Following Christ’s Example
I’m in Christ. God drew me to Himself – not because of anything good or promising in me, but because of His choice. He moved towards me. He did all the work and called me to Himself. The Bible tells me that this wasn’t just some sort of “one and done” fire insurance policy. This wasn’t just a get out of Hell free card. I’ve been changed so that I can live for God’s glory. So that I can allow Christ in me to Glorify His father – my adopted father – through me. Christ has supposed to become my example for daily living. I’m supposed to let Him rearrange and direct my life and follow his example:
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 2 Peter 2:18-21 (ESV – emphasis added)
See that? Christ is our example. We are to follow in His steps. It says that the destination may also be suffering. That sounds uncomfortable – I think it is supposed to sound uncomfortable. Look at my post from a couple weeks ago about a problem in the American church, though. I don’t think we are supposed to be comfortable first or as our end goal in life. We may have moments of comfort and it is not a sin to be comfortable – but being content in comfort and luxury isn’t the goal of this Christian journey. It’s to Glorify God and enjoy Him. This isn’t a rare and isolated concept. Jesus Himself spoke of suffering after His example many times.
Just one example: “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23 (ESV)
That’s not Greek for “count your savings, take off your shoes and send a few dollars here or there to ease some guilt and be content with the way things are.” The cross was a horrible way to die. It was the source of our word excruciating, in fact. The weight of punishment for my sins that was due to me for all eternity was placed on Him in addition to the physical torment – talk about suffering – multiply that by every believer’s punishment.
Jesus’ call wasn’t “I need you to choose me, I want to have you in my sheep fold because I’m lonely. Please.. Pick me and then put on your slippers and recline in me.” It was more of a message of “you were bought with my blood – a precious and dear price that cost me much. Go after me in this life fully, tell people about me in words, in actions, live my life through your life. Go!” He did promise that He would give us rest. That rest, though, in Matthew 11:28 wasn’t meant as a physical retiring from doing hard things. It was meant as a ceasing for striving to be good enough, ceasing working to try and earn something we cannot ever earn – our salvation. But it wasn’t a promise of an easy “name it and claim it” prosperity gospel life with His yoke on us. Our souls will be rested in Him – even if our bodies are working hard for Him or being tortured for His sake.
Richard Wurmbrand in his book, Tortured for Christ written about his time suffering for Christ under Soviet rule, says this at one point about his fellow prisoners in Communist prisons for political prisoners such as Christians for committing the crime of believing in something higher than the Mother Land and the party running things:
“I have seen Christians in Communist prisons with fifty pounds of chains on their feet, tortured with red-hot iron pokers, in whose throats spoonfuls of salt had been forced, being kept afterward without water, starving, whipped, suffering from cold and praying with fervor for the Communists. This is humanly inexplicable! It is the love of Christ, which was poured out in our hearts.”
I would be willing to hazard a guess that the prisoners he described here were more in Christ’s rest than I’ve ever been. I would be willing to say that they were resting tenderly in Christ’s yoke – no longer striving in that emotional heart-brain striving that is done when we try to work out our own justification or sanctification. Yet – at the same time they were more uncomfortable physically than I have ever been and likely will ever be.
What’s My Point?
This Christian Life – it’s not designed to be easy. The Christian life isn’t a free pass away from leaving our comfort zones. The Christian life is actually
an invitation a call to a life of action. It is an invitation a command to follow the great commandment – to teach and preach and disciple. It is an invitation a demand to search for how God wants to use us in His world. Whether that is to ease the suffering of those who need material help, to share the Gospel, to pray for those workers in the field, to financially support those in the field, to become preachers, to lay down your life for another, to invest in someone else’s life, etc. The Christian life is supposed to carry a risk (almost a guarantee) of sacrifice and a willingness to sacrifice even to the point where there may be suffering.
At points in my life I remember telling missionaries things like “It’s amazing what you are doing.” I never really thought about those statements. I saw those missionaries as extraordinary (extra ordinary.. outside of the norm). I saw them as super humans doing something amazing. See the problems with that line of thinking?
One – I was looking at them individually. Yes – it is great that they are obedient to God’s call in their lives, but I was looking at them, and not looking at Christ through them and at Christ doing His work through them.
Two – I saw what they were doing as outside the norms. I saw them as somehow more saintlier. I often, in my walk with Christ, have had that attitude towards many things. The prayer warrior was special to me. The person who sacrifices so much materially to equip those who are called onto the field, etc.
You see, though.. These things aren’t supposed to be extra-ordinary. They are supposed to be the normal Christian life. But I say again as I did in my last post – we are content with comfort here. We are used to luxury. We take much for granted in America because we have much. The professing church in America is large – but I contend that many would be surprised at how many would fall away if just some mild persecution were applied. If just a little suffering were incurred as a result.
As our family goes through the adoption process, I’ve heard things that make me uncomfortable for different reasons. I’ve heard many encouraging and great things but I’ve also heard or seen the attitude I just described myself as having held in the past.
I can’t read the Bible and not see that we are called to carry our cross. To die to ourselves and to live for Christ. To live like the only thing we need or have that is worth keeping is Christ. Only when we fully grasp that He is the only permanent thing we have can we start to be willing to live like it. To see doing what He wants us to do to be a “normal” thing.
