This morning our pastor started a three week sermon series on the armor of God and spiritual warfare. As usual, it was exactly what I needed to hear this morning and over the course of the next two weeks.
I think sometimes when Christians talk about spiritual warfare, we think of being pulled into obvious temptations such as an addiction to drugs, or alcohol, or pornography. Maybe we think about being tempted to skip church or our personal Bible study. All of those are very real spiritual warfare battles, and Satan tends to use something seemingly small like skipping church just this once, or just one drink when you know it's never just one, to develop a foothold that gradually leads to more and more.
For me currently, it's something completely different. The temptation has been to take the easier route; to step out of God's will and do what the world and myself knows will be easier.
I believe I'm probably in good company in that temptation. How many times do we take a step of faith to follow where He leads only to have another person or our own selves says "You do know this is going to be hard, right?" or "Are you sure you want to do this? Look at all of these obstacles"? Many times, it's fellow believers who are the first to offer a laundry list of excuses of why you shouldn't do something or all of the reasons it could be hard and every single thing that may go wrong. Sometimes your own words are twisted, or at times, God's words are twisted to provide proof of why you can't or shouldn't do something.
Bro. Danny touched on the consequences this morning of choosing any other path over God's will. When we think of stereotypical temptations I think that the reality of those devastating consequences is obvious and we can readily agree. But what if the temptation is to back down from something that God has clearly told you to stand your ground on? What if the temptation is to remain silent when God calls you to speak up?
It would seem that there are no devastating consequences and that instead, things will go much easier for you. Short term, that's likely true. But here's what we have to remember as Christians: we only see a small portion of the story. We can barely see the next page of our book, much less three chapters ahead, and even the next page that we think we see is often subject to change in an instant. God sees your whole story.
God never said that He would call you to an easy path. In fact, He tells us quite the opposite. He reminds us that in this world we will have trouble, but take heart because He has overcome the world (John 16:33).
For me specifically, there have been moments since we started the adoption process where it's been tempting to walk away and throw in the towel knowing the struggles and obstacles that likely lie ahead for us in this process. My own inner critic as well as a few physical voices in our lives have reminded us of what we already know; it's a demanding journey physically and emotionally. It's a lot to take on. Are we sure?
Well, no. I'm not sure of my own abilities in this journey. But what I do know is that I am called by a God to this path who equips me. I'm not sure of myself, but I'm sure of Him. My God is a mountain mover, and of that, I am sure.
I know that when those thoughts have crossed my mind or I've had someone say those things to us, instead of taking them straight to heart, I took them straight to God and He tells me a different story.
You see, God tells me a story of redemption. God reminds me that He adopted me and that there is nothing I can do to make Him love me more or less.
The world says: Look at all you've done to mess up! Are you sure you're able to do this?
God says: Oh my child, I've already forgiven that. Here are earthly opportunities to make it right. I'll never call you anywhere and then leave you to walk it alone.
The world says: Look at all of these obstacles! Why would you subject yourself to that?
God says: Look at all these obstacles; they pale in comparison to what I can do! I empowered David to slay a giant and Peter to walk on water. I protected Daniel in the lion's den and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. I empowered Moses to leave the luxurious life with Pharaoh and lead many people to freedom. I empowered Abraham with the faith to take Isaac up as a sacrifice, an unimaginable trek as a parent, knowing that God saw the whole story. My child, Job lost everything, everything but His faith in me, and I restored Him.
God rarely calls us to an easy path. God tends to show His glory through our stories, and often times, they are stories that shouldn't have been able to happen. That's so that the glory goes to Him and not us. We are merely a reflection. It's so that people look at our stories and say: "Their God, He has to be real. There's no other way. They shouldn't have been able to do that. But God. But look what God did."
God uses the unlikely to accomplish the impossible so that we can say "Look what my God did!".
For my husband and me, the adoption process is something that we know won't be easy. We are prepared for our hearts to be broken and we know that these are just the first of many moments when we will silently or aloud wonder if we should take the easier road and walk away.
But God reminds us that He didn't call us to start this process and then walk away. He called us to walk this path until He says this chapter is closed. He has called us to be living examples of what his mercy and grace does for a person, and to extend it to others. He has called us to live out His picture of adoption, the picture of His ultimate love and mercy and grace, in our own living room.
Adoption, though the long process is just starting for us, is the Gospel in our living room; for ourselves, for our daughters, for the children who come into our home, and for anyone who sees and knows that only God could have written this story.
It's easy to fall into the temptation of taking the smoother pathway. But if God calls you to the bumpy road with potholes and detours, in faith you take one step at a time, trusting that He will never leave you nor forsake you at any point on that road. We have to trust that the One who has already written all of our days, who intimately and infinitely knows and loves us, knows better than us.
We will hear the world, but we must listen to God.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
The Lord very clearly calls us to "go". Nowhere in the Bible does He tell us to become complacent, content to stay where we are, with attitudes of apathy. We should respond with a willingness to go where He sends us, no matter the cost.
The thing is, you don't respond to His call halfheartedly. Make sure you are truly ready to willingly go wherever He sends you.
It is not a call to take lightly. We are to be His hands and feet in all of the world. We are to love Him first and foremost. Then, we love His children; all of them. We have to be willing to humble ourselves and wash the feet of those around us. We have to be willing to sweat and get our hands dirty. Most of all, we have to be willing to let our hearts be broken in order to love the broken as Christ has called us to do.
Loving others wholeheartedly means, our hearts will most definitely get broken at times. But your heart will also be continually filled.
When you go, yes your heart will get broken and it will be hard more often than it is easy, but you will be rich in ways you never imagined. You will see that love and kindness can change the course of a person's life. You will learn to find joy in small moments and in the genuine smile of another person. You will feel the joy that comes from reaching out to another person and showing them love. You will forever carry the joy that comes from doing for those who can never repay you.
You may not ever be rich by the world's standards; in fact, you may be poor if measured in that capacity. But we have to abandon that standard of measurement and trade it in for the standard that says love and poverty cannot coexist.
When you buy a meal for the homeless person sitting on the bench, and then you take the time to sit down and eat with them, their smile and the connection with them will make you rich. When you take the time to bend down to a child's level and remind them of their worth, their embrace will make you rich. You become rich when the laughter of a hurting person fills your ears because you stopped to listen and then the two of you connected.
When God calls you to go, be ready. Be ready to have your heart broken in order for it to grow. Be ready to live a life you could never envision. Be ready for the hardships, the naysayers, and the days when you think it's not worth it. But also, prepare to be blessed beyond measure.
Here's the truth friends: love changes lives. Jesus changes lives, and in His abundant mercy, He chooses to use us in that process. Kindness changes lives. When you answer the call to go, the call extended to all believers, He will change your life as well.
Love is a funny thing. It's the only thing in this world that, the more you give, the more you gain.
We are called to live with abandon, embracing His will and following where He leads. Our comfort zones must be abandoned and traded in for the unknown that He calls us to.
If you're comfortable, ask Him to make you uncomfortable; so uncomfortable with the condition of this world that you can no longer sit idly by and let it continue. Ask for His eyes to truly see those around you. Ask Him to break your heart for what breaks His. He will answer that prayer and you have to be willing to no longer turn your head and look the other way to continue in your life of comfort.
We are called to serve. We are called to love. We are called to go.
Abandon apathy. Put on your walking shoes. Get your hands dirty. And go.