"You must encourage one another each day. And you must keep on while there is still a time that can be called 'today.' If you don't, then sin may fool some of you and make you stubborn." Hebrews 3:13 (CEV)
"There are none," Matthew Henry remarks. "even the strongest of the flock, who do not need help of other Christians. Neither are there any so low and despised, but the care of their standing in the faith, and of their safety, belongs to all."
We use the yardstick of 'difficulties' as the measure of one's faith, the strength of their walk and the power of their belief. If you have few difficulties, few sins to confess, participate but not utilize corporate help and are constantly 'upbeat' and 'happy'…well, you should be an elder, a deacon or heck, a ______ pastor (outreach, small group, teaching, lead, etc.) You are a powerful warrior in the kingdom, set up in your suit and tie in the corporate board room of the church. You are the example that we all want and should want to follow.
Wars aren't won by armchair quarterbacks firmly encased in the most technologically advanced war-rooms safely back at home and inexperienced politicians aren't the best generals in which to decide battle plans.
Oh, we spend some time 'trying' to help those in difficulties; whether the addiction of chemically-created drugs, the wounds of the past or even the financial burdens of such times as these. But, after a deliberate time of 'involvement' (i.e. a financial workshop, recovery programs or counseling), if there is no 'results' then we decide that this person has to be cut loose and is 'unredeemable.' The streets of this world are littered with the rejected refuge of the church politic.
Granted, there are those who will take advantage of compassion, mercy and grace. Can you judge the limits that should be imposed? I can't.
A friend of mine was talking how excited she was that she had embarked upon a exercise regiment to bring herself into the vision of what she wants to look like for health, personal and physical reasons. She was happy for herself, for doing something for herself after years and years of doing for her family, her husband and friends. Some would call that selfish, unless they knew her and the reasons behind both the past and the new reasons. She asked me when I had done something for myself.
I told her I wasn't built to do that, and wouldn't know what to do with 'self-time'. As my children dread, I am always talking and speaking to someone if only to give them peace in these troubling times.
I was reading a post on one of the social groups that I belong to where the person asked how the community felt about the opinion put out by a majority of organizations of an 'elite group' of believers that are going to be raised up to whip the church into shape and bring the battle renewed upon the enemy and his minions. They are organizing, enticing leaders to join this 'elite' so that a revival of the church that Christ left His disciples and the ones who followed after can be implemented.
All others, who aren't part of this 'elite' will be cannon fodder to be used by their will. For the glory of Christ, of course.
We, after all, being part of the body of Christ are entitled to this….to be lead by the brightest, most eloquent and passionate of us who are walking foot-in-step with what we envision God to be. We are entitled to be the victors because we are of the victorious. Even though the greatest among us was considered ugly by the people of His culture, divisive by His rhetoric and hounded by trials during the most active time of His life on this world.
We are entitled to comfy seats, grand productions, friendly fellowship and healing. We are entitled to prosperity and peace, success and triumph and the blessings by which God shows His love for His people. The Good News has become a billboard advertisement for an exclusive, all-inclusive resort of great delight……..and if you aren't a sales agent for its enlargement, you aren't part of the membership.
After all, it is the membership papers that supply the cars, homes, knickknacks and other things that make our lives so comfortable. We want, the feeling within this community, only because we haven't asked. We struggle only because we have unconfessed sins or burdens. We have needs only because our lives are not in alignment with God's purpose.
God would never make His people struggle for no other reason than to be corrected…..never make them feel defeat only to bring them back to their knees. The battle-scarred among His people are lunkheads, not learning the lessons God would have them learn time and time again.
Like guided missiles, such things are knocking out the 'elite' among us; those humbled, broken and beaten servants of the Most High God. Surgical strikes designed to bring the enemy forces to the point where they are combat-ineffective for the battle ahead. Sapping the vitality and life from the faithful who once walked the halls of grace, bled mercy and fought the good fight with their bare hands when weapons were not on hand.
