Yesterday I blogged about this past Sunday & Monday with a promise to later write about Wednesday.
In rare form on this blog, here I am actually doing as promised in a timely manner.
On Wednesday night I went to Santa Cruz Hang Time just like I do every Wednesday night but this past week Jared decided to do something a little bit different. He shared with us about how the church is being persecuted in Iraq and asked us to spend some time praying for the brothers and sisters over there. That very day in Iraq there were a series of roadside bombs that went off in predominantly Christian neighborhoods, which came just a few weeks after a church was attacked by Muslim extremists killing 68 people. These are just a few examples of an ongoing attack on the Church over there. Because of this believers are escaping the country while pastors are begging them to stay to be a light to a lost & dying nation.
As I sat and listened, I pictured very vividly what it would be like if that began happening in our own country. Right now we live in a time of religious freedom, but there could come a day in my lifetime when I am forced to face that kind of persecution for my faith. God can turn governments on their heads in an instant — there’s no telling what this country will look like in 50 years.
We then broke up into small groups and as ladies we all shared ways that God has allowed us to suffer before praying. For some reason, I felt incredibly sobered by how amazingly little God had allowed some of us to suffer in that room. And do you know what occurred to me?
That might not be a good thing.
You see James 1:9-12 says,
“Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.”
This is written in the context of trials and suffering (see verses 2-3 and 12). I think it would be fair to argue that those of us in the church in America, who experience incredible affluence and religious freedom compared to most of the word, could be lumped into the “rich” category. We ought to be boasting in our humiliation that God hasn’t counted us worthy to suffer the ways that other Christians do. We ought to be ashamed that our church isn’t purified the way that churches who experience persecution have been purified. And we ought to be broken at the way our pursuits have taken our focus off the war that is going on around us and all through out the world. We have brothers and sisters who are dying and we are sitting around looking at facebook on our laptops, playing video games, shopping at high end boutiques, laying in tanning beds, eating at classy restaurants, buying godless music on iTunes without a thought or care of it.
That night I realized how hard my heart has become, how self-consumed I am, and how much of my life is an all out pursuit of MY kingdom.
It made me think of World War II and the war efforts in the US on behalf of the soldiers (not that I was around during the war, but growing up I had an American Girl doll named ‘Molly’ who lived during the WWII era and I read about the war efforts in the books about her). The war wasn’t on our soil but it because American soldiers were fighting over in Europe, people changed the way they lived here in an effort to support the troops. Controls were put on the economy, certain items like tires, bicycles, silk, cars, typewriters, sugar and more were rationed out, taxes went up to pay for the war, women left their homes and went to work to replace the men who had enlisted in the military, some schools closed during harvest time to allow the students to work so they could send food to the US soldiers & Allies, civilians volunteered in the air patrol and coast guard, black outs were observed at night in every city from coast to coast, and The Salvation Army and other service organizations were founded during this time to support the troops (I did not just remember that all from my American Girl books — I found all that on a very trustworthy website I like to call Wikipedia).
This is what the church should look like today. The persecution and martyrdom may not be on our soil, but our brothers and sisters are facing death for the sake of the gospel around the world daily. Our lives should reflect a war time mentality. And no matter where we live we still have to face our greatest enemy daily, which is the sin that is in each of our hearts.
So as I drove home on Wednesday night I just started to repent and ask God for forgiveness for the way I have been living my life. I began thinking of what would be important to me if I was one of those Iraqi believers. If I was being run out of my house, my life was in danger, or I was cowering in a corner in fear somewhere…what would matter? The latest on my news feed on facebook? The brand of make up I wear? The number of hours I worked this week? Which guys are interested in me? When my last trip to Target was?
Talk about putting things into perspective. All of the sudden my marital status doesn’t seem to be the most important thing God has to deal with (not that He is limited in any way & not that I think marriage is unimportant). I am here to further God’s Kingdom, plain and simple. My entire life needs to be geared toward that end.
So God really woke me up to reality this week. In keeping with my “war time” theme, I went home and read 2 Timothy 2:3-4,”Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” That verse has been burned in my memory since it was our theme verse on a trip to Ensenada one year in high school — but I had forgotten it was in the context of suffering as well.
See what I mean when I say God has been forcing me to think about suffering?
This is a command. SHARE IN SUFFERING. We’re not good soldiers unless we’re in the battle. All of the sudden I felt very grateful that God hasn’t given me everything I want in life. I felt God’s kindness in opposing me at times and allowing me to be tried in the ways He has, honored to be counted among those privileged enough to share in suffering as a good soldier. So while my flesh may cry out, “Why can’t it just be easy?! Why can’t I just be normal?!” God graciously changed my heart that night to allow me to see that I have been blessed to suffer in the ways I have. Otherwise I would have to sadly live a life of ease and near perfection at the expense of my soul and relationship with Him. I am who I am because I’ve suffered! And even with the suffering He’s allowed….I still have quite a cushy life.
So things need to change in the way I live. My life needs to reflect the war we are in. I’ve been praying about what that looks like — what do I need to give up, what do I need to give away, what can I sell and give to the poor?
I have a sense that this can be taken too far. You see, I have to keep living my life. How do I do that in a way that reflects the seriousness of my calling?
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, “The appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.”
What does that mean? Keep living your life, but do it with a mind that knows it’s all just temporary and passing away. Falling in love, mourning, rejoicing, owning, and dealing with this world are all a part of living. We can and should keep living — we just have to do it with the aim and focus of magnifying Christ in all of it. None of those things are ultimate. Christ is. That’s what that means. You can read John Piper’s article, “Let Christians Vote as Though They Were Not Voting” for a really good perspective on it (I think).
I also did some research on what the military does during peacetime over at The Art of Manliness blog. The goal of peacetime military leaders is to make sure their soldiers are ready to be deployed at any given moment. That needs to be my goal during times like this when all is relatively calm and easy. Get ready.
At this juncture to say I am afraid would be fair — afraid of what God might call me to, afraid of what I’m going to give up, afraid of why He’s teaching me these things — but at the same time I know I have nothing to fear and everything to gain. And the truth is, I have no other option.
In conclusion, I will leave you with a quote from (who else?) John Piper:
“Until the Kingdom is finally established and there are no more unreached peoples, the local church must be a mission base. Until the Kingdom comes, worship must stoke the fires of love for the glory of a global God. Until the Kingdom comes, Christian education must train the troops for tactical and strategic warfare with the weapon of truth. Until the Kingdom comes, counseling and nurture must be the field hospitals saving the wounded, relieving battle fatigue, transforming the traumas of spiritual war into veteran courage. Until the Kingdom comes, fellowship must have the flavor of camaraderie under siege. Until the Kingdom comes, money must be the currency of combat, not convenience. Until the Kingdom comes, leisure must be re-creation for the cause of Christ. Until the Kingdom comes, marriage must be a partnership in arms (double meaning intended!). Until the Kingdom comes, the family must be an enclave of Christ-centered joy equipping young insurgents to infiltrate occupied territories. Until the Kingdom comes, vocation must be an on-duty outpost, a solitary sortie, and a basic line of support for the war effort.”