Thursday, December 15, 2005

Suffering For Doing Good

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” (1 Peter 2:20-21).

Each morning in my QT, one of my regular daily activities is to pray through one of the VOM prayer requests. The one this morning was about 3 young Indian Christians who were selling Christian literature and bibles when a young man approached them, flip through the literature and then became angry because there was no mention of his gods in their articles. He began beating them and soon after 30 others joined in the attack. The 3 young men responded with these words: Though we were brutally attacked, we have no hatred toward any one. Neither have we made any complaint to the police. We forgive the attackers, like Christ who said on the cross: 'Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.'"

I am inspired and yet challenged by the response of these brothers who once again remind me that living for Christ is never easy. They have an understanding of ‘sharing in the fellowship of Christ’ sufferings’ that we in the West have no concept of. Only Christ living in them can enable them to respond in such a way. John Piper in a recent comment talking about the price of caring like Jesus said this: what the world needs from the Christian church, isn’t the power of political influence. It is the power of being willing to take up our cross and suffer with Jesus on the Calvary Road. My brothers in Christ in India have set an example of how to take up the cross of Christ and suffer and endure for Christ in an environment that is hostile to Christ. We in the West are not subjected to that type of persecution. In fact so often it is easy to read these stories of suffering and become de-sensitized and move on. But I am being challenged to sit and ponder them and to engage all my heart and soul as best as I know how. I am challenged to pray for these who endure for the sake of their faith in the midst of such persecution, that God will rend the heavens and come down and show His glory; That He will continue to give them boldness and courage despite the opposition and that what man intended for harm, God will use for good. I am challenged to ask the hard questions of myself, how would I respond to such persecution? Could I be as Christ like in my response as they were? Yet this is what God is also calling us to; we are called to endure suffering knowing that it is a gracious thing in God’s sight.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Faith Expressing Itself Through Love

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Galatians 5:6

What exactly does ‘faith expressing itself through love’ mean? This was one of the questions I was reflecting on as part of my Beth Moore bible study titled Believing God. The biggest challenge we all have in common is loving people we don’t feel like loving. As Beth reminded us, God desires to empower us to love and if we believe Philippians 4:13 that ‘we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us’ therefore it means that even in this area of loving the ‘unlovable’ among us, God desires to enable us to love the way He does. We can check our love for others as a way of monitoring our faith.

Excerpt from Beth Moore Bible Study – Believing God

Ephesians 5:1-2
says: 1Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. The very nature of love is sacrificial. Not only are we called to sacrificial love at times, we may also expend untold self sacrificing efforts for years and even for the rest of our lives without seeing any apparent fruit. God has called us to love even when: we don’t want to; we don’t feel like it; we get nothing obvious in return, they don’t deserve it; they’re not worth it; they don’t even know it; it makes no difference. God doesn’t call us to sacrifice our sanity but He does call us to sacrifice our selfishness. According to the Book of Truth when we love in Jesus’ name and for the sake of His sacrificial legacy that love absolutely cannot fail. Each of us has to decide whether we are going to believe God’s Word or our eyes and emotions. This is where loving by faith comes in. We’ve got to know that our effort to love sacrificially never fails: 1)to get God’s priority attention (mark 12:28-30); 2) ultimately and undoubtedly be rewarded; 3) to have a profound effect, whether in the other person, in the circumstance, or in us. Love by faith, Love our enemies by faith, Love our neighbors by faith; Love fellow believers by faith. Love our family members by faith. Love our spouses by faith. Love our in-laws by faith. Love our betrayer by faith. Love by faith, not just by feeling.

The reason we find loving so painful, aggravating and fruitless is because we keep trying to love with our own emotions’ pitifully small resources. Romans 5:5 is my favorite scripture to pray when I am challenged to love someone: And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Agapao love is a daily commitment of the will to vacate the heart’s premises of its own preferential affections and make its chambers fleshly canteens for the liquid love of God. We live by faith, we love by faith. Faith and love are inseparable housemates that offer hospitality to hope. When we lose our faith to love, we lose the energy to love. Then we lose our hope. Living is for loving. This is our daily hope: faith expressing itself through love.