A Prayer to Pray
We live in a world where the majority are drifting through life as in a dream, doing roughly the same things the same way, living on autopilot, not too much in touch with themselves, existing rather than living. Make no mistake about it. For all their apparent achievements in study, business and family life- this is the hard reality for most of our fellows.
We have been given life in Christ, and "life more abundant" (Jn. 10:10) - an allusion to how the natural creation brought forth life
`abundantly' (Gen. 1:20). Those who have become part of the new creation are to experience this same `abundance' of life - whether trapped in poverty, difficult family situations, ill health or even clinical depression. The `abundance' of our lives is to be what makes us different from those in the world - we are to salute not only our brethren because we are living "more [same Greek word translated `abundantly'] than others (Mk. 5:47). There is a power at work in us which does "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Eph. 3:20).
But how do we lock in to this abundant life? It is none less than the resurrection life of the Lord Jesus. The life of Jesus is now being made manifest in our mortal flesh; and that life "works in you" (2 Cor. 4:11,12). The Christ-focused life means that He is working through us, doing His work, so far as we open ourselves to Him. Sure, we should read the Bible, and, that daily. But we can too easily leave it there, thinking that our duty is to maintain correct understanding of some doctrines, read the Bible, go to church, keep our nose clean, live a reasonable life. But we can do all that and still not make that vital personal connection with the Lord Jesus as a person, feeling His presence, communicating with Him, knowing Him, consciously serving Him and ever seeking to be as Him in this world... making and allowing His thinking to be ours. To have "the mind of Christ", His outlook, perspective and worldview, to speak as He would speak, reason as He would. The Jews studied the Bible, but they would not come to Jesus that they might have life (Jn. 5:39,40).
We are called to live, to live for Christ and with the life of Christ - not to merely exist. Not to live merely in the sub-culture of being a Christian, full of good theology and fine phrases. There is a `life' in some groups who have totally wrong beliefs, which should challenge us deeply. The Mormons say it takes them 500 hours of work on the doors to get a convert. And they do it - thousands of their young people are out knocking on hostile and unwelcoming doors as you read this. And the JWs are another example. And we... with so, so much more and better to tell folk... what are we doing? Immersed in our sub-culture - or out there doing something with our lives? Just as you get middle aged spread, so our beliefs can become stale, and we become flabby. Nothing excites us anymore. But this is not the abundant life in Christ.
This is not just a point to agree with and skip on. Clever and inspirational words are cheap. We put them on Facebook profiles, status updates etc. and talk soberly and approvingly of them. But our usage of them can disguise the fact that much of our would be zeal is borrowed. The revolutionary and dynamic message of the real Christ can still be unfelt by us personally. We can read thousands of `great books', hear hundreds of powerful exhortations - all in a fog of unreality. And yet never really change or live this life. We undervalue ourselves and our huge significance to God and our Lord. That's probably one reason why we have a tendency to hero-worship and setting up brethren on pedestals - `I wish I were him / her, I never will be, the best I can do is reverence those who spiritually made it'. But as Marianne Williamson put it, "We ask ourselves, `Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world" (from Return to Love). In the eyes of God and the Lord who so loved us to the point of death, we are all those things. We are talented - He has given us talents, to go trade with and achieve something for Him, to make some increase of what He has given. There are good works which God before ordained that we should do for Him (Eph. 2:10). Right now, ask Him. Yes, stop reading this and pray - that God will show you His hopes for you, His intentions, what He has set you up to do for Him, what talents He has given you.
But say `Amen' to that prayer realizing it will require radical change. And just accept that you like all human beings are a conservative. We cling, desperately, to patterns of coping and established ways of being. The Lord recognized the essential conservatism of human nature when He observed that no matter how good the new wine, we will think that "the old is better" (Lk. 5:39), taking it as read that "the former days were better than these" (Ecc. 7:10). Yes, for all our much vaunted liberalism and open mindedness, our reasonable openness to new ideas which we assume we have - we are conservatives by nature. Don't disturb me or upset my social club. The seed of the Gospel was sown in our lives so that we might bring forth fruit. Not to just be retained and to lay dormant. The Lord's judgment of the one talent man may seem unusually harsh- he who carefully preserved the talent (and the same Greek word is used later in the New Testament about the need to "preserve" the Truth). He didn't spend it on himself. Didn't lose it. Didn't let it get dirty. Didn't forget where he buried it. But his inaction was the basis of his condemnation.
In the wider Christian world, Christianity is becoming increasingly professional. But just like the colossal scale of a cathedral dwarfs Catholics into thinking they themselves can do nothing, so this professionalism can do to us. Smart websites, power point presentations, truly funny jokes, entertainment. But this is not how God works. It is through the likes of the late, great Ludmila Fyodorovna Kuritsyna, who never had a cell phone, had no teeth and no dentures, thought the internet was only for her grandkids... and yet converted several hundred throughout the former USSR by letter writing and constant personal visitation and teaching.
"Endure hardship like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No-one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs - he wants to please his commanding officer" (2 Tim. 2:3,4). Not for us the disillusion of feeling we gave our lives for the wrong cause, that we made such commitment without knowing the real facts, of seeing the feet of clay in our leaders. The life in Christ, the work for His cause, shall never disappoint. But we must keep focused on it, as the bigger picture overarching our lives. We will not allow the hard word of others, their failure, even your own failure, the major calamities, loss of fellow soldiers falling at your side... to interfere with the overall thrust and direction of our lives.
The fact the Lord Jesus died for you personally will mean you seek to respond without wavering, without flinching. Not for us the philosophy of `balance' - a bit of effort for the Lord, but balanced by our commitment to our hobbies, wealth seeking and other passions. The end result of it is simply life in the mire of mediocrity. He gave and lived His life to the full for us, and has given us that kind of life. We are to live in harmony, I would say, not maxed out on just one particular aspect of serving Him - but there is a subtle difference between `balance' and such harmony. Watch out, in this generation as never before, for time wasting. For life is full of ways to waste the precious hours God has given you, and each one is lost forever once it's over. We will spend eternity serving God because our nature will be changed. But every effort we make for Him in the constraints of this nature, where such service has to be a conscious choice, is perhaps in a strange way even more meaningful and pleasing to Him. So please, pray a prayer something like this: "Father, who created me for Your pleasure, and Lord Jesus, who died for me, please show me what are Your hopes for me. What can I do. Lead me to the right people. May I get into the right conversations. I believe You will lead me and show me as I ask. But please also give me the courage to follow where You lead. I open my life and my heart totally to You. I want to give my all for You. I am willing to lay my life down for You. Help me to do it. For the sake of Jesus and so that all His love and work for me will not be without response from me, Amen".
Somali Refugees in Kenya