April 30, 2018

It is another beautiful Monday morning and it is good to be home. After being gone for two weeks it feels a little strange sitting back at my desk this morning. I almost feel guilty for being so comfortable this morning, sitting here drinking my morning coffee. I am reminded of many people around the world who woke up this morning hungry or tired or depressed without hope or longing to be united with their family or most importantly, facing a life without Jesus Christ. They are across the oceans and they are here. We are called to be salt and light to them. Look around today.
Today I want to talk a little about suffering (this may or may not be coming to a sermon series near you). I am thinking about a young man, who I cannot name because this goes on the internet, but as I tell his story some of you will know who I am talking about. He is a young man who grew up in a Muslim country and who came to the West and found Jesus and his life has never been the same. But life has been tough for him from the beginning. He lost his father due to the war in his country and he had an uncle who wanted something very different for him. But he chose to come west to find a new life. This new life as a refugee was hard and lonely. He had to learn a new language (he learned more than one new language) and he had to start his schooling over, back in Middle School. He graduated from High School at a much older age than most and it was in that period that he found Jesus. But when he found Jesus his mother and the rest of his family shunned him. Even though they were many miles from him and he only had the briefest contact with them it was still a very hard thing for him to know that his family no longer considered him worthy of their love or attention. They no longer wanted anything to do with him. His isolation was virtually complete . . . except for Jesus. He had found His Savior and He found what life was really all about. He found his true purpose in life, why God had put him in the situation he was in. He began to share with other Muslims about this Jesus and he began to see many of them come to find salvation. During this period he was discipled by more mature believers who explained to him the mysteries of Scripture. They helped him grow in his walk with the Lord. He grew stronger in his faith and he was consumed with a passion for sharing this with those who came from his home country.
But life was not suddenly easy for this young man. His salvation did not bring riches or comfort. He barely had enough money to live on and sometimes he had no physical place to call home. And yet there was an infectious joy in his life that was unmistakable to those who met him. His life was still hard but there was a great sense of peace because He was doing what God calls all of us to do, to reach out to those around us and to share the good news of Jesus Christ.
We met this young man a year ago and we fell in love with him. Jennifer and I tell him he is like our 4th son. He proudly tells others this as well. His passion for Jesus and for the lost is amazing. He spends each day telling others about Him. He teaches bible studies and shares about Jesus to Muslims who are searching. He continues to be discipled and he continues to study God’s word. When a Muslim asks him a question it is usually one he has heard dozens of times before and he already knows the answer. He is tireless and never looks for days off or even vacation. He puts his needs below everyone else. He eats only what is necessary to keep his body going and often in our times together refused to even allow us to buy his lunch or dinner.
You may be thinking that this young man is weird or strange or odd. But nothing could be further from the truth. He may seem unique to us but only because his life is more closely aligned to God’s will for all of us than our own. Yes, he still has human needs and emotions. He is not a robot. He longs for a wife and a family like most of us do. But he does not long for wealth or things or a white picket fence. Just today Jennifer received a message from him and a particular housing option did not work out so he is basically homeless for the time being. He has been for some time. He needs a place to stay. So pray that God will open up that door for him. His last year has been very tough. He lost a man who was his fatherly mentor and his mother became ill and as the oldest son (though still shunned) he believed the burden of her medical bills fell on him. But he is not defeated. He has been knocked down but he has gotten up and God continues to use him. His joy is not gone.
I tell you this story today not to make you feel guilty or to bring glory to this young man. I tell it to remind you and me of how far we have fallen into the trap of Satan and the things of this world. I look at this young man as an example and a hero of the faith. Even though I am almost twice his age and have many years of theological education I still see in him a life to be emulated and copied. I’m not saying I want to be homeless or to live his exact life. What I am saying is that when I hold my life up to his I see many areas where I am lacking. I place more importance on things that do not matter. I find myself looking at life through a very different lens. Instead of seeking something else to make my life a little more comfortable I should be seeking ways to seek Christ more. I freely admit I don’t have the same gifts this young man has. I could never do what he does. God has not called me to do that. But I can learn from him. I am humbled by him. I am inspired by him. I am reminded that much of what we do is insignificant in the Kingdom.
Don’t pray for ease and comfort today. Don’t pray that you never face suffering. God can use suffering in our lives to mold them into His perfect shape for us. Pray that God would help you to have a single focus today . . . a focus on Him and His Kingdom!!
I will be out of town next Monday through Wednesday for a Pastor’s Conference so the next blog won’t be for two more weeks. I want to thank the nameless couple who provided the funding for me to attend this conference. I hope you will pray for me that God will speak to me afresh during this brief time away.
I am ON MISSION Today! Are You?