Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Enduring All

"For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, 
so that they also may obtain the salvation 
which is in Christ Jesus  and with it eternal glory."
2 Timothy 2:10

After my mom died, I wondered what I would say to those I love if I knew I was nearing the end of my life. The verses above are taken from 2 Timothy, which is Paul's last letter to Timothy. These words are words of encouragement. In the letter, Paul encouraged Timothy to be strong in God's grace and to be willing to suffer hardship for the sake of the gospel. The early church often suffered severe persecution from people outside the church and and suffered because of false teachers who had infiltrated the church. Because of this and his young age, Timothy had a tendency to be timid. So, Paul reminds Timothy that God had not given him a spirit of timidity, but of power and of love and of discipline.

In the above verse, Paul shared with Timothy why he did what he did and what was in his heart concerning lost people. As I reflect. I realize how often I have had wrong motives for sharing the gospel. My motives have been guilt, obligation, appearances, obeying God, or earning rewards in heaven. While those are not necessarily evil motives, I realized an important motive was missing – that of love. Paul says he was willing to endure all things so people might obtain salvation and with their salvation eternal glory. He had a heart for ungodly people to have a relationship with God and for them to be able to more fully reflect the glory of God. 

When I look at our society, sometimes I am not sure I want to think like Paul did, especially when I think of terrorists, men who rape children, drug dealers who get young people hooked on drugs, abortionists who slay babies all day for money, or students who kill other students because they are Christians or simply because they felt like it. To be honest I sometimes cringe at the thought of people who do those things obtaining mercy, grace, and salvation?

Yet, when I look at Paul's life before he became a Christian, he was responsible for the killing of believers simply because they believed in Jesus. Because Paul knew Christ had forgiven him for tormenting and ravaging the church, he was able to love the lost more than most of us do. Paul loved the lost enough to endure hard labor, physical and emotional pain, imprisonment, and beatings. He also loved enough to endure being stoned and left for dead, shipwrecked and being cast into the ocean for a day and night before being rescued. He constantly chose to travel through dangerous waters, across lands full of dangerous robbers, and through dangerous cities and wildernesses. He also endured a lot of discomfort simply due to the nature of his ministry. He was sometimes weary, in pain, hungry, thirsty, cold, without adequate clothing and deserted by friends who fell away from God. He often felt inadequate to deal with the burden of caring for all the churches in which he had ministered. I so don’t love like that.

In light of all that Paul suffered and his willingness to continue to endure tremendous hardship in order to share the gospel, I must examine my attitudes concerning the lost. Am I willing to develop relationships outside the church with people who don’t know the Lord and with people in the church who are choosing to walk in sin? Do I have an understanding and compassion for the harm their sin is doing to them and a passion for them to be set free and know and glorify God. I wonder where you are in loving the lost. When you are around unbelievers, does ungodly behavior irritate you or can you see it as a sign that there is soul who needs the Lord? Do you look down upon them in self-righteousness or do you experience compassion for them because they don’t know this loving wonderful Savior we know? Do you want them to suffer because of their sin or do you want them to experience the same grace and mercy you have? A youth worker I worked with shared that when she went to a football game her heart literally hurt because so many of the students didn’t know Jesus. She saw their behavior and knew it didn’t reflect Christ, but rather than looking down on them, she grieved and was overwhelmed that there were so many who didn’t know the Lord.

I want to encourage you not to assume even in your church that everyone knows God. I remember when I was a volunteer in our youth group that one teenage girl was hanging out with me all evening? Towards the end of the evening, I felt compelled to ask her if she had a personal relationship with Christ. She told me she didn’t but sure wanted one. I shared the gospel with her and she accepted Christ that night. 

What we are really willing to endure for the sake of the Gospel? Are we willing to labor hard and love boldly so others might hear? Are we willing to witness at the risk of being persecuted, made fun of, or deserted by our friends? Are we willing to put ourselves in danger so that we can reach people? Are we willing to be beaten or killed so people come to know Him? Let's encourage and spur one another to that kind of love and to good deeds and to boldly live for Christ. Let's encourage each other to endure all things so that men can know Christ as Paul encouraged Timothy. After all we might not know Him had other people not been faithful to God’s calling to share Christ with us.

Prayer: Father, we love You and appreciate so much that You provided a way for us to be reconciled to You. We thank you for calling us with a holy calling and pray that we will have the courage and the boldness and the perseverance to endure all things for the sake of those You are inviting into relationship. Prepare us to be diligent in sharing our testimony and prepare the hearts of those you have chosen. Amen.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!