Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Loving the Lost

"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

I wonder 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 Paul's last letter to Timothy, and they were his last words of encouragement to his spiritual son. 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 suffered severe persecution from people outside the church and struggled with false teachers who had infiltrated the church. Because of this and his young age, Timothy had a tendency to be timid and Paul kindly reminds Timothy that God had not given him a spirit of timidity, but of power, love, and discipline.

My mom’s heart would want to encourage my children to pursue holiness which is a spiritual desire. But I think, I would also want to warn them of anything that might bring them harm. Instead, Paul shared his heart concerning lost people with Timothy. I realize how often I have had wrong motives for sharing the gospel with others. My motives have often been avoiding guilt, a sense of obligation, for appearances, to obey God, or to earning rewards in heaven. While those are not necessarily all bad motives, an important motive is missing–that of love. Paul states that he was willing to endure all things for the sake of those God has chosen so they might obtain salvation and with their salvation eternal glory. Paul definitely had a heart and a hope for ungodly people. He desired them to have a relationship with God and for them to reflect God's glory. 

When I look at our society I am not sure I think like Paul did, especially when I think of terrorists, men who rape children, drug dealers who get both young and old people hooked on drugs, or students who kill other students because they are Christians or because they feel like it. If am really honest, I have to admit I cringe at the thought of people who do those things obtaining salvation. Yet, if we look at Paul's life before he became a Christian, he was doing things like that. Because Paul knew Christ had forgiven him for tormenting and ravaging the church, he was able to love the lost more than we usually do. Paul loved the lost enough to endure hard labor, pain, imprisonment, and the beatings the Jews gave him with whips. He also loved the lost enough to endure being stoned and left for dead, being shipwrecked and in the ocean for a day and night before he was rescued. He loved the lost enough to spend His life traveling through dangerous waters, across lands full of dangerous robbers, and through dangerous cities and wildernesses. He loved them enough to endure a lot of discomfort simply due to the nature of his ministry. He was sometimes weary, sometimes in pain, sometimes hungry, sometimes thirsty, and sometimes cold without adequate clothing. He was sometimes deserted by friends who fell away from God or betrayed by those seeking to damage the church. He felt burdened and inadequate to deal with all the care of all the churches he ministered in. I fall so short of loving like that, do you?

In light of all that Paul suffered and his willingness to continue to endure tremendous hardship so he could share the gospel with unsaved people, let’s examine our attitudes concerning the lost. We should be willing to develop relationships outside the church with people who do not know the Lord and even with people in the church who may not measure up to what we consider "Christian standards." We need to develop a compassion for the harm their sin is doing to them and a passion for them to truly know and experience God fully in their lives.

I wonder where are you in loving the lost? When you walk down the hall at school, work, church or home and you observe ungodly behaviors does it irritate you or cause you to judge not their actions, but their heart? Do you have compassion and want them to know God? When you see a Christian friend mess up, do you desire to help her grow closer to God or do you look down your nose at her? A youth worker I worked with shared with me that when she went to a football game she hurt because so many of the students did not know Jesus. She saw their behavior and knew it did not reflect Christ, but rather than looking down on them, she hurt and was overwhelmed that there were so many who did not know the Lord. Do you hurt for those who don't know Christ? I want to encourage you not to assume even in your church and youth groups that every person there knows Him. I also encourage you to take time to think about what you are willing to endure for the sake of the Gospel. Are you willing to labor hard and love boldly so others might hear the gospel? Are you willing to witness at the risk of being persecuted, made fun of, or deserted by your friends? Are you willing to put yourself in danger so that you can reach people? Are you willing to be beaten or killed so people might come to know the Lord? Let's encourage and spur one another to love and good deeds and to boldly live for Christ. Let's encourage each other as Paul did to endure all things so that men can know Christ. After all we might not know Him had other people not been faithful to God’s calling to share Him 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 in to a relationship with You. 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!