Today is a day for introspection. We have hit 80 degrees a few times over the past two weeks, and right now it is 34 degrees outside and the snow is dumping on us. My husband and I haven’t had a vacation since September and we can feel the weight of the mundane wearing on us. Small things are irritants, life is dull, you know the feeling – the “we need a vacation” feeling. And then I stop and consider the calling on our lives and the reality which so many Christians around the world are living: The call to come and die.
‘When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.’
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I once was on a mission trip. We had gone out into a Muslim county where it is illegal to evangelize and were intentionally seeking opportunities to talk about Jesus. We had been in a community for nearly a week and seen three people come to faith when we got word that there was severe persecution happening just a community away: people’s houses were being burned down, brand new baby Christians were being put in “reindoctrination camps” and people were fleeing for their lives. The boss over the Americans said that we had to get out. Safety was their primary concern. The nationals who had accompanied our team, however, were committed to the work and had given their word that they would baptize these new believers the next day and they said to us tearfully, “You go ahead, we will stay behind”. We spent the evening in prayer over them, the new believers and the community suffering persecution, and shamefully, we left them behind. They followed us just twenty four hours later, safely, having kept their word to baptize and follow up with these new believers, and we Americans cowered in the safety of our hotel in the big city.
I have thought back on that situation with shame and regret many times. It was decided by my superior that we had to leave, so sometimes I like to blame shift. I also had responsibility for a handful of people, so I justify the flight with the excuse that I could not make the decision for everyone that they were willing to suffer the consequences, should they come. But those national partners who were committed to the mission, no matter the cost, have forever inspired and left a mark on my soul.
Jesus Christ did not suffer so that you would not suffer, but so that when you suffer you might become like him. The Bible/Christianity/The Gospel does not promise you better life circumstances, it promises you a better life.
– Tim Keller
We have built for ourselves such comfortable little bubbles that the inconvenience of the internet being slow can ruin our day and attitudes. We believe the lie that we should all be happy, comfortable and well fed that we get irritated and argue over who should put the ice cream away. Working forty hours a week is a drain and all we want to do is have the weekend to ourselves. Right?
How can we refocus our hearts to remember the things of God? How can we get committed on the level that we love and serve God even when we are tired?
“Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession; He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house.”
– Heb 3.1-2
We need to continually consider Jesus. Yes, I know it is cliche to say, “Jesus is our perfect example”. But what do we really mean by that? Is He your example in how you go to work? In how you love your spouse? In how you serve your friends? In how you sacrifice for the Gospel?
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant,and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
– Phil 2.5-8
Jesus left him home in Heaven, as king, to live on Earth and to be a servant on the Earth. He never had a home of His own, He suffered persecution and hatred and was murdered. Is that your example? Humility, sacrifice, and patience through tribulation?
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
– 1 Peter 4.12-14
For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.
– 2 Cor 1.5
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
– Phil 3.8-11
Jesus calls us to take up our cross. He calls us to put one another before ourselves. He calls us to love as He loved, to His glory and honor. He calls us to live and sacrifice for the cause of the Gospel. He bids us come and die. How are you doing today?