“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:35 (NKJV)
I began this piece without a thought in my head as to its direction or content. But then, that’s how most us live our lives when we stop to think about it. We leave school, bright eyed and bushy tailed; we have our future perfectly mapped out. But then we discover that we are subject to the vagaries and caprice of the world around us. Our dream job may elude us. And that first job often determines the direction our whole lives will take, from school-leaver to retiree.
Most people don’t at some point determine to Do Something with their lives. That’s why, when we meet or hear of someone who has done just that, we admire them so much—their courage, their determination, their commitment. Stephen Sutton, the 19-year-old who died of cancer recently, didn’t have that much time to Do Something. But he ended up raising approaching £5m for cancer charities before he died, and for which he received the rare honour of a posthumous MBE from the Queen.
But then we Christians were quietly minding our own business when we were picked up by the scruff of the neck and forced to face what we were. Then we were offered a chance to change and with alacrity or with reluctance, eventually we accepted the offer. We ‘bought in’ to Christianity. We set out to change our lives with God’s help, and we looked for a certain future, a given goal, sure promises.
Why, then, do so many Christians lose heart, give up? In our age, in the west at least, when Christianity puts us under little external pressure does this seem so particular a problem? In part, I think it is to do with that very lack of external pressure. In our age, the wearing away by Satan and the World is as constant as a dripping tap, and as deadly. We actually have to live our Christian lives in the face of persistent and relentless opposition, including from ourselves—subtle and often unseen, but nonetheless always there, always against us.
In the western world, most Christians are not called in this day and age to hazard their lives in missionary work, or risk ending up as cannibal fodder in the jungles of the East; but our missionary work, of being unremitting lights in an ever-darkening world, is as difficult and relentless. John 15:8 says, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” We have not been called to an easier option, rather the opposite. We need to be so careful in our walk. Landmines and traps litter our progress, but the rewards for us will be the same as those missionaries of old.
Gracious Father, how reassuring to understand that your grace and faithfulness doesn’t rely on us. We have, of course, our part to play, but this follows your graciousness. We give you thanks for your goodness, your love and your mercy toward us. And this we pray in Jesus’ name.
Study by John Stettaford
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