Thursday, August 27, 2009

Nicaragua 2009: Doing Hard Things

Going to Nicaragua was not easy, going into the Managua city dump was not easy. In fact I would like to step out on a limb here and say that whenever we follow God, whenever we tell others about Jesus, whenever we live how He wants us to live -- it is not easy.

It is not easy telling strangers about Jesus, what if they do not like what I am telling them? What if they get angry?

It is not easy telling and showing my friends, what if they do not like me anymore? What if they ditch our friendship
and walk away? What if they laugh at me and call me names?

It is not easy telling and showing my family, what if they
discard me? What if they refuse to acknowledge me? What if I become an outcast?

But more than anything with all the opportunities I have to share Jesus, what if I fail them? What if I mess up and tarnish the name of Jesus? What if they reject Jesus?

These concerns are very normal and very prevalent, this is my confession, I feel them every day. I have a very strong desire to be accepted and liked. I enjoy my working relationships, my friendships, and my family....putting any of those in doubt is not fun nor appetizing to me. Stepping out and telling others about Jesus puts me at risk of many forms of rejection, many forms of ridicule. These feelings are not from God.

2 Timothy 1:7-8 (New American Standard)

7For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. 8Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God,

Jesus never says that it will be easy following Him, Jesus never says that our problems would go away when we put our faith in Him. In fact in Mark, Jesus tells us to let Him lead and not to run away from suffering but to embrace it. Jesus tells us that self sacrifice is what He wants from our lives. Jesus does not intend for us to create an easy Christian faith that costs us nothing except an hour or so on Sunday morning....He wants everything, He wants our all.

Matthew 22:37 (New King James Version)

37 Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’

Think about loving the Lord with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind. What does that look like? How can we achieve that? I think it starts with relationship, our relationship with Him. He never wants us to be ashamed of our relationship with Him, He wants us to be bold in telling others about Him.

So why follow Him? If it is going to cost us so much, if it is going to be diffic
ult, if we are going to endure suffering why would we want to give our lives to Jesus? Oh, there are so many answers to these good questions and they all lead back to The Answer, Jesus. But there is more, God uses these trials and difficult times to refine our character and redeem so much good out of our hardships. I love the way The Message phrases Romans 5:3-5:

Romans 5:3-5 (The Message)

3-5There's more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

It matures us and develops us, notice in James 1:2-4 James says " become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way". The New King James phrases it "...that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing".

James 1:2-4 (The Message)

2-4Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

But wait there is even more -- a reward:

James 1:12 (The Message)

12Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.

And we don't have to do it alone:

Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

28-30"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

Please hear my heart here, God does not wish evil or cause evil to occur in our lives. That is a consequence of living in a fallen world. God simply redeems what satan intended for evil. My reward is life and more life, I see it in the faces of my friends and family and I saw it in the faces of the children in Nicaragua....this is such a wonderful reward. If my time in Nicaragua has done anything for my walk with Jesus, I pray that it has given me a heightened level of boldness. I for so many years have failed to unashamedly claim the name of Jesus. I do not know why I have consistently valued the opinion of man so much that it has hampered me from fully expressing my relationship with Jesus. I hope and pray that I can live and love reserved, no longer. This is just the beginning...


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