April 29, 2005

I Call You to Discomfort

Man, I am comfortable. I'm sitting at my desk in my heated office. My wife just called and informed me that soup is on the stove, even though I'm still a little full from lunch. My car runs quite well. I have a paycheck coming every two weeks. My health is great. I have enough outfits in my wardrobe to last me for quite a few days in between laundry loads.

What a Disneyland America is.

It is comfortable, isn't it? We are so "blessed." God has been working me over about this recently. I am so comfortable, yes. But, what risks am I taking for His kingdom? I am preaching a series on Matthew 5-7, and I am laying out the ways to be truly blessed. More and more I find, that we are most blessed when we are most uncomfortable on earth for Christ's name sake. Think about it, when I am uncomfortable with my sinful wicked condition (poor in spirit), I am blessed. When I am so uncomfortable I weep (mourn), I am blessed. When I am uncomfortable with my strength, living in God's infinite ability (meek), I am blessed. When I am uncomfortable with what I can get from the world, and I hunger and thirst after righteousness, I am blessed. The list goes on in the same pattern. It closes with, when I am in the most uncomfortable place for my faith, persecution, I am happy, blissful, blessed. Wow.

I need some education on what a comfortable Christian is. I need some serious learning on what God expects of my life. It's time to take up my cross. God has called us to a life of denying our comfort for His Name's sake. Of course, it is totally worth it. The pleasures of living in the presence of God are fullness of joy forevermore! The joys are the kingdom of heaven! The life that is uncomfortable here on earth longs for the hope of glory!

What discomfort are you allowing yourself to be vulnerable to for the gospel sake? Are you sharing your faith and opening yourself up to mockery and shame or even pain? Are you sacrificially giving to others not knowing what may happen to God's money? Are you opening your life in hospitality not knowing if the carpet will get stained and the dishes chipped? Is your life transparent enough for you to show that you struggle and depend on God, or is your fascad up and running, decieving others into a high view of you? God calls us to a life of risk for His sake. But the joy is that in that discomfort there is a great comfort. The hope of glory. Fellowship with our Savior.

So, God, I throw my emotions and pride and self-reliance onto the cross and take it up. For it is there that I see you. And in that I hope to say with Paul . . . I rejoice . . . for I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. (Colossians 1:24)

If you are interested in more along this line, I came across this Fresh Words by John Piper. He says it much better than I could...and in a different way.

Call for Christian Risk
John Piper
The Original Article

By removing eternal risk, Christ calls his people to continual temporal risk.

For the followers of Jesus the final risk is gone. "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). "Neither death nor life . . . will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 3:38-39). "Some of you they will put to death. . . . But not a hair of your head will perish" (Luke 21:16, 18). "Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live" (John 11:25).

When the threat of death becomes a door to paradise the final barrier to temporal risk is broken. When a Christian says from the heart, "To live is Christ and to die is gain," he is free to love no matter what. Some forms of radical Islam may entice martyr-murderers with similar dreams, but Christian hope is the power to love, not kill. Christian hope produces life-givers, not life-takers. The crucified Christ calls his people to live and die for their enemies, as he did. The only risks permitted by Christ are the perils of love. "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you" (Luke 6:27-28).

With staggering promises of everlasting joy, Jesus unleashed a movement of radical, loving risk-takers. "You will be delivered up even by parents . . . and some of you they will put to death" (Luke 21:16). Only some. Which means it might be you and it might not. That's what risk means. It is not risky to shoot yourself in the head. The outcome is certain. It is risky to serve Christ in a war zone. You might get shot. You might not.

Christ calls us to take risks for kingdom purposes. Almost every message of American consumerism says the opposite: Maximize comfort and security - now, not in heaven. Christ does not join that chorus. To every timid saint, wavering on the edge of some dangerous gospel venture, he says, "Fear not, you can only be killed" (Luke 12:4). Yes, by all means maximize your joy! How? For the sake of love, risk being reviled and persecuted and lied about, "for your reward is great in heaven" (Matthew 5:11-12).

There is a great biblical legacy of loving risk-takers. Joab, facing the Syrians on one side and the Ammonites on the other, said to his brother Abishai, "Let us be courageous for our people . . . and may the LORD do what seems good to him" (2 Samuel 10:12). Esther broke the royal law to save her people and said, "If I perish, I perish" (Esther 4:16). Shadrach and his comrades refused to bow down to the king's idol and said, "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us . . . But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods" (Daniel 3:16-18). And when the Holy Spirit told Paul that in every city imprisonment and afflictions await him, he said, "I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course" (Acts 20:24).

"Every Christian," said Stephen Neil about the early church, "knew that sooner or later he might have to testify to his faith at the cost of his life" (A History of Christian Missions, Penguin, 1964, p. 43). This was normal. To become a Christian was to risk your life. Tens of thousands did it. Why? Because to do it was to gain Christ, and not to was to lose your soul. "Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 16:25).

In America and around the world the price of being a real Christian is rising. Things are getting back to normal in "this present evil age." Increasingly 2 Timothy 3:12 will make sense: "All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." Those who've made gospel-risk a voluntary life-style will be most ready when we have no choice. Therefore I urge you, in the words of the early church, "Let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come" (Hebrews 13:13-14). When God removed all risk above / He loosed a thousand risks of love.

Pastor John
The Original Article
©Desiring God

Posted by jonkopp at April 29, 2005 05:11 PM | TrackBack