Sustaining the Mission

“A major difficulty in sustaining one’s mission is that others who start out with the same enthusiasm will come to lose their nerve. Mutiny and sabotage come not from enemies who opposed the initial idea, but rather from colleagues whose will was sapped by unexpected hardships along the way.”
— Edwin Friedman

As I read this quote I was reminded of how many times I have seen this happen. For example, I immediately thought of Jesus and the twelve.

God,

Help us be faithful to Your mission whatever the unexpected hardships along the way. Help us be bold and courageous rather than fold under pressure. And may we do everything with love.

In Jesus’ name,
AMEN.

A Word on Faith

“When all around us the air is full of vague rumors of a newfound faith which is free of effort and tolerant of everything save toil and pain, it is time to speak out boldly and to say that true Christianity is the most costly possession in the world, that it still knows but one road, which leads over Calvary, and still has but one symbol, which is a cross.”
R. Somerset Ward
quoted in The Beautiful Fight by Gary Thomas, page 196.

Rugged Cross of a White Activist

The Chicago Tribune recently published an article by Rich Kogan about a white activist by the name of Edwin King. The article begins. . .

In the autumn of 1963, members of the Ku Klux Klan burned a wooden cross on the lawn in front of the home of Rev. Edwin King, the white chaplain of historically black Tougaloo College in Jackson, Miss.

This act of cowardly intimidation came in reaction to King’s efforts in organizing a kneel-in campaign by students to desegregate Sunday morning worship services at churches in the city. It was one of many horrors suffered by King, a protégé of civil rights leader Medgar Evers and a man who has been called “the most visible white activist in the Mississippi civil rights movement.”

He was many times arrested and jailed and beaten before and after the cross burning. Six days after Evers was assassinated, a car in which King was riding was run off the road by a car driven by the son of a rabid segregationist.

His face smashed through the windshield and as he lay bleeding, he could hear the laughter of the white members of the crowd that surrounded the wrecked car and bodies.

You can read the entire article, entitled Rugged cross: Evil couldn’t triumph over this legacy of faith by clicking here.

Among God’s Churches

“We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you” (2 Thessalonians 1:3-6).

Too often life among God’s churches is far removed from the home on the range, you know, “where seldom is heard a discouraging word.” To hear some tell it, anytime you see a church that is thriving, the reason must be they have abandoned the truth. The idea of there being a church where faith is growing more and more, and where love is increasing, is to them, just foreign. To hear others tell it, anytime you see a church suffering, the reason must be because they haven’t embraced the truth. The idea of there being a faithful church having to hold on through tough times of trial is to them, just foreign.

Too often when a church is going through a great time of spiritual growth the word circulating among the churches is negative. Perhaps there is a root problem of jealousy or bitterness. Maybe there is an unhealthy sense of competition spawning fear that another congregation’s successes somehow put us in a bad light. So to make ourselves look better, we throw out as many filthy rumors as we can about the other church and hope some of it sticks. And who knows, if some of it sticks maybe some of their members will come place membership with us since we are the only faithful and true congregation.

Too often when a church is going through a time of great persecution the word circulating among the churches is negative. Perhaps there again is a problem rooted in an unhealthy sense of competition. Maybe if we tell everybody what a rough time the other congregation is having we will look better. Why would anyone want to stay at a congregation facing all those problems? Maybe some of their members will get discouraged enough to come place membership with us.

Paul’s approach in the message he spread among the churches was different from what we sometimes experience. When a congregation experienced growth in love and faith Paul circulated a word of thanksgiving among the churches. Look at what God is doing through this church! Be thankful! And when a congregation experienced trials and suffering Paul circulated a word of encouragement among the churches. Look at their endurance! See how God is empowering them! And when Paul saw the church at Thessalonica enduring persecution and growing all the while he circulated a positive word among the churches.

“Therefore among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance. . . .(NIV)”

“We proudly tell God’s other churches about your endurance. . . .(NLT)”

“We tell everybody we meet in the churches all about you (MSG).”

Paul boasted about the congregation to other congregations assuming they would be overjoyed at what was happening. Paul did not spend his time here lashing out at those who troubled the churches. After all, he knew God as a just God, able to take care of those who stir up the trouble. Instead, Paul spent his time praising God for the wonderful things God was doing among His churches.

So let’s open our eyes to see God’s working among the churches. May the word that we spread among the churches be words of thanksgiving and praise for all God is doing.

Endurance

“It’s fantastic!”

According to The London Times those were the words of a woman who recently passed the test to receive her driver’s license.

To understand just how “fantastic” passing the test really was, you have to understand this woman is 50 years old and has been trying to pass the test since she was 17. That’s right, do the math, for 33 years she has been taking the test and failing it. She spent a small fortune on driver’s ed instruction in trying to pass the test.

While it is tempting to make fun of this woman, I will have to pass. After all, in this age of instant gratification we rarely witness someone wanting something badly enough to keep pursuing the goal through failure after failure.

The culture screams, “Right Now!” But God calls His own to be a people of endurance. Nothing builds up a spirit of endurance within our hearts like reading the scripture accounts of God’s enduring faithfulness to His people of old and fixing our eyes on Jesus as He endures the cross.

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus. . . .” Romans 15:4-5

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:2-3

Our God is dependably steady, and that’s what I want to be. I want to be more like Him, not giving up at the first sign of opposition or failure, but continuing to pursue the goal.

“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” 1 Timothy 6:11

She’s right, you know, “It’s fantastic!”