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Monday, February 24, 2014

Searching for the hows and whys

Why is it, then, that the murderer turns to God at the last gasp minute of his life and is then afforded eternal life?

Why is it that those who lie, cheat, steal and otherwise do bad things (if not the worst of things) manage to get rich?  Or famous?  Or into positions of power?  Or all three?

Why is it that the wicked prosper?

Or, why is it that those who claim to be Christians but don't live like it seem to always land on their feet/have it altogether?

Why is it that those of us who try and put God first, who serve the church, who try to make our lives distinctive - why is it that we seem to struggle?  Why is it that we continually put ourselves out to serve others?  Why can't someone else be the dogsbody / peacekeeper / go between / person who always does the right thing for a change?  Why do some people breeze through life, while the rest of us get stuck in and get our hands dirty and work, work, work...?

(Tell me who you spotted first - the Pharisee?  the hypocrite?  the elder brother? me?)

The above questions raise deeper theological issues which can all be answered soundly with Scripture.  I know that.  That's not what this is about.  Neither is this meant to be a rant (been there...).  What this IS meant to be is an honest expose of my own heart (and, as such, the human heart - for I'm convinced I'm not alone).

What is it within each of us which claims such a determined right to be right?  Which so incessently screams, "That's not fair!".  Which is a perpetual 2 year old within us, stomping feet, irrational tears and screaming voice to boot?

Pride.  Jealousy.  Sin....the log in our own eye.

Because the thing is, when we live without our eyes fixed on Jesus (even if, ironically, we think they're more fixed on him than anyone around us) - we will encounter the above seeds of unfairness which, when watered further by our pride and determination to live by our own merits (even though we're convinced we know more about grace than those around us) grow into great big massive forests of bitterness.  And the cycle perpetuates itself.

Because, if we're actually living by grace, then the successes of those around us, the joys they experience, would actually give rise to joy and praise in our own hearts.  Because, if we're living by grace, we'll be praying that others - and, crucially, ourselves too - would run the race with eyes fixed on Jesus.  If we're living by grace, we will serve our family, friends, church - even strangers - with joy and gladness because we see service as a gift, an opportunity to bless, an occasion to share the gospel in a practical manner - instead of a burden, or a constraint on our time, or a threat to our own personal ring fenced space.

If we're living by grace, we will never tire of doing what is right...

There are real issues which can't be avoided.  Some of them are to do with personality - there are people who always say yes and people who are quite comfortable saying no.  There should probably be a happy medium.  But nevertheless, if we're not careful we risk losing people to burnout.  The right answer is ALWAYS to live by grace.  But the human heart is rarely right, at least not in and of itself.  This is why we need and graciously have been given Jesus.

But isn't it also why we've been given each other?

And so I guess we come to what this post is actually about.  It's a call - in the least judgemental way possible from a judgemental heart - to rise up, Christian.

When you feel like you're the only one pushing on to live for Jesus - lift your eyes.  Maybe you'll find that you're not.  (Or, if you are - maybe you'll see Jesus instead of your pride, and maybe you'll be encouraged to prayer instead of despair.)

When all is going well for you - lift your eyes.  Maybe you'll find that, for others, it's not - and your support is needed, and your sacrifice of time and energy will bring you more fulfillment than whatever great circumstance it is that currently gives you such joy.  Or maybe you'll find that others are joyful too and you can thank the Lord together, rediscovering the indescribable joy of fellowship.

When you feel like there's a need nobody else is meeting - maybe you're the one to meet it.  Not because you have the time or resources or energy or anything else right now.  But because the Lord has laid it on your heart (and even because, probably, you don't...)

When you feel like everyone else is involved in church in some way and has a 'role' - get involved.  There's always a way, and maybe those who do everything 'so well' just need a break right now.  Maybe they're cracking under the surface.

So, Christian (myself included!) - rise up.  Church - rise up.  To be 'church' is more of a blessing and a privilege than can be explained in the amount of legitimate space left to keep this a blog post and not a book.
To be church is many things.  To proclaim the gospel, yes.  But also to love, serve and support each other. To call each other and remind each other - DAILY - to run the race;  to keep our armour on; to be humble; to share our experiences, whatever they may be; to pray; to seek Him first; to be distinctive (by grace, not by works).

To remember that this life is fleeting, and that if the wicked do indeed prosper, it is for a short time only.  To remember that we are wicked, too.

To remember that there is more.  That we have treasure in jars of clay.  That all we have is a gift.

And that one day, we will stand before the throne.  We will sing 'Glory!'.  And so what we do now must be in the light of that.  Always.

So rise up, church.  Live by grace, stand by faith - and encourage each other.  Daily.

(Oh.  And be ready to accept that encouragement - even when your pride tells you it's the last thing you want/need...)