Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him (James 2:5)
(This has kind of turned out to be a novel, so bear with me)
A 21st century Western world wonders why they can’t see Jesus. We plead with Him to perform the miracles of The Bible within our ‘mundane’ existence, we bid the Holy Spirit to come at our church gatherings as a means of receiving his gifts rather than His challenges and we don’t welcome the the small soft voice, but the fanfare and fireworks. We long for dreams, signs, visions and encounters for ourselves, and we jump on the back of other people’s stories of God’s faithfulness and provision often without the capability of telling our own. We become like the fisherman just off Gailee’s shores, seemingly toiling but not ‘taking’ anything. Why can’t we see Jesus? Answer: because we don’t need Him enough.
We haven’t become expectant of God but expecting of Him (I think there’s a difference). We expect God to heal our problems after a snug day working at the office, or we expect the Holy Spirit to just slot into our everyday habitual lives where our biggest form of suffering for Jesus has been the snide remark when we tell a friend we’ve spent our Sunday at church. We live lives free of risk when infact God calls us to risk everything. Christianity was, and is not a call to be comfortable, it’s a call to surrender and to pick up our cross (Luke 9:23). The Disciples knew that more than anyone. I’m sure we’ve all sung it- “You can have all this world, but give me Jesus” do we mean that? Can we echo Paul when he says to live is Christ and to die is gain?” (Philippians 1:21), that’s no light statement and, surrendering never came easy to anyone. The cost of something proves it’s worth, and so if it didn’t cost us anything then it probably wasn’t worth anything (yeah, i’m cringing at that corny line too). This though, only proves the worthiness of God who is our greatest prize.
Yet, instead of living in light of this, we become de-sensitised and easily distracted as we live for the things of this earth, investing ourselves in things which will soon fail and fade. We bargain with God; we tell him He can have our 10% but not our 100%, our Sundays but not our weekdays, our music but not our drinking addiction. We live lives of plenty where God is on mute and a mere addition, as we keep hold of the very things that stop us from seeing more of God. We give Him a portion and expect Him to prove Himself. Well, God doesn’t owe us anything or need to prove anything. It’s not God who should dance for us, it’s us who should dance for Him (Matthew 11:16-17).
I think a big part too is that we have become a proud people where we see “denying ourselves”(Luke 9:23) as more of a burden than a blessing. We shower pity on the third world, largely unaware of the poverty in our own lives. To see Jesus we need to be willing to see. Corrie Ten Boom wrote that “you may never know that JESUS is all you need, until JESUS is all you have.” I saw this tried and tested in Kenya. Materially yes, the country is desolate but their understanding of their poverty drives them to God making them rich both in spirit and community. As a result of this Timothy says, they will inherit the Kingdom of heaven. They are rich in faith because they have allowed God to take his worthy place where we have never enabled God, or given Him the space to be all we need.
When I was last visiting Kenya, I got to join in with the voices of 70 boarders from an all girls’ school in Limuru and praise and worship God for around two hours. The tin building where we gathered could not contain the glory being lifted to God that morning. After worshipping the girls have a chance to come forward and present something to the rest of the school. This can be anything from a dance, to a poem or a song. One girl came to the front after we’d all sang ‘seek ye first’ and she echoed the need for Jesus to be at the very centre of our lives and for us to be seeking after Him and not what our world will try and tell us we need to look for. She spoke of her Mum being her idol, and finding it easy to put all her hopes and trust into her. She would ask her mum to pray on behalf of her and had come to believe that her mum was all she needed. As the girl went on she mentioned that her Mum had died two years before, and though painful- it took her mum’s death to lift God up into his rightful place and to know that Jesus was all she needed, and that she would pray for her life to remain that way. This was the cry of a sixteen year old heart.
We so easily store our hopes in friends, fashion, technology and media believing it to hold the answers. I saw Kenyans call upon Jesus not for provision for a holiday later in the year, but to have food for the day. Not for weather to enable a nice day at the beach, but for rain to water the land for food, not for a thinner body, or a prettier face, but for wisdom of doctors in providing medication to heal their sick and dying child. They know the provision of God daily because they reach out to Him daily. They’re rich in faith because they give him room to exercise His faithfulness and steadfastness.
After reading Mark Buchannan’s book ‘Your God is Too Safe’ I feel like I’ve started writing like Him. So, if i’m being too punchy and forthright then maybe we can blame him. But, aside from that, what he ultimately says in his book is so true. We as Christians are not made for borderland yet many of us are there. We’re stagnating in a mediocre and lukewarm life where God is wanting, and willing to beckon us out into the valley beyond.
What I have written is as much as a challenge to me as it is to you. I’m a culprit of everything I’ve condemned, and though I know God does speak and the Holy Spirit is showing many of you incredible things, there is so much more for us that He wants us to taste if we are only willing. I have found that it is when I have put myself so far out of my comfort zone that I can see my reliance shift so far that it no longer becomes about what I can do alone, but what I can do through God, and with God. Yet, I’m not meant only to feel this sensation monthly but ‘daily’ (Luke 9:23). And, as Jesus said that, James calls the church to “listen” not for a brief moment of attention at the point of writing, but to alter our lives to listen. *Has* God not chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? Yes, I believe he has. I also know that I want to be amidst those ‘chosen’. I long to know Jesus better and see my faith explode as I filter away the things of this world and give Him his righteous place. I long to boast of the wonders He has done in my life, not in a quest to make myself better or bring any praise to myself, but to bring Him all the glory He deserves, and, I long for His inheritance not as a means to escape the throws of the devil but as an invitation to spend all of eternity with my Saviour.
Do you want to see Jesus?
Jim Eliot- “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”