Friday, November 20, 2015

What Would Have Happened?

If Noah had been tried in the court of public opinion, and laid his hammer down.

If Joshua and Caleb had trained their eyes on the "giants in the land" instead of the God of Heaven.

If Polycarp had merely gone along with the program instead of refusing to do what was popular.

If John Huss had simply muttered, "To each his own," because it was so much more tolerant.

If Betsie ten Boom had obeyed her fear rather than the Lord.

If Jim Elliot and his friends had just used some common sense, and stuck to street missions.

If Rosa Parks had simply sat down and shut up.

If Asia Bibi had waited for someone else to come and speak to those women.

If Kent Brantly had drawn the line at personal risk.

If the couple that sits beside me in church had only left Liberia sooner...
if my Facebook friend would just turn her back on Muslims wanting to learn...
if my nephew and his wife would stop worrying so much about those lost to addiction for years.

What would have happened if, rather than the call of Christ, these people had heeded the call of comfort, ease, political correctness, or popularity? No one willing steps into the ring with ebola, or death, or public ridicule without something much larger drawing them. Sometimes it is a tough decision, and the consequences are great. But I don't doubt these courageous people knew how much greater the consequences would be if they chose otherwise.

Quit Trying to Live By the Rules

One evening, a young man sat quietly at his kitchen table pouring over the pages of his Bible. He highlighted and scrawled notes in the margin. He spent hours simply studying and writing, studying and writing, while the members of his family popped into the kitchen on occasion, to grab a snack or a glass of water. He worked late into the night. In the morning, he lifted his weary head from the table, for exhaustion had vanquished his determination, and left him fast asleep. The sun had come up hours before; the young man's heart raced as he began to panic. Had he missed the start of services? He looked at his watch. No.!If they all hurried, they could make it. He washed his face and began to shave, barking at the others to get ready -- quickly! He brushed his teeth and combed his hair, growling at the others to get out of the bathroom! He speedily shined up his shoes and threw on his best suit, not-so silently wondering why she couldn't get those children ready any sooner. He grabbed his overcoat and headed to the car, yelling out to the others how much time remained for them to make it to church on schedule. The minutes ticked away, and the young man became annoyed; he pressed the center of the steering wheel once. Then again. "Why can't they just do as I ask?"

One evening, a young man sat quietly at his kitchen table pouring over the pages of racing forms. He highlighted and scrawled notes in the margin. He spent hours simply studying and writing, studying and writing, while the members of his family popped into the kitchen on occasion to grab a snack or a glass of water. He worked late into the night. In the morning, he lifted his weary head from the table, for exhaustion had vanquished his determination, and left him fast asleep. The sun had come up hours before; the young man's heart raced as he began to panic. Had he missed the start of the first race? He looked at his watch. No! If he hurried, he could make it. He washed his face, foregoing the task of shaving. He brushed his teeth and combed his hair, hoping no one would awaken and confront him over his hasty abandonment. No need for dressing up -- jeans and a T-shirt were just fine. Too late. She was up, and she wasn't happy. Like it was so difficult to take three boys shoe shopping. What did she need him for, anyway? He grabbed his jacket and his race forms, headed to the car. Things went so much more smoothly when he didn't have to wait for everyone else. "Why can't they just do as I ask?"

I knew this young man. Yup, "they" were one in the same. Now, some might call him a hypocrite. I know I did. But a hypocrite pretends with the intent to deceive others. What this young man was, was a legalist. Legalism rests on something other than Jesus to achieve its end. This young man genuinely wanted to follow the rules. He really tried to be good. This young man wanted to follow the rules for the sake of the rules: because it was the right thing to do; but he was trying in his own strength. Basically, this poor young man had the cart before the horse, so to speak. When Jesus comes into our lives -- and that's what He does: He doesn't hand down some book of "Bylaws of Our Club" and send us on our way -- He permeates our thoughts, our actions. He provides our personalities with context: sometimes rerouting and restructuring that which exists. We pray and read His Word to find out who He is, and He changes who we are. Someone once said, "Jesus met me where I was, but loves me too much to leave me there." He will work in us, in His time. We must set ourselves on a path of discovery and change (seeking only Him), knowing He reveals truth to us, and He is sovereign over all.