People tell me routinely about things they’d love to step out and do; things they’d love to walk out or have.
I probably couldn’t count the times someone has told me how much they’d love to live in and remodel an old home. And I get all of the fluff and Southern Living photos and idealistic visions it conjures up. But I’m now accustomed to letting them in on the reality- and that is, to take on old-home-living you’ve got to love it all the way down to your bones. (And I do!) You’ve got to love it enough to always be working on something and you’ve got to be okay with realizing there are seasons you just don’t have it in you to work anymore. In such seasons unfinished projects sit collecting a new layer of dust for extended periods of time. There is a reason the people who built huge old-homes had full-time servants who kept up the land and home. It was because the job was just that big! If you and your spouse plan to remodel and keep your old-home and property immaculate (and you’re not a millionaire) hopefully you do not have any other job on the table- or even a family! Or, you have to accept a new reality- it may never all be done.
There are a lot of things that involve way more than an idea. I have realized more and more in recent years that there has been a shift in Christian culture and it does trouble my soul. This shift seems to love the idea of so many “Jesus” works, but I think in reality it really loves the philanthropic image it portrays, and is void of the sacrifice it takes to walk out. It’s heart-breaking but is a visible proof of what self-centered “Christianity” can become. (Isn’t that a true contradiction in terms?) When we omit the truth of God’s Word that says things like, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me (Luke 9:23).” And “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? (v24)” we are leaving behind true Christianity and taking up our own self-centered ideal.
I’ve thought a lot about what has caused this twisted perspective. Maybe it’s something to do with the fact that we are such a social-media-focused culture, that the radical believers we all idealize are those with very public ministries who travel around the world declaring God’s Word on stages. Maybe we have forgotten that evangelists are just one tiny part of this thing called the Body of Christ and without the foot-washers, financers, and movers and shakers, there is an insurmountable void. Perhaps we in the church are walking like the parent who spends their entire child’s growing-up years preparing them only to play professional baseball (and I’m all for dreaming big) when statistically, that reality is slim to none. Perhaps in the Body of Christ we are raising shallow believers who are all seeking a platform ministry and they have no idea what it actually means to be a servant or that being a Christ-follower was meant to require sacrifice, everyday.
I’ve been in some great conversations with other believers who, like me, have seen incredible miracles take place while serving on the mission field. There are many ideas as to why we in the western church as a whole aren’t very expectant of the miraculous anymore, but one idea really hits home with me. When someone becomes a believer in a middle-eastern culture, they very likely will lose everything, including their entire family, because of that decision. When someone becomes a believer in China, they realize that they now have to meet secretly with other believers or they may go to prison, have their family ripped-apart or even die. These Christians recognize that choosing Jesus really does mean they’re laying down their life to take up His. Maybe when our Christianity isn’t built on sacrifice and surrender, we are still too sure of our own deliverance. So sure, that we have intentionally stepped over the miraculous power and provision Jesus truly wants us to walk in for the sake of comfort and entertainment.
Biblical Christianity shows us that God is always after legacy. Our fathers of faith laid their lives down and looked on with joy for the day their spiritual children would carry the banner after them. As a women in ministry, I routinely talk with believers about purpose and following the call of God. I find myself dumbfounded at how little we in the church are willing to lay down for the sake of seeing others brought from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. If the sacrifice means giving up some entertainment, some sleep, or God-forbid, some money…it seems common that God is suddenly “leading” a person in another direction. And the same believers are often seeking counsel as to why their “impact” isn’t greater or their influence isn’t more profound! It’s pretty simple. Do we really expect other people to lay down their lives when we are clearly clinging to ours?
The reality is, none of us knows fully what it will cost us to be obedient. That’s a blessing in disguise. The rush of stepping out in faith may get us going, but we will all face the day when the rubber hits the road and we begin to realize more of what we actually laid down 5-10-20 years ago when we said yes to the call of God. But no matter how high the price seems, it’s mere dung in a bucket compared to the sake of knowing Jesus Christ. Jesus has always been, and will always be worthy of it all. In the midst of the greatest sacrifice, we experience the peace of God that we never could have known in the realm of our selfish comfort.
Things like, “I’d love to adopt” or “I’d love to adopt a child with special needs.” Or maybe, “I have a heart for missions” or “I’d love to be in full-time ministry” are better tested in the fires of where we already are surrendered. Would we really love these things? Because if we already are uninvolved in local missions, have trouble tithing and giving up something we want for something that will live beyond the temporary, we may actually love an idea more than we love the Savior behind the idea.
This Savior laid down His life for a church and this Savior paved the way with sacrifice so we could experience the fullness of His promises. This Savior promised to be with us in our surrender, on the easier days and on the hardest days we would ever experience. He really did die for more than our comfort and entertainment. He is really worth it all. And we never experience the joy, fulfillment or the miraculous He rescued us for when we only live for the shallow, murky waters of self.
In it all I am realizing that what Jesus has called me to do is far more than an idea. He’s revealing all this self-centeredness that I still have to lay at His feet (every single day) and how perseverance in His call has to be rooted in me loving Him completely…not just loving some idea. When my love for Him goes deep down into my soul and in everything I do, any and every sacrifice is simply too small for such a glorious, beautiful, all-sufficient King