Some of the things about adoption I hear that make uncomfortable, but remind me of things I’ve said or thought or remind me of what I think may be a problem with our comfortable lives here in America. I imagine the same things are said to folks who pack up and leave their lives to join the mission field:
- “It’s amazing what you are doing.” – I don’t want to sound falsely humble here but it really isn’t that amazing. It shouldn’t be. Reading the Bible and looking around at the world as a whole and without an American-centric lens on – the only amazing thing is that it took this long to see the need and have the desire to follow God’s clearly revealed will about orphans.
- “I could never..” – Yes. Yes you can. There are complexities and there situations. Going into the field isn’t for everyone. Hosting an orphan isn’t. Adopting isn’t. Preaching isn’t.. But.. (And I say this with grace and love) it is for a lot more people than those who follow it. Some sacrifice and discomfort is required for many of these things – but they aren’t reserved for “super saints” – they are reserved for people who obey God, take Him at His Word and then follow.
- “What about _____?! “ What about your biological kids? What about age order? What about the problems that come from bringing a hurt kid into the house? What about the finances.. These are all great questions. I’m sure many a missionary family has had severe pushback – “You could be killed!” is a very real concern with many called to incredibly hostile places. But here’s the deal – there are no guarantees in this life no matter what. Who is to say that a plane doesn’t fall out of the sky and destroy your comfortable, easy, house with 2.5 kids in the middle of the night? Who is to say that sickness doesn’t ravage a loved one while doing all the safe things? We Christians have what is perhaps the best guarantee in the world – God.. The very God of this world will never leave us nor forsake us. He has adopted us as His own with all the rights that implies. We are His, we cannot be wrestled away from Him and the absolute worst thing that could possibly ever happen to us, isn’t even in the same ballpark as the joy of Christ or Heaven.
We either serve the God of this universe. The God who created us and loves us and whose will WILL work out in the end. Or we don’t and we are working against Him.
If we are His then we are serving Him, and we have a book full of assurances and promises that if we jump off that diving board and jump in trusting Him and following His guiding and His will that the results will be right from an eternal perspective. Someone may be called to street preaching in Saudi Arabia – they will surely be risking death – but again the eternal perspective there is what is important. Someone else may be facing selling everything and moving to the jungle with their young family and the very real risks that are associated. It may be adopting an older teenager who carries baggage and risks.. But we don’t serve an insurance company. We serve God. We serve the one who conquered death and Satan at the Cross. We fight with Him on our side and even the worst thing that can happen to us along the way isn’t really that scary when our gaze is fixed towards Heaven. Ask Steven about that when you get to Heaven. Ask the apostles. Ask the ten Boom family.
So we need to trust Him and then let Him work through us. I think the quote from Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words” , is often misused to support actions alone. I am not getting on that bandwagon. I’m not stirring us up towards an actions and works based sharing of the Gospel. I am not saying that social justice trumps the Gospel. In fact it is Christ that the world needs more than anything else. It just so happens, though, that we can reach many more when our hands and feet follow our mouths.
There is a lost and dying world out there. There are people without the gospel living lives of suffering misery. They need Christ first and foremost, but they also need your help right now. Our 1% lives like the 99% of the world. There is much suffering, hopelessness and hurt outside of our ivory towers that we’ve built for ourselves.
Let’s stop and pray and ask God what He would have us do. How our money, our time, our feet, our hands, our hearts, our huge American houses (on the average) and our comfort can be used and shared to help those in need.
I don’t want to push someone down one path over the other. There are so many places to help that no place to start is wrong. There are wells to be dug. Many languages to have the Bible translated into. Sanitation systems to be built. Houses to be built. But the one closes to my mind is – Kids to be loved. Orphans aging out of orphanages all around this world are sent out to a fate that is statistically aligned against them. A fate that spells death, prostitution, human trafficking and misery for more than not.
As we go on vacations, do fun stuff with our family, drink clean water, etc. Just remember that just about every single thing we take for granted is a desperate need of someone out there.
Let’s remember that Christ never promised us our “best life now” – He promised us that even in sufferings, we can take comfort that we are His and are not experiencing something he has no knowledge of. We should have the strength to run towards those areas where there is need and trust Him the whole way, no matter where that way takes us in this land on which we are sojourners temporarily living in corrupt bodies.
The church in this generation has the resources and families to be used by God to solve many of the current crises in this world. We can afford to provide clean water to the world. We can put an incredibly sizable dent in the number of orphans. We can clothe and feed most of those who need it. We can finish the Bible translations that need finishing. We can supply Pastors and teachers to the furthest regions of the world and into the deepest and most closed societies on earth.
I repeat the same prayer from the post a couple weeks ago:
“Oh God! Would you allow us to see our state. Help us see how we have paralyzed ourselves with convenience. Show us how we have chosen complacency in a hurt and dying world. Show us where we sin both through our actions and through our inactions in the midst of the needs of this world. Start with me. Change me. Change us. Change our churches. Let us not be idle in the face of the slaughter of abortion, let us not be slack in opening our wallets, our homes and our hearts to the needs around us. Let us hear the great commission and understand it is given to us.”
But I add “Stir us. Stir us to action. Stir us to realize what is at stake in this world and to do something about it.”
(And lest you think this post is me sitting in a position of authority as someone who has it all figured out. Let me say quite clearly that I am preaching at myself first here. I have far to go on this path.)