“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flock and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” Job 1, 9-11
The content of this video challenged me greatly this morning, but at the same time encouraged me in the knowledge that in my adverse circumstances, God is perfecting my faith. Like Job, as things like employment, in my husband’s case, and currently health in mine, are stripped away from us, and our security can no longer be based on financial stability or one’s well being, I sense that Satan is trying to profit from these challenging times in our life in order to invalidate the foundations of our faith; in order to show those who know me or those who give ear to my insights and heart cry, that my soul is as weak and easily sold as the souls of the many Christians who proclaim the name of Jesus because deep down they are convinced much “blessing” will result from such action; Christians who elevate the gift above The Giver. They are so caught up in how much God has given them and blessed them with, that the concept of grace and God’s deep love for them goes out of the window, and instead they secretly believe that all these things come as a reward for their faith, because they have earned it, they deserve it. It is all about them, and their Christianity no longer has Christ at the center of it.
The problem lies right there. Blessing in Christ’s eyes is not manifested in the nice car on the front drive, the gym membership, the nice holidays, the smart house or even the favour, approval and following of men and women. Blessing in God’s eyes points to the honour of sharing in Christ’s glory and the promise of eternal life, but first, we need to share in his death to self too, and sadly, many of us are very keen to have the former and will go to great lengths to ensure we have it, without going through the latter. Some Christians will go to great lengths to share in the glory, even to the point of forfeiting their own soul and deceiving themselves and others into a full sense of security based on worldly promises.
The true gospel cannot be the one that is attracting people in their thousands, because they are being promised the heavens and the earth, status, money, health, favour, prosperity, leadership roles, center stage in ministry and the authority and power that these can provide, all the things which end up becoming idols in our lives and being the substitute for the One that should be the very core of our life and our reason for living.
If you call yourself a Christian, take time to run a check on yourself. If people are drawn to Christ through you, why is it? Is it because you transmit a certain air of confidence and assurance? And if that is the case, how do you express that hope that lies within? Do you share with others the name of Christ and the ideas of blessing and a prosperous life in the same sentence or do you warn about Christ and the cross as part of the same card that will be dealt to us throughout the course of our life? Do you talk about success, progression, advance in whatever area your heart longs and strives for or do you open people’s eyes to the reality that God ALWAYS humbles those who are proud and gives grace to those who humble themselves? Are you an example of integrity or do you preach the cross and Jesus’ message “Follow me”, whilst you also ensure no one robs you of or nothing threatens the comfortable life you have grown accustomed to? Do you boast of God’s love and blessing on you whilst you harbour hatred and bad feelings of unforgiveness and unsettled scores towards your brethren, or will you not leave any stone unturned until the day you know you are living out to the letter the words that come out of your mouth?
These are the kinds of questions I ask myself pretty much everyday, as I seek to get to the core of what Christianity should be like, must have been like in the days when Jesus was alive and soon after he was resurrected; the days when the lives of Jesus’ followers reflected the very heart of the one they followed; the days when no one lacked in anything, because those who had more than others shared and distributed equally their blessings. The interesting thing being that most of them did not have much at all, but the little they had was shared equally amongst the whole. How many Christians do you know today who are prepared and willing to give up everything they know and have in order to fulfil God’s will for their lives? How many churches have you encountered where those who have much share it out with the rest so that everyone has everything they need? Personally, not many, not even a few. The norm tends to be a church where everyone has a lot and where everyone is satisfied with their version of Christianity because they are generous enough to share an amount of their choosing either with the church itself or for a cause of their own choosing. Then, there are the legalistic types who condemn everyone else for not tithing, as they proclaim out loud to the four winds their devotion to Christ and his legacy because they part with 10% of what they have and surely that is good enough. Where is the love in that? Where is the humility?
Starting with myself, there are areas I still need to surrender and fully rely on God for, but by faith I trust that I am a work in progress. Lately, however, I have realised I am no longer worthy of calling myself a Christian. The truth is I never was. To do so, would be to insult those souls who did indeed nailed self on the cross when they realised they were 100% serious and committed to following Jesus to wherever He may lead them. Please do not misinterpret me, for when I speak of giving it all up for Jesus, I do not talk about packing up and abandoning your family and those who depend on you to go and evangelise on the other corner of the globe. This may be right for some, but I believe the cross means different things to different people. For me, the cross is going the extra mile in all the areas of my life, relationships in my life, challenges in my life where it would be much easier to throw the towel in and run from, where the temptation is to put myself first, to exalt myself above others. The challenge as a Christian for me is to come last when everything in me is crying out to put myself first. The challenge is to serve others, because I love them not because I seek glory and honour out of it or because I am trying to buy something which is freely given: grace. When we ask, God will give us everything we need to overcome these sacrifices in our life. Once we overcome, another cross is placed in our path until we overcome that one too, and as this process continues, each time there is less of us and more of Him in our hearts and souls, until we get to a place where we are ready to be called His own, ready to inherit the promise, ready to sit by his side, ready to be in the presence of the Holy of Holies. Because the true gospel tells us that to live is Christ and to “die” is gain.