for those of us who work a job, receive a paycheck, drive home, nuke dinner and spend most of the rest of the night flipping channels and dreaming of the one or two weeks of vacation we’ll take this year, laying down our lives, giving up all we own sounds kinda scary and mean.  We don’t mind helping people.  Americans are the most generous givers in the world.  We share our excess with others all the time.  Jesus however doesn’t sound like he’s asking for our surplus.  He sounds like he’s asking for everything!

Now before you go and label me anti-wealth, lemme just say, I’m not.  Neither is God.  Abe, Isaac, Jake, all wealthy and richly rewarded by God.  David and Solomon had wealth out the wa-zoo.  God doesn’t have a beef against rich people…just rich people who think their money is theirs.  I’m told that the word most often translated in the Bible as “wicked,” refers to selfish greed.  God may never ask you to lay down your whole life, but He wants to know if He does ask you to, would you?  Everything we have is a gift, right down to the skin tent in which you currently reside.  Do we love the gift more than the giver?  It’s a real easy trap to get into but to get out of you have to chew off your own leg!

I don’t come to this point flippantly.  I don’t come here without scars.  I’m not preaching at you.  I’m pleading with you.  If God asked for everything…  If God asked for that one thing…  You know the thing.  If God asked for your comfort, your home, your savings, your children, would you give them?  Would you give them cheerfully?  If following God would cost you your livelihood, your spouse, your health, your freedom, could you?  Could your faith survive that strain?  Would His promises be enough? 

Faith is a gift of grace too.  Pray for more so that it would be.  Pray you never have to find out.  Or…

If you dare, if you dare ask to serve deeper, to know Him deeper, to really understand the joy of grace, the freedom no one can chain, the food no drought can touch, the home no fire can burn, the riches no thief can steal, the family, friend, lover no death can kill, from which no sin can separate you, then pray like mad.  Pray like a madman.  You’re gonna need it!  But He’s promised it will all be worth it!

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