Tuesday, November 3, 2015

An impossible ideal?

~Tuesday Thoughts~

            “When we think we have it all figured out, that’s when we stop considering how we can be better.” Author Stephanie Morrill’s words ring true. Room for improvement always exists, especially in areas of faith, love, and good works.

`           However axiomatic these sound, love and good works mean a lot when thought about through the lenses of Christian faith. The world, if it tries at all, grasps at these two without giving the last a second glance. When so inclined, the world strives to love others and perform numerous good works. However, without faith these prove pointless. Works do not save men (Ephesians 2:8-9); they provide no more worth than filthy rags if done without God (Isaiah 64:6). Yet after becoming a Christian, one acquires the privilege of showing the world around him his faith by these two characteristics and many more. In the end one will never measure up to the perfect example of Christ. However, the importance of pondering His actions and trusting Him to work in us (Philippians 1:6) cannot be underestimated.

            Few Christians can boast of a faith that permeates their lives every day. Usually it serves as a side dish. Although on the plate, it serves neither as the main course nor as the much desired sweet. Waking up, most glance at their phones, not their Bibles. However, seeing it as an obligation, they will once in a while take the time to dust off their Bibles, missing the enjoyment and nourishment the Scriptures can provide. When problems come, most turn to other sources: doctors, counselors, self-help strategies that promise much but accomplish little. Often the idea of coming to God in prayer does not enter one’s mind until everything else has proved useless. Even going about their normal days, many entertain an agenda and try not to get “distracted.” They rarely go beyond others’ masks or dig deeper to see what others would want or need.

Jesus Christ has exemplified all these aspects of faith – reading Scripture, praying, reaching out – in the best way possible. Christ constantly quoted the Scriptures (for example, Matthew 22:41-46), showing the importance they held for Him. From resisting temptation (Matthew 4:1-11) to explaining prophecies (Luke 24:25-27), Scripture contained an answer, an application. Jesus, although God himself, constantly came to His Father in prayer. He gave thanks for the fish and loaves (Matthew 14:19) and prayed over His disciples and all believers (John 17:6-26). He rose early in the mornings specifically to pray (Mark 1:35). And even in the darkest, most painful hours He called out to God from the cross (Matthew 27:46). Also, for Christ, good works meant more than a hobby or extracurricular activity performed every once in a while. Executing God’s work nourished Him (John 4:34). Speaking to the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-26) and washing His disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17), He opened up an entirely new perspective of servitude.

            Faith portrays itself in love. One cannot love if he does not know God, and if one knows God he cannot help but love (1 John 4:7-8). Unlike what this world proclaims every day, love does not come and go away. Love is an action (1 John 3:18) and incorporates selflessness (1 Corinthians 13:5). With its constant advertisement of comfortable living, humanity encourages selfishness. It loudly declares the idea that if hardships arise one can give up on his loved one. How many divorces have been registered for the simple reason that it “got too hard”? The world puts so much into the feeling of love, it fails to consider the action of love. It applauds the first kiss much more than the first sacrifice of one’s plans for a friend or partner. 

            Christ, however, demonstrates the perfect example of love. The living God, He did not have to come into this world. Yet He came (John 6:38). He did not have to heal and teach; He does not have to be with Christians today. Yet He did (Matthew 12:15, Mark 1:21-22), and He is (Matthew 28:20). Dying for us and then rising (1 Corinthians 15:3-4), Jesus executed more action for worthless sinners than anyone on Earth can ever expect to accomplish. With an example so majestic no doubt can exist about His love and His ability to teach this love to His followers. 

            Another aspect of Christ’s life, His good works, often merit an in-depth discussion. Many people will hear of improvement and instantaneously think of “good works.” However, faith and God’s mercy always overpower whatever good works could offer. Works do not save (Ephesians 2:8-9), but can demonstrate one’s faith (James 2:18) and the transformation made by love. Over and over again the Bible tells us to remember the poor (Galatians 2:10), to encourage each other (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and to proclaim the Good News (Matthew 28:19-20). Yet today few people continually reach out to the poor or put away time in their schedules to encourage one another. Few go about a typical day searching for someone to share the Gospel with or for an opportunity to fight for justice.

Jesus, on the other hand, constantly served. He healed the sick (Matthew 12:15), encouraged His disciples (John 14:16-21), and proclaimed the nearness of His kingdom (Matthew 4:17). He died for this world (Romans 4:25)! Although He could have easily passed on all the hardships involved with coming to Earth, He did not. Everyone can greatly benefit from imitating His example of serving.

            Where can one get the strength to put faith first, to love others, and to help them even when that means self-sacrifice? God calls Christians to imitate Him (Ephesians 5:1), and He will not leave His disciples (Matthew 28:20) helplessly wondering how to accomplish that. One can do anything through Him (Philippians 4:13), including the improvement of his faith, love, and good works. God’s Holy Word promises in Philippians 1:6 (NIV), “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”     

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