Easter weekend has come and gone. It was one of the most blessed Easters my wife and I can remember. We attended church and watched our grand-daughter take part in a sharing of testimonies. The pastor gave a brief sermon pointing out that the pen is in our hand to write the story of the rest of our lives. I needed to hear that.
We had the whole family at the house for a great lunch and a lazy afternoon. I was motivated to restart my swim regime on Friday. I had gotten out of the habit. In fact, I have been in a funk for some time. I really needed a strong Easter this year. I am talking about more than a crawfish boil and a cold beer. I mean more than wearing my birthday gift new shirt to Easter service. Although I was quite stunning. It’s a deeper spiritual need than that.
It’s even more than the annual reminder that Jesus rose from the dead some 2000 years ago. It’s even more than the realization that He is alive today. It’s more personal than that. I needed a personal Easter, an individual resurrection from being pretty near dead. I needed renewed hope and purpose and motivation.
It’s too early to judge whether I have gotten what I needed. It will take time to see if there is a renewal in my attitude, an elevation in my hope and a fire in my belly. Jesus has done all that is necessary; the rest is up to me. The high places are great to get a look around and renew perspective. It’s in the valley’s however, the Mondays of life, where the battle is fought. Jesus is alive and victorious. It’s my responsibility to claim that victory: to believe, trust and put one foot in front of the other each day.
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. Matthew 26:40
The enormity of the Passion of Christ is beyond our understanding. We have no experience of the physical pain and the weight of the sins of the entire world. Before the pain and crushing weight of all our sins, came the aloneness of Thursday night. In the garden, Jesus felt the horrible aloneness of separation from the Father and the nonsupport of his disciples.
This aloneness is one aspect of the passion that we have some experience with. Even in a world with exploding population, we experience the sense of aloneness. We are victims of Satan’s strategy of separating us from the flock. He has the cunning ability to make us feel that it’s “just me.” We believe that our sins and struggles are unique and that we are alone in them. The God that we follow doesn’t always “feel” present so we can conclude that we are alone.
We are created for relationship and grafted into the Body of our Lord. Jesus ministered with his disciples. When He sent them out to minister, He did not send them out alone. As a sign that we are His followers, He pointed to the way we love each other, not the way we teach or preach or even minister. When Jesus was alone, it was to spend time with His Father. When He ministered, it was with His disciples.
It is no wonder then that our fear of aloneness is primal. We are, in essence, societal creatures. Satan is aware of this and it’s no accident that it is a point of His attack. If he can make us believe we are alone, he can isolate us from the love of God and the support of the body.
Aloneness however for followers, however, is a lie. Jesus promised his disciples, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20. As His followers, we are heirs to that promise. When the fear of aloneness appears, banish it, remember the promise of Jesus. As the feeling of solitude and the coldness of abandonment creeps in, don’t fall for it. Our Lord is Spirit and sits at the right hand of the Father, but he is really present through His Spirit. He recalls the horror of aloneness he experienced in the Garden. He won’t let His children suffer from it. Aloneness, the most frightful and seemingly real of the horrors of the passion is an unreal lie of the enemy. Don’t fall for it.
I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. 24 Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. 26 I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. 27 I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. 28 Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. 2 Corinthians 11
Sometimes I wonder if I’m any kind of follower of Christ. Saturday night I fell ill. I mean “sick as a dog.” For 24 hours, I ate nothing and was laid up in bed. On Sunday I had no thought of attending church service. For me that was bad, a trial, a tribulation. I didn’t go through it for the good of the Kingdom. In fact, I didn’t go through it voluntarily. I just point it out as evidence of what a wimp I am. It doesn’t take much adversity for me to consider it a trial.
If I review what Paul went through I don’t see anything that I’ve suffered. I haven’t been through anything like that. If I think I’m having a rough time, I look through Foxe’s Book of Martyrs or google “persecuted church.” My brother Christians have in the past and are now going through hell on earth for their faith. They do so bravely and voluntarily.
I’m getting a little sick hearing about how tough it is to be a Christian in America these days. Seriously? Being marginalized and being ashamed to say grace before eating a meal in public isn’t persecution. Not having “Christians” elected to public office isn’t the same as being beaten or shipwrecked. Spending an hour listening to a sermon in an uncomfortable pew isn’t torture.
I know it’s not what I do for Christ that saves. Nonetheless I am embarrassed for how little I’ve done in response to what He has done for me. I know that by trusting in Him and because of His death I will spend eternity with Him. I’m just figuring that I will be on the last row or in the smallest of mansions. I will be amazed at what others have done in response to what He did. I wonder if in wiping away every tear, if every regret and the knowledge of how much more I could have done will also be gone.
I think I’m learning something about sharing the gospel from the current presidential campaign. I know that sharing the gospel is more than recounting what you say you believe and why. It takes more than doing a good job explaining theology. It takes more than talk. It takes passion and a consistent life.
Talk – Let’s compare. Some give really great speeches. Some give really good sermons. I want to hear something that makes sense. I want to be touched in areas of my life that are of real concern. I want relevance. Through speeches and sermons, a listener might be motivated to make a change; whether it be in political direction or spiritually. I’m not sure these talks alone are enough, however.
Passion – I want more than good ideas or even powerful argument. I want to feel something. I want to see some passion in the words. I want to know the speaker cares about not only what he is saying, but about those who are listening. I want to walk away with a wish to be involved. I don’t want to just agree. I want to want to join in. I don’t just want to agree to great ideas. I want to become involved in a movement.
Life – I want the talk and the passion to be real. I want to be able to confirm both through evidence. I look for that evidence in the life of the speaker. If that life is consistent with the talk and the passion, I’m ready to join up. If not, quit wasting my time.
On the political side it’s beginning to look like it will be Donald or Hillary. They both talk a pretty good game. They even do so with some passion. I just don’t find validating evidence in their lives. They claim to “relate” to the average person, to the middle class. I don’t think either of their lives resemble mine in any way. They haven’t served in the military. They haven’t lived from pay check to pay check. They haven’t lost a child. They haven’t been convicted of enough sin in their own lives to warrant confession.
They don’t have a history of honesty that would justify me believing them now. They are not used to serving but to being served. They don’t think that rules we have to live by apply to them. I think they are both gifts from God.
I think that the fact that we are down to Donald or Hillary is evidence that God still loves us. He is showing his love by making sure that only the truly foolish will believe that salvation will come from the government. He is showing his love by giving us choices without a difference. He is showing his love by giving us an object lesson on how we must carry out His commission for us. We must talk about Jesus with truth and passion, but we must live lives that are consistent with both the truth and the passion. Without that why should the lost believe us any more than we believe Donald or Hillary?
Thank you Jesus that we don’t have to waste the months between now and November on political activity believing it will make any difference. Thanks Jesus for clearing our agenda so we can do the only things that make an eternal difference. Thanks for Donald and Hillary. Let’s be sure not to waste the gift.