Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found. ---Psalm 32:6
As we have all seen the events in Aurora, Colorado, unfold over the last several days it is gut-wrenching. Many non-Christians ask "Why would a God of love allow something like this to happen?" They need to know why, they need someone to take the blame for this. Maybe they will become bitter or maybe they will learn to know who Jesus is through it.
As Christians, we have a different perspective. We know that the world in which we live is temporary and it is evil. Since the Fall of Man the world has been under a curse, subject to decay. Romans 8:20-22 says:
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
There is evil in this world - it is caused by man's free will. The same free will that caused this man in Colorado to kill innocent people is the same free will that allows you and me to not kill people. God doesn't allow just "good choice" free will - that defeats the purpose. If this world did not contain evil, there would be no reason for us to seek out the better option - salvation. For those not willing to accept this, they will continue to ask "why" this happened.
As I read Psalm 32:6 (above) I couldn't help but realize that God will always be available to us, will always be there (He's not the one making it hard to be "found"). The evil in this world is becoming more and more prevelant and is closing in, making it harder for some to find Him. It puts a greater, more urgent calling on those of us who are saved, who know Him. We have to do greater, wider, more intese work to reach people.
During this "furnace of affliction" God has opened my eyes to my own work for Him. The work I was doing before wasn't bad work, it wasn't wrong work - it was teaching, leading, volunteering. But I was mainly doing all of my ministry in the comfort of my own church or in settings among Christians. I have been convicted that that is not enough.
I believe that God does 3 things with Christians:
1) Let's them continue His work because they are doing exactly what He wants them to do. They are serving in the ministry He has called them to and they are being productive, active and joyful in it. This is probably a smaller portion of the people.
2) Let's them continue in their self-absorbed lives. These people are probably serving, but they may be doing so out of obligation or habit and not because they want to serve in the name of Jesus. This is the group I was in until 9 months ago. This is not a bad group; but it's a group in which people are going through the motions and just "surviving". This is the soccer mom group that has so much on their daily to-do list that they will never, ever get it all done. They squeeze God and service in when they can. They will get to the end of their lives and wonder what in the world they did (this is also the group that finishes a busy, tiring, stressful day or week and wonders what in the world they actually accomplished; they can't recall where their time went; they can't recall a single life they enriched or made better). Look at the pace they are setting for their children and the lessons they are teaching them. My heart breaks when I think about it (more on this subject another day). This is probably the majority of Christians today.
3) Plucks them from their #2 life and completely empties them - through tragedy, accidents, illness or some other form of significant loss or awakening. These people have a chance to sit back, re-evaluate and consider making a difference. They can see that God is so much bigger than their little lives. They realize that God is allowing them an opportunity that most don't get. They see the world so differently than anyone else because of their pain. And I believe that if you are in group #2 and you don't look at warning signs and signals, you will soon be in group #3 if God wants to use you in a significant way.
I now realize that I should have, as all of us should, regularly consider where we're serving. We should not continue to serve out of obligation or habit. We should regularly re-evaluate if we're where God wants us. We should consider other opportunities. We should think beyond our own church walls.
In our world today I believe it is getting harder and harder for people to find God. Not because He's not where He's always been but because of all the evil closing in. As Christians, we need to be sure that we are actively serving, living out a faith and life that others seek out and not just rushing, racing, checking off to-do lists just to get through the day. I'm sure 9 months ago I would have wondered, "How can I remove anything from my to-do list; it's all so important?" It's funny but now my daily to-do lists are about 3 items long and none of that is critical; if it doesn't get done, it will keep. Yes, others have picked up some slack but I've also changed the way I do a lot of things and certainly changed the way I see things - anyone can do it if you really want to.
I have a friend that I rarely get to see b/c her life is so busy. During the school year she always says, "Well, summer will be here soon and life won't be so hectic." Then I don't hear from her all summer and close to school starting she says, "We're so glad school's about to start and we can back into a routine and life won't be so hectic". And I know her situation is not unique.
We try too hard to be too many things to too many people. Do we ever stop and wonder what the only person (or being) that really matters thinks?
There are a lot of people out there, a lot, doing really great things for God. No doubt. They walk so closely with Him that they can manage life and take advantage of every opportunity and calling He has for them. They are that elite group #1 I described above.
But I think the sad truth is that so many more are just getting by, just surviving - those in group #2. I was there and now have the unique advantage of hind-sight. Having "been there" I know that without a tragedy or significant event, it will be extremeley difficult for those people to completely adjust their lives and their to-do lists. But the Bible assures us it can be done:
With man this is impossible, but with God ALL things are possible. ---Matthew 19:26
I wasn't one of the ones who proactively changed my ways. And so now I have been emptied; all of who I was has been stripped away - very painfully I might add. However, I feel blessed that I am now in group #3 and I pray with everything in me that I will make my heavenly Father proud.
If we all fulfilled our callings the Light of the world would far outweigh the present darkness. Take time to re-evaluate your ministry, your day, your to-do lists. One of Lydia's favorite phrases that she pretty much made up and uses out of context is "What Matters?" Even though when she uses it I have no idea what she's talking about, it's an extremely applicable question in light of our role in this life...