Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Calling on All Who Are Willing

Two friends take a hike through the woods on a Saturday afternoon. They are both loaded with filled backpacks. They brought everything needed for the hike. The sun is above them and the exploration ahead of them. But the unexpected happens. A storm erupts. The winds howl. The rains pour. The sun no longer shines above them. They find a small cavern in hopes it will bring them safety. 

This storm isn't going anywhere. As the lightening crashes and the thunder shakes they are thankful neither is alone. They have each other. These friends sit side by side, ready to protect one another. Each has brought along different items the days journey. One is carrying the drinks and the other the food. One has a flashlight and the other the first-aid kit. They put thought into what they would need for the day. But neither expecting the storm. 

Nightfall comes and the storm increases in strength. The path they took to the cavern has now collapsed as it was rushed with flashing water. Even if the storm lets up, there is no path to lead them back. Nothing looks the same as it did that morning they started out. Everything changed when the storm hit. 

They didn't pack for an extra day. Their clothes are soaked, their water gone, and their picnic lunch eaten. They snuggle in tight for the night. No stars to give light. Stuck. But not alone. Thank God neither is alone. 

Morning breaks and the sun peeks out beyond the cloud cover. The birds are singing. The break of dawn has brought them a new hope. Together they will find their way back. It may not be the road traveled, but together they will find their way. They have hours ahead of them. Trekking through these covered woods isn't going to be easy. 

The heavy rain had not only caused flooding, but slides that covered much of any path they once seen as clear. One friend slips and down she goes, crying out in pain, as now her ankle is creating it's own storm. The other friend lifts her upright, takes her pack on one shoulder and on the other her limping friend. The load of the pack is heavy as is the extra weight of her friend. They began this journey walking side by side and they will finish side by side. 

This is what friends do. They come to the aid of the other. They walk the journey, no matter how heavy the load. The love they share is a bond that cannot be broken. It's the love of Jesus that binds that bond. That three fold strand makes it strong and mighty. 

Sitting in Sunday school the question is asked, "Among you ladies who would give their life for their friend?" Sitting there expecting hands to rise, only one rose. This woman speaks and says, "If my friend was in danger there is no question." This woman didn't expect to see a class full of women sitting there with no hands raised. The next question, "Why wouldn't you give you're life for your friend?" One answers, "Well, I have a family to think about. I have grandchildren." Another, "My life is valuable." This woman who raised her hand was blown away as her friend, her great friend, wouldn't even think about dying for her.

So the question remains, "What lengths would you go to for your friend, your sister in Christ? We do what we can, but we do what's easy for us, right? There will be no backpack carrying for me. No jumping in front of a car to save my friend. It might cost me too much. I may have to give to much. Because in the end, isn't our life more valuable? 

As that Sunday school class sat there before their teacher and hushed lips, she asked, "If a car was rushing toward your friend would you push her out of the way?" Only one raised her hand. One in an entire class. As she spoke all eyes stared upon her. "Why wouldn't I give my life for my friend? I have family too. A husband and children. I love my life. But I love my friend. If I'm not willing to give my life for my friend, then my life doesn't mean much at all. My life is of no more value than my friend's life."

It was this class that woke up this woman to the reality that not everyone is in the giving mood. We give, but we give easy. We give until it costs us something. Until we aren't comfortable is when the giving ends where it began. 

Someone else can do it. There's another more qualified to help then me. I'm too scared. What if I get hurt? That's a lot of time to give and I have enough on my plate. Sound familiar? Just think if our Savior said, "Nope, I'm done here in the garden. There's no way My body is going to be hung on that cross for the world." He was willing. He gave ALL He had to give. Is any less expected of us who love Him? We can't expect from others what we ourselves are not willing to give. Of course, we aren't Jesus, but if we love Him, we must love others. 