For, without the encouragement from the brethren…..spoken over and over again….as long as there is a moment in time to be labeled "today", even the strongest of us in the midst of the economic, personal, spiritual and selfish brutality of this world find ourselves losing our passions, our hope-fed peace and our battle-effectiveness. The landscape of Christianity is littered with its victims. Eventually, the stress is too much for us to remember what led us on this narrow path to begin with and the hollowness of "I'll pray for you" or "Be strong" and "We have nothing to fear" become simply a clunking, grinding and destructive 'separation' from the body.
And then sin doesn't seem so harsh and defined…..we seek comfort in uncomfortable times and fight among ourselves to keep it. We push away those in constant need, constant correction and constant support…..they simply aren't worth the effort at the cost of our own continuing efforts to keep going. And, as Henry points out, "The hardening of the heart is the spring of all other sins."
"When we long for a life with no difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds, and diamonds are made under pressure." -Peter Marshall
If you've read this blog for any length of time, you have noticed a common theme of my last year or two….financial prayer, requests and defeat. I have been broken, despite the movement of God in some powerful ways, to the point where I am living with family as a 'last ditched effort' to overcome these trials. And I'm stumbling along, as usual, with success and failure, success and failure.
Of course, the taunting of this 'entitlement' culture to which I am a part doesn't help. The house next story to my sister being up for sale, the need (want, desire) for a newer car that isn't in a state of constant need of repair, a job that will fit the bill ratio and so on. I find myself on the ropes and exhausted of the friends that could help, would help or can help…..the constant need has become a burden to most, nagging to others and a sign of continued sinfulness by the majority.
"Everyone who asks receives"
We pray like respectful children, with pious blather of convenient rout quickly and tack on the 'your will' bit at the end and call it 'all good.' We pray for those things which will bring us comfort, peace and our own perception of blessings and ignore what lies beneath our feet, over our heads and upon our bodies. We decide, in the sanctimonious piousness of our humanity, what denotes God's direction in other people's lives and ignore the calling in our own. Our subjected will, that which was given to God, isn't in the praying and when God doesn't answer, we say He's decided…..but we haven't asked for anything.
As Oswald Chambers wrote, ""Ye shall ask what ye will," Jesus said. Asking means our will is in it. Whenever Jesus talked about prayer, He put it with the grand simplicity of a child: we bring in our critical temper and say---Yes, but....Jesus said "Ask.""
Asking, with our subjected will, doesn't mean we will find the comfort of living, the freedom from difficulties and the mercy of provisions. We will receive an answer, even if it is one that we, in our sinful self-serving humanity, might want but it is there given by the God that was revealed by Christ Jesus.
I have been guilty, probably more so than not, of this respectful and pious praying without the will of my subjection in its utterance. And each time, God has answered….either fulfilling the need or not, bringing visionary sight or not and drawing me closer and closer to the realization that I am not my own and a life of comfort, free from worry and fear that is the staple of this world and never to have a peace that is subjected to mumbled statements of positivity or assured selfishness.
The scars are plenty upon this war-weary body, the wounds deep and open and the sufferance that comes from their existence breaks me daily upon the battlements of this field of war. But, each day I strap on the dented, rusted and worn armor and pick up a sword with chipped and dull edge with the shield sullied and peppered with the arrows of the enemy and I walk back out on the battlefield.
I may not be a pretty sight standing in the grandiose finery of the church but I fit right in on the bloody, dirty and dark battlefields where the battle is truly fought.
While there is a breath in me, I will always go forth to battle because of the love that Christ has for me, to hang upon a cross of wood and face the horrible death of such agony because He lived this life for me, He came for me.
You may come up with all sorts of excuses as to why I struggle, why I suffer defeats and why I am not of a 'caliber' to be one of the elite in the family of God. You may even be able to justify it in the eyes of yourself and the others that gather with you on Sundays. I may not grace the stage of the congregational style church because I'm not clean-cut, wearing polished armor or eloquent in the style of words.
But you will never be able to give any other reason why I continue to get up from the falls, struggle against the defeats and why I continue to press to follow the undeserved call to ministry by God amid continued rejection……why I can confidently declare that this life may kill me but I will go down swinging…….other than this:
I am one of God's chosen people……purposed, equipped and loved.
That is all the entitlement, provisioning and reason I need.
Is it enough for you?