This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled Extreme Devotion, compiled by the Voice Of the Martyrs. In the following passage, a Peruvian Christian provides us with fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. (Luke 12:15)
"In Peru, Christians don't expect to get something for serving Jesus," said Pastor Zapata. "They expect to give something." Outside the quiet mountain village, Pastor Zapata showed his guests a row of handmade white crosses, each representing a Christian killed by Communist insurgents.
Lying in front of Pastor Zapata inside the small village home was the body of another pastor who had been killed the night before by guerillas. His body, covered with a simple blanket, was surrounded by candles and grieving family members.
Outside in the rain, the congregation of the murdered pastor sang praise choruses. Their shoes were covered in mud. Guerillas had destroyed their church and burned many of their homes. Yet they sang praise.
The Christians were not out of danger, because guerillas could return at any time. Pastors were often singled out, since pastors strengthened the whole village to stand against Marxist incursion.
The pastor reminded the listeners that the Bible calls on us to seek God, not material blessings that come from God's hand. "Why do you buy a shirt?" he asked the people. "To use it. Why did Jesus redeem you and buy you with his own blood? To use you for his kingdom."
These impoverished believers were ready for God to use them.
A moment of consideration: Let's start with a word picture. A Christian awakes, yawning and stretching--greeting the day. The first thing this believer does after waking, is to prayerfully ask the Lord to use him or her...to make use of abilities (Matthew 25:15-30), gifts (1 Corinthians 12), training (1 Timothy 4:7; 2 Timothy 3:16-17), and position (Philippians 2:7-8) that this individual has been given. This Christian then reviews these traits, and consciously utilizes his/her gifts, abilities, talents and more to serve the Lord throughout the day. A coordinated and coherent plan for the day takes shape--to be of use to the Lord in some way. And, like the impoverished believers cited above, the Christian is ready for God to use him/her. Thomas Wolfe, in 1939, wrote that, "If one has a talent and cannot use it, that person has failed. If one has a talent and uses only half of it, one has partly failed. If one has a talent and learns somehow to use the whole of it, that person has gloriously succeeded, and won a satisfaction and a triumph few ever know." The focus here is on seeking not only to make use of one's abilities and talents, but to make full use of them, for the sake of our Lord Who gave His all for us.
Many Christians today believe that belief in Christ is sufficient for a daily Christian walk. "I believe in Christ; I am a Christian." But the apostle James reminds us, "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:19-20) Belief must be accompanied by works (James 1:22-25) if God is to use us. We cannot assume that saying "I go to church every Christmas, or Easter--or even every Sunday" will meet the "requirements" of Christians as found in God's Word. We cannot afford to sit in the church pew and spectate, and think this a sufficient Christian life. Applying what we know from God's Words for the furtherance of God's Kingdom enhances our faith and helps form our personalized answer to the question posed by the pastor, above--"Why did Jesus redeem you and buy you with His own blood? To use for His Kingdom."
May our goal, when our lives are reviewed on that judgment day that comes to us all, be to find the Savior's feedback say to us, "Well done, good and faithful servant," (Matthew 25:21) and not "...and what could be the use of him [or her] is more than I can see." To be used by Christ Jesus is a distinct privilege and honor. Someone asked an elderly Scotswoman what she thought of Robert Murray McCheyne's preaching. She hesitated for a moment, then replied, "He preaches as if he was adying [sic] to have you saved." Is that our spirit? Those who watch us will know. How appropriate was Spurgeon's advice to a young minister who complained of the smallness of his congregation: "It is as large a one as you will want to give account for in the Day of Judgment." The first thing others should discern in us, Paul says, is that we are servants of Christ--subservient, obedient to Him; that He is Master and we listen to what He says and do what He commands. In this is our usefulness to Christ carried forward, and our service to Christ enhanced.
A certain family had two sons. The older said he must make a name for his family, so turned his face toward Parliament and fame. The younger decided to give his life to the service of Christ and turned his face toward China and duty. He was Hudson Taylor, the missionary, who died beloved and known on every continent. "But," someone wrote, "when I looked in the encyclopedia to see what the other son had done, I found these words, 'the brother of Hudson Taylor.' "It may be that some were inclined to ridicule Hudson when he went to the mission field, but in the end, he was respected and admired. His mercifulness had not been in vain, even as far as the world was concerned. But the merciful also receive recognition and reward from God Himself. This takes place both in this world and, in its full measure, in the world to come. Whether called to foreign missions, to serve at an area food shelf, to serve in a local church, to participate in a Christian outreach to homeless people, to host or participate in a group Bible study, to bring meals to (or run errands, mow lawn, or shovel snow, etc. for) elderly shut-ins, to visit folks in nursing homes, or to serve God in any of a number of other ways, provides rewards in this life and the next. "But, wherever your life ends, it is all there. The advantage of living is not measured by length, but by use; some men have lived long, and lived little; attend to it while you are in it. It lies in your will, not in the number of years, for you to have lived enough." (Michel Eyquem de Montaigne [1533-1592] in Book I of II of his Essays first published in 1580).
The question we must answer, is: To be used, or not to be used in service to Christ? Mssr. Montaigne sagely noted that "it lies in your will." Yet we should recognize that the Holy Scriptures exert a call upon our love, our attention, our obedience and our usefulness to Christ Jesus. Such expectations for our relationship with Him are described clearly in John 15, and in much of the letters of Paul, Peter, James, et al. May we choose to be used and to be used fully for Christ and His Kingdom--and know the joy that comes with such obedient service; let us too be ready for God to use us.