There's this one important lesson that I must learn. I've been trying to grasp and absorb it for a great number of weeks (or even months), but it has not fully sunk in yet in a way that all my living cells would automatically follow the course of this lesson with no hesitation and regrets.
The first time I encountered this lesson was about five years ago when I first came to know Christ and received the faith. I was reading the New Testament at that time, and I learned about people following Christ and getting persecuted along the way. Alongside my personal Bible study, I was reading this book titled "Jesus Freaks" which included short stories of real people who were tortured, raped, burnt, excommunicated and even murdered for the faith in a God unknown to the society. During the time I was engrossed with the book until probably a year after, I was really on fire for the Lord. I even told God, "Lord, use me in whatever way and place me wherever you like." I was in college then.
Three years after college, now more practical and realistic, less naive and idealistic, the prayer had become a mere breath lost in the whirlwind of the "real-world". People, books and seminars taught me to set my goals (i.e. to be a brand manager by the age of 27, to earn $ xxx at the end of year 20xx) and do whatever it takes, whether it be technically crafted strategies or creative manipulation, to achieve them. Little did I know that this lifestyle was making me a disciple of this world ~ a capitalist, materialistic world.
What I'm learning at the moment is the meaning of becoming a disciple of Christ. I got to read a short e-book recently titled "The Radical Question." And the author was asking one basic question, "What is Jesus worth to you?" The author began with a brief observation of a church in Asia and his own church back in USA. On his trip to Asia, he was able to meet with other Christians in underground churches. He found out that some locals have to walk miles away from home discreetly to a small and dim house just to worship the Lord. They stray away from whistleblowers to minimize the risk of imprisonment, torture and murder (risking their own lives and their families). It is indeed difficult to exercise their faith there such that a member of the group shared his concern, "I need to know how to lead my church to follow Christ even when it costs them everything." Then they prayed about it, murmuring on their knees with their heads bowed low. They were filled with praise and pleading. After an hour, the room grew silent and they stood up one by one, then the author saw that the ground was left with of puddle of tears.
After three weeks, David Platt went back to his homeland, where there were no dimly lit rooms but an auditorium with a theatre style lighting. The people didn't travel by foot, they were transported via millions of dollars worth of vehicles. There was no weeping before God, rather people calmly sat on plush chairs in beautiful buildings. Instead of a simple, costly, humble, authentic, passionate, risky pursuit of Christ, they prioritized clean, elaborate, entertaining, slick, innovative church programs and performances that catered to their personal tastes.
Are we to follow/ work for / share about / worship God...
(put an imaginary tick if it applies to you)
___ Only when it's Pastor A speaking
___ Only when the church emphasizes it
___ Only when I like the program
___ Only when I'm with my crush
___ Only if I have a comfortable ride
___ Only if I have nothing to lose
It's ironic how Jesus discouraged some people to become his disciples when in the modern society, we invite people to join our fellowships or discipleship groups persistently and patiently.
There were three instances when Jesus discouraged eager and willing people to become His disciples (recorded in Luke 9). The first one was not ready for an uncomfortable, unknown life. Jesus was saying foxes have holes to live but if you follow Me, I can't assure a comfortable place for you because I myself have no place to go. The second had to bury his father first, and Jesus said "Let the dead bury their own dead!" If we prioritize our family over God, then we may not pass as his disciples either. The third was willing but he wanted to say his good-byes first, then Jesus compared him to a man holding a plowshare and looking back. Following Jesus means complete and undivided attention.
Being a disciple of Jesus entails a sacrificial life, most often than not an uncomfortable one that would bring you to your knees. It is through our weakness that God's strength is revealed. Remember that. As Paul said, all the more he delights in his weakness for God's strength is made perfect in weakness.
In the movie Faith like Potatoes, when Angus Buchan planted the potatoes at the season of the worst drought in history with all of his bank account at risk, I realized two things. One is unlike Buchan, we are more business minded. We count the costs, the risks, we even make a T account of pros and cons. He on the other hand, had a faith like a child. He knew His Father was more powerful than the drought because his Father is the creator of heaven and earth. We also need to have that faith, naive in the eyes of others, but a faith warrior in the eyes of God.
Second, we need to align our vision to God and dream bigger dreams. Angus was a white farmer in Africa, who only hung-out with the minority, and when God moved him to organize a prayer meeting to cover the drought, massacres and tribal wars, at the biggest national stadium, guess what happened? God filled the whole place with different tribes and tongues.
Let's not be contented with what is certain and comfortable, where achievement is limited to the human potential. Rather, let's pray for a greater vision even if the journey may be uncertain and uncomfortable, because the success of our new life depends on God's infinite potential.
You know what happened to the potatoes? Though not a single raindrop touched the dry and thirsty land in Zulu, Africa, when the harvest time came, Angus and the whole community had just witnessed a humongous surprise. The potatoes underneath the bed of "dust" were the biggest in Angus' farming history.