For My Good!

26 05 2016

Author’s Note:  I didn’t mean to take a break from the Fruits of the Spirit series….this topic just could not get off of my heart and I learned so much from writing this post and I hope you do the same!

It’s a different experience to hear the news secondhand than it is to experience it.  Everyday, thousands of newscasters report on the events of the world, but I rarely think that those who experienced the event firsthand, rely on these newscasts to inform them of what happened.  But, once the event happens, there’s no way for us to go back in time for us to move from being a second-hand observer who learned about something on the news, to becoming a first-hand participant.  The man who served in a war, can never move to being a second-hand observer.  He felt the heat of battle, the sting of death, the brush of bullets and bombs.  The person who hears about a riot cannot experience the riot itself personally.

I used to think that the disciples, they really had it made.  They were first-hand observers of Jesus.  They walked with him, smelled his body odor and they ate with him.  They were shocked by him, cried with him and slept near him.  What an experience that must have been!  I used to get jealous, because I thought that if I only walked with Jesus and saw the miracles, then surely, my faith would be like a mustard seed, the smallest of seeds that produces the largest of results!  But then, I read some scripture that Jesus shared with them, John 16:7, which says “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”  Wow!  That verse is really powerful.  Jesus starts it out saying, “this is the truth” and then he drops the bomb on them  “It is for your good that I am going away.”  I would have disagreed with my friend, if I were a disciple.  I mean, sure I know that he’s the creator of the universe and all, but I would miss him.  My life was made complete by having him in my life and it was made better with him.  He made me wine out of water, fish and bread out of nothing, provided growth and love and companionship, where I didn’t feel it before.  I found acceptance, despite my lack of faith or ability to trust, despite my low social status, I found love.  And to think that this source of love and friendship was going to leave me, and I was going to be better off than when he left me?  That’s preposterous!  That would mean that I would be moving out of a relationship with Jesus and then back to life as normal!

A Second-hand Watcher
This type of person is a benchwarmer, so to speak.  A benchwarmer is a part of a team, but they often miss out on the real action of the game.  They may be substituted in and step up once in a while, but they are not a consistently actively involved person.  If I, as a disciple, would’ve went back to my life as usual, then I would be considered a second-hand watcher.  I am someone that knows the expectation, because it was clearly explained and outlined to me by Jesus, but instead of living up to the expectation, I simply expect it to happen to me!  When the day is over, I’ve neither contributed to the game as a whole nor detracted from it.  I have simply floated along and have nothing to show for my time with Jesus.  Instead, I have evidence of my existence, but not much beyond that.

To me, this sounds very similar to that of the experience in the Christian church.  Honestly, if we want to criticize the world and our society for being “godless” and going against the call of God, we have to first look at ourselves.  Matthew 7:3-5 says “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite!  First, take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  Although it seems that Jesus is talking about the companionship from believer to believer.  I think it can expand beyond that.  I don’t think that he means that the way we relate to each other is not applicable to the way we relate to other people in the world.  We must give respect and love to the people who are around us, regardless of the shared faith or lack of shared faith.  I honestly think that Jesus means for us to treat our Christian brothers and sisters with the same regard as we give to those who believe different from us.  And vice versa.  Think about that.  And vice versa.  It’s harder to make us look at ourselves than it is to criticize the world.  Before we even think about criticizing others, we need to take a long hard look at ourselves, and how we have failed to be anything more than a benchwarmer.  Jesus tells us that it is shameful for us to criticize our brother, when we are guilty of having issues that keep us from growing.  WE cannot criticize the world and its policies without first critically examining ourselves.  And honestly, if we had been doing so all along, we would not be the secondhand observers that the world knows us as.  Shortly speaking, it is the church’s fault that our society has felt the diminishing impact of the church upon that society.  We stopped doing the things that make us active participants, and started warming the pews, and being content with Sunday being the only day reserved for God.  Instead of remembering 1 Corinthians 13:1, we gave Christianity a bad name by clanging out our objections without love.  And we were not growing spiritually.  We were not making disciples of Christ.  WE were simply living our lives and going to church on Sunday, and somehow, we thought it would be enough.

 

Active Participant
Who wins the games?  Who handles the trophy?  Who goes down in the sports halls of fame?  It’s not those that keep the bench from floating off the game floor, it’s the people who are the active players and do whatever it takes to be successful.  It is the ones who intend to accomplish something, who are intentional about what they do.  Active players don’t just wait around for skills and special abilities to happen to them, they are the ones that continuously strive to become better and the ones that desire very greatly to be better players.  Players don’t wait for life to happen, they don’t wait for accomplishments to just be handed to them or spontaneously occur.  Instead, they devote afternoons, hours to improvement.  Each practice, they show up, regardless of how they emotionally feel about getting out to practice, and they practice, knowing each practice makes them better, stronger.  Excuses don’t matter, because if it is important to you, you make time for it, no matter what.

The more and more I study Jesus and the more and more I read the gospels, the clearer it becomes to me that he expects me to realize that belief doesn’t matter all that much, unless its an active thing.  Until we believe it so much that we live it, we will never learn more than mere drops of grace and small fractions of love.  We will not learn how to love people a smidgen of the way that we are supposed to, the way that Jesus loves us.  Unless we get off of the bench and get in the game, the Bible will be mere words of fiction, Jesus is a mythical character and love is a construction paper cut-out heart.  Matthew 7:3-5 says “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite!  First, take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  When we are not active participants, yet we are pulling out planks out of others’ eyes and criticizing others and not critically looking at ourselves, we fail to embody the call of Christianity.  We fail to be the lovers of people that we are called to be.  We fail.  That’s it.  Until we get off the bench and are actively growing, we have no idea what our faith really calls us to do and be for others.

Well, that’s all well and good-but how do we get off the bench?  From what I understand, spiritual growth has several components:

  • You must spend time in the Word with God.  It’s not enough to just read the Bible, we must also understand the meaning behind those special words.
  • Pray and ask God that he will help you find understanding, and apply that understanding of the scripture into your life and into the interactions you have with other people. He will teach you how to interact with others in love.
  • Seek to serve God through the church and on an individual level. Use your natural talents to help you figure out how to serve God and others.
  • When given the opportunity to share your faith, do it! Your story is an experience that they can’t take away from you.  What God has done in you, they can’t contest.
  • Remain faithful to your growing relationship with God. It’s easy to let the emotional fire die, but remember that there are some things work committing to doing despite how you feel.

Don’t let the excuses get in your way.  We can make anything an excuse.  Don’t.   If this is truly important to you, and if you believe that your faith makes a difference, you will see the fatality in  being a bystander.  If it is worth it, you will make the time.  If it is meaningful, you will choose to remain faithful and committed, despite the feelings or excuses.  Be warned though, the excuses are overbearing.  The task is difficult because it involves a departure from your selfish way of things.  It may ask you to sacrifice, it may hurt you a little bit, but you will grow.

Take encouragement though.  Jesus said once says “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”  The thing that makes it different for us than it does for the disciples, is that we have never experienced the human Jesus.  We have the Holy Spirit inside us, instead!  How cool is that!  See, Jesus isn’t interested in us depending on him for physical or depending on his physical presence for us to gain his assurance and peace in his presence.  Instead, he wants to reside in us!  How cool is that!?  Our assurance and security does not rest in the physical presence of Jesus, but in the unending presence of the Holy Spirit.  And this is for our benefit!  How cool!  This is for my good!  It is for my good that I am an active participant and not a benchwarmer.  It is for my good that I am growing!

And let it be for your benefit as well!