Great week teaching in Austria. I taught a Bible overview and how to develop and teach Bible overviews. The whole point of an overview is to point to how Jesus and the New Covenant of grace is the centre and goal of everything, so that people trust and worship him. I will do some subsequent posts on putting together a Bible overview. The thrill this time was watching God amazing people from France and Latvia and kyrgstan and Italy and Georgia and lots of other places all together.
I spent some time chatting with an old ministry friend and found that now in our 40s we have both noticed a similar thing among some of our friends that occasionally troubles us. This is that we both know people who are happy for other Christians to sacrifice and take risks to try to spread the gospel but who wouldn't dream of doing do themselves. Worse still are folk who are happy for gospel leaders to accept low levels of income that they wouldn't be happy with themselves.
You might rightly ask whether we just desire what others have rather than looking to God for his "well done". Simply envying people with more money. I don't think so because I think money-making can be a precious gift from the Lord. I have some very wealthy godly friends who find Jesus compelling. I am not after a glitzy life and they aren't either.
And I have friends with little money who seem to be Christians but don't seem to find Jesus utterly compelling over the whole of life. What troubles my friend and I is the percentage of Christians in the UK who somehow think that serious discipleship, and the sacrifices that go with it, leave you worse off. That self interest demands not wholeheartedly going for it with Jesus. Have a bit of Jesus but don't get too serious, hedge your bets a bit.
We both agreed that we want everyone to know not only are wholehearted disciples better off because of the adventure with God, but that we would pay to have the privilege of doing this stuff. Every decision anyone ever takes in their life to settle for something else rather than God, every choice to say "no" to faith, is a hammer blow struck against the health of our souls.
Recently after preaching as a guest in another church, a missionary couple spoke to me about how in their adopted country their house had recently been burnt down because of their Christian witness. They were comparatively OK about it. Why? Because they find Jesus compelling. I have another close friend who decided after a good degree to deliberately take a lower paid career path for his whole life than he could have done in order to remain available to do anything God says without hindrance. Why? Because they find Jesus compelling.
I honour these families and others like them. I want to challenge everyone I know, whether wealthy or poor, to have the same mind of being rich towards God and available to God. Are there sacrifices? Yes and no. Yes, your family may not get everything that is valued by the world. Yes, you might get your house burnt down. But no, when you are rich towards God you find him being immeasurably rich towards you. Why would anyone not want that?