What is the job of the church? Is it just to share the gospel? When the church doors open are the people to just file in, take a seat, hear the message, and go home? Aren't we to hear messages of hope, love, and faith? Being a Christian isn't attending church. Being a Christian is believing in the Savior. But it goes beyond just believing. It's suppose to be beyond the church doors, into the world, sharing love and giving of ourselves, not because we have to, but because we are so in love with Jesus, we want to serve with everything we have. This world around us isn't going to see much of Jesus unless we show them. We show the world who Jesus is through love. 

It's carrying that extra load. It's aiding that friend in need. It's giving until it hurts. It's realizing our life is only as important as the one next to us. Brothers and sisters stand up for one another. They band together when one is in need. We each have been given gifts, each extraordinary, each to be used willingly to further the gospel of Christ. His gospel is about love, giving, and sacrifice. 

Are you willing to carry the load? Are you willing to give until it hurts? If a friend was walking by your side and an out of control car was coming straight for them, would you even think twice to push them out of the way? 

In church we have prayer requests. We allow brothers and sisters to share of their need. We hear stories of God moving in unexpected ways. Friends, we have to go beyond the request. We have to move on their behalf so that need can be met. We can't sit and wait for someone else to give. I've heard people say, "That isn't the churches job. The church is suppose to preach the gospel. Not everything belongs inside church". Our job as the {church} is to love. Love is action. Love is coming together to find a way. It's living out the love of Christ until it hurts. It's not leaving one to the wayside. It's not picking and choosing to who should be helped. Name and wealth have no business inside the church. When we stop reaching out and serving we stop being the church.

We could be in our sister's very shoes the next week as unexpected storms arrive. What then? I can tell you exactly what. We would want the love and support of our brothers and sisters of the church. We would expect it, because that's what we would do for another, right? 

It's time we show up and act, not just speak up and sit idle. We do too much of that. We like to talk about what we would do, but when action is needed, where are we? We are busy doing our own thing and expecting others to step in and do what's needed. 

Every day we are given an opportunity to make a difference. Too often we let those opportunities fall to the wayside. The Spirit is to be our guide. He's our Compass in this ever-changing world of unexpected storms. 

Those two friends? They made it out. Half way through the wooded area there were others there searching. They were there to guide them back to safe harbor. Three days they were stuck in those woods trying to find their way out. They were exhausted, but they had One before them leading them to others who would give aid to their safety. 

That woman in Sunday school class has never had to give her life for her friend, but still today she knows without a doubt what she would do. When we have a Savior leading us, there's nothing to fear of the unknown, because He's already been there. 

When we love mighty, we give mighty. Where there is no love there is no giving. This world is filled with people unwilling to give beyond easy. God is calling for us to walk with Him, serve in ways we know isn't possible without Him. This is the church today. This is who we are called to be. 

We are to endure, to come along side by side, to give physical, emotional, and spiritual need to our sisters in Christ. If we don't love on one another how will the world see the love of Jesus? We aren't to just be there for one another in the good and joyous times. Not just those nights of laughter. But those nights when morning doesn't seem possible. When the load is too heavy for one to bear. For the person whose life is controlled by the Holy Spirit, this is the person who will go the distance, who will stand by another when all seems lost. In these moments of coming together we overcome weakness. The strength of many lifts up the weary soul. 

It takes courage to move on behalf of another. It takes trust in our Lord to show us the need and the provision. We can't always see the solution, but the Spirit is there to guide us if we will just follow. As the {church} we come together, each with their own gifts, prepared to serve, and willing to give. This is Jesus at work in us. 

When we make the choice to love on people, to give and to serve, it gives them courage to move forward. They aren't alone. They know without a doubt that friends will join in the fight. They will be there on the dark days when the storm clouds are approaching. They know that their friends aren't going to leave when it gets too difficult or too much is asked. This is when we truly see Jesus move in the church! 

"Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy." 1 Peter 4:12-13

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:34-35

"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load." Galatians 6:2-5

"There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all." 1 Corinthians 12:4-7


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