“His glory was that He laid aside his glory, and the glory of the church is when she lays aside her respectability and her dignity, and counts it to be her glory to gather together the outcasts.” Charles Spurgeon
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.” [Phil 2:5-7]
I have seen first-hand this truth: Real and satisfying joy is not found in fame, fortune or fancy cars, but in going, giving and great grace. I have said this before. The most fulfilled and satisfied believers are those who have left all for the joy of serving Christ by serving others. We, who live in America, are so conformed to the world that we are not even aware of how the riches of this world and the security they promise have become a stumbling block to our joy. I do not write as an outsider. I am fully conformed, too. I also struggle with the belief that if I can just get enough things I will be happy and secure. Then, according to my unbiblical reasoning, I will have enough so that I can share the excess with the needy of the world. How unworthy of the name of Christ is that?
If you could go with me to Malawi, you would be shocked as to how little you can possess and still be joyful. These believers live without electricity, without running water, without flushing toilets, without automobiles, without air-conditioning and without Walmart, and still exude joy in their worship that puts ours to shame. They do not know that they need what we have to keep them satisfied and joyful.
In one of the villages, one young man came up to me and asked me to take him to America. I said, “No!” He said, “Why not?” I said, “Because you wouldn’t want to come back to Malawi. You would be overwhelmed with the things that are there and be misled into thinking that joy is found in things. God has placed you here and this is where he wants you to serve him with joy.” Even while I was saying those things, I was feeling guilt at the hypocrisy of my own heart. In a few days, I would return to my country and my “things,” my TV, my running water and my Walmart.
What is it that can free us from such bondage? I am reminded of the words of that old, old chorus which declares: “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through; my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.” We don’t sing songs like that anymore. Not just because we are now cool and our songs are more “with it,” but because we don’t really believe it. We are so comfortable and chained to our American home that we don’t want to go to another country, much less to another world.
Am I being too harsh? Maybe, maybe not. I just know that I struggle here. I know Jesus said, “Go.” I know that I am entrusted with so many things that I am a very rich man compared to the poverty in the rest of the world. I know that the world is filled with needs that I have been gifted and called to help meet. But, I struggle with the desire to stay safe, comfortable and at ease. I think I am not alone.
What can free us from such a mindset? The answer is grace.
Grace is “unmerited favor,” but it is much more than that! It is power! It is the power of God to do what He has commanded. It is God working inside men and women of faith to give them both the desire and resources to do what he has called them to do. [Philippians 2:13-13] It is what caused the Macedonian Church, in the midst of severe trial and extreme poverty, to overflow with generosity. Grace produced the joy of giving so that they pleaded to be included in the offering to the struggling saints in Jerusalem, even though they had nothing. [2 Corinthians 8,9]
I thought about that as I sat at the table with missionary Chet and LeAnne Burns and their family. On my right and across the table sat Peter. Peter is nine years old and from Ethiopia. Someone left him as a baby on the steps of a Catholic Church and ran away. He is the thinker. He always has something to say and a lesson to give. Silas is also nine and also from Ethiopia. He was found abandoned on a garbage heap, perhaps by a teenage mother who wanted to avoid the shame and ostracism that she would endure having a baby born out of wedlock. He is the talker. Before we left, his mother heard him talking in the bedroom late at night. Entering the room she saw that the other two kids were fast asleep. She said, “Silas, who are you talking to? Peter and Elsie are asleep.” He said, “I know. I just had more words to say before I went to sleep.”
To my immediate right sat Elsie. We got to celebrate her 7th birthday while we were there. Elsie was dropped off at the children’s home by an uncle after her mother died in the village. It was not known how old she was but she was believed to be in some way mentally challenged. She did not move about, did not communicate at all, and showed no signs of being able to do so. She just lay on the floor motionless- until LeAnne came. For weeks LeAnne rocked her and held her. Eventually she responded to the love of this white woman and was taken home and adopted by the Burns. Trust me. She is now fully able to communicate. She does it all the time. The grace of Jesus flowing through the love of this couple has performed a miracle!
David is about 16. He was found on the streets of Lusaka, Zambia, after he was struck by a car. It was found that he was deaf and could not speak. Somehow, Chet found out that he came from Livingstone and went there to see if he could find his family. He eventually discovered that David was raised by his grandmother who was now deceased. David was alone in the world. So, the Burns took him into their family. He now communicates with his hands. He always has a great big smile on his face and is the first one to grab my bag as we head out for another seminar in the bush. He also is the one who I can count on to help me eat the goat, sema and cabbage that the leaders heap upon my plate.
Jesse Jackson tells of a time when he was walking across a campus with the president of the university and saw a male student, six feet eight inches tall holding hands with a midget coed only three feet tall. As he watched, the young man picked up the the girl, gave her a kiss, and sent her off to class. The president then explained what they had just witnessed. The young man was a star basketball player whose parents had both died at an early age. He vowed to take care of his sister. He was offered many scholarships from prestigious universities but only this one offered his sister a scholarship too. Impressed, Jackson went over to the basketball star and told him how much he appreciated him looking out for his sister. The athlete shrugged and said, “Those of us who God makes six feet-eight have to look out for those who he makes three-three.”
That is what the Burns have learned. Life is not about getting things and holding on. It is about receiving things from God and passing them on to others. It is about living and giving like Jesus did. What I want you to see is the weight of grace that has rested upon these servants who left all for the sake of Christ. There is no other way to explain it. They are not rich in money, but they are millionaires in grace. Grace is not meant to be hoarded but always flows outward to bless the hurting and the helpless to the glory of Jesus Christ.
This precious family is another evidence of that truth. If you want to know that same joy, pray that God will free you from thinking you need a safe and comfortable lifestyle. Ask for grace to enable you to break free from the fear of risk and adventure. Riches are not given to make us secure and comfortable. They are given to be shared with others. We in America are the six feet eight giants in a world of three feet three midgets. If we want to be like Jesus, if we want to know real joy, we need to stoop down and look after those God has made three-three.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Dr. Gary Rieben. © Give Me That Book. Email: Grieben@aol.com. Website: www.GiveMeThatBook.org. Postal: GMTB | P.O. Box 1045| La Quinta, CA 92247 USA | 619.829.2390
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