Monday, May 1, 2017

What's the big deal?

(written by Pastor Joe)
The Word for today: Luke 21:1-24
Are you a big deal? How do you qualify the answer? How do you know?
In the early verses of today's passage, the disciples get a quick education on what a big deal is to God- three examples are given, but only one is singled out as the real deal.
1. The Rich putting their offerings in- NOT impressive to God
2. The adorned and noble structure of the Temple- NOT impressive to God
3. The two half-cents of a poor widow- NOW that's enough for Jesus to take notice.
We live in an age that promotes the exact opposite of these accounts. We are impressed by power and wealth. We are impressed by the size or outer beauty of things. We all know about it when Warren Buffet or Ted Turner or Bill Gates make a very large, public donation "out of the abundance of their wealth." But the real people who faithfully give, and serve, and sacrifice remain anonymous. Even within American Christianity, so much attention and fanfare is given whenever some minor celebrity, actor, musician or athlete professes faith in Christ. The are almost guaranteed to get a book deal, and become an instant regular on the Christian speaker circuit.
Those kinds of stories used to move me. But not so much anymore. I say- get back to me after five years, maybe ten, and then we'll all see if you really have anything to say. Their conversion may be legitimate. Their story may be very valuable. But what really moves me is not some celebrity "endorsing" Jesus, but rather the small glimpses of faithful, anonymous saints who've been doing fierce battle for the Kingdom of God, often with little accolade. I want you to know that if you are in that camp- you inspire me 1000 times more than the Christian celebrity du jour.
I had the privilege of having a conversation with one such woman last week. She, in her twilight years, was talking all about the ministries she was involved in before time and circumstances made it impossible for her to do so. She shared with me that she wondered if anyone in our church today remembered her service for the Lord. Good question. Given that situation, I was tempted to give a nice, generic reassurance: "Of course they do!'
But the truth is, I myself was unaware of any of her past activities and contributions. The truth is, from a human perspective, all her years teaching Sunday school, sharing the Gospel, taking care of children in the nursery, are completely unknown to 80% of the current church congregation. That number increases each year as we say hello to newcomers and goodbye to old friends. So, I was so glad that I didn't fudge the truth but told her instead "God knows."
As I read today's passage, it reassured me that I had answered correctly. And now, I have an even greater sense of that reality. All of my greatest accomplishments, all the things I pour my life and heart and soul into will ultimately go unnoticed by people. I will be forgotten by mankind. Maybe it won't be for a generation or two after I die, but it will eventually happen.
But that is exactly where God comes in. God knows! He knew all about the amazing faith and sacrifice demonstrated by the widow. He knew all about the fleeting nature of even the most impressive donations and the most impressive Temples. God knows.
And so, for this reason, and this reason alone, we struggle on. We fight the good fight of faith. We endure. We press on even when no one else seems to care or respond or even notice. Though we are misunderstood or opposed or heckled or patronized or ignored. We keep on, we blog on, we keep praying, and keep our nose in the Word. God alone knows what a big deal really is, so I am ditching the public accolades and following the widow.
Once again I am reminded of Paul's amazing piece of encouragement to us all: "Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:59)
Praise God that it is not!

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