This Lent Challenge reading through the NT has been very filling for me. Every day, I’m reminded of the power of God’s Word to strengthen His people. On some days, it’s been one little phrase that stands out, and on others, it’s been a whole big, familiar picture that takes on a new sheen. But last week, there was a series of passages that settled in to feed and disturb my soul. In a world where the status updates and twitter feed are constantly refreshing, these statements still loom in the background, consuming my thoughts as often as I can stop to reflect.
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (Hebrews 10:39)
The early Christians faced horrendous difficulties as they sought to gain momentum in the movement Jesus launched. The Roman empire, which dominated the day, had no use for what they saw as an upstart splinter of Jews. And the Jewish culture from which the movement emerged was dead set against letting Jesus’ Way gain any traction. Throughout the pages of Scripture, we find the early Christians facing beatings, jail, and executions at the hands of Jewish and Roman authorities. And yet they persisted. They didn’t shrink back. They were unstoppable.
Is it any wonder? Jesus had told His disciples that He was going to build His church and that nothing would be able to stand against it. He promised, when He left, that someone greater would come who would be a comfort and strength for His people and who would empower them to follow, even through the suffering He warned of. He also promised that no matter how intense the suffering may become, that He would return to claim His faithful bride. Faith in these promises was a consistent hallmark of the early church. Remembering the faith of his protege, Timothy, Paul said this,
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God… for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
I have to confess, I’ve done a much better job stoking the fires of others than I have of tending the flame of my own gifts. I love my students, and there is little that compares to being a part of God’s revealing Himself to them, then through them as they discover how He’s gifted them for service in His Kingdom. I believe that’s part of my gift – seeing potential where others just see brokenness… Seeing the beauty that could be made of someone’s life who may not even see it themselves, and helping their eyes to see. It’s the part that I’ve done well with and that I’m comfortable doing. But that’s not all, and I’ve tended to shrink back from fuller engagement of some of the less comfortable aspects of how God has gifted me. Over the past year, I’ve received a number of nudges and well placed, Godly elbows, but last week’s reading was more of a full on wake up call.
To fail to fully exercise the gifts He gives is to cease to live in faith. And as Hebrews says (11:6),
Without faith it is impossible to please Him…
Ouch. (And right after telling us that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” too!) If we want to please God (which I’ve found is always the best option), then we need to respond in faith and not the fear that His perfect love would cast out of our lives. Faith makes room for hope to flourish and for love to move. And that’s what His whole movement has always been about.
Sharing the hope of restoration and reconciliation with a world so desperately in need of both.
Exercising a love so deep, it staggers our own imaginations.
Is there some potential in your life that needs a jolt to be fanned into flame? Some gift that’s just waiting for you to engage it in service to the Giver? I’d love to help you do just that, if I can. Get in touch and let’s see if we can find some next steps to take.
[Tweet “Faith makes room for hope to flourish and for love to move.”]
[Tweet “To fail to fully exercise the gifts He gives is to cease to live in faith.”]