How Then Shall We Live?

Funny, how God works. Slowly opening my eyes, chipping through my shell. And eventually, bursting my comfort bubble.

I wrote about reading Outlive Your Life, and the question that haunted Max Lucado haunted me: "When your grandchildren discover that you lived in a day when 1.75 billion people were poor and 1 billion were hungry, how will they judge your response?"

We only have one short life. What am I doing with mine?
I have always been terrified of realizing at the end of my life that I've wasted it. As a child, I felt that God had a purpose for my life. But as I got older, I began to panic, thinking I could miss it when God revealed it to me,  and my life would be wasted. Or, that He wouldn't reveal it to me at all. My journals were filled with tear-stained pleas for God to just use me, anywhere, in any way. "I want to make a difference, and make at least just one life better for being here," I begged.

This week, I've realized again how complacent and comfortable I've grown, and my burden for the poor and those suffering around the world has doubled.

Last Sunday was missions Sunday, and the message of the main speaker especially convicted me. He challenged to evaluate where you invest: in the earthly things of this world, or in the eternal.

It's so easy to covet the status symbols and all the stuff we can buy in America. But deep down, we all know that "he who dies with the most toys" really doesn't win. He loses. Big.

He misses out on the blessings God promises those who sacrifice for His sake:
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38
It's so easy to look away from the eyes of starving children, hurting women, battered men, and pretend they don't exist. They're just numbers, difficult for us to comprehend. It's so easy to check out, walk out, turn it off, and go back to searching for our next toy.

Someone else will take care of them. We squirm. We briefly consider what we could do, but then our "logic" kicks in. Why should I sacrifice anything for them? After all, God has blessed me. Doesn't he want me to be happy and enjoy it?

I don't see that "logic" in my Bible. I don't see God telling us to hoard our blessings and live happy, comfortable lives, oblivious to the suffering in the world.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." Matt. 16:24
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to shareIn this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Tim. 6:17-19
God's blessings come, not from keeping them for ourselves, but from giving them away.

The beautiful story Ann tells captures it so well:

“There once was a baby. And the baby was born into a family that was lost. Lost in a spinning, dizzy world and a long time ago, the family had had a map but one brother said it was outdated, irrelevant, and a sister threw it over a shoulder and who had memorized the red lines of the map? 

And instead of journeying in that direction headed toward home, the family all stumbled and fumbled around, tripping over each other and grabbing at things found on the road, all these things. But things never help you find your way home.
The worse of it was, that to ask for help to get home, the brothers and sisters needed to know their names, — how do you find home unless you know who you are? where you come from? — and they had forgotten their names. They had all forgotten who they really were.
The longer that they were lost, the more they forgot who they were, and the more selfish they became — because that is what happens inside when you’re scared there won’t be enough. So they hoarded what they had, and ate what food they found, and who would give away?
Some brothers went hungry, and some sisters, their stomach’s gnawed loud and late into the night, and the family forgot that they were one, all connected to each other, and when one ached, they all hurt —though in ways they didn’t even know. The baby was not hungry because the baby was the one who gave away.
The baby had given up the vaults of heaven to be born in the valley of a feed trough, and the cradle for the baby was the manger for the animals, the place where all the ones wandering in the fields came to be fed. Born in Bethlehem, the town with the name that means house of bread, the baby came to feed all the lost ones. The baby gave His life away to the lost ones that they might find their names and real selves.

It’s the season of the greatest give away ever, Christmas about the Christ who gave it all away.

Love that gave not to those who loved Him.

Love that gave not to those who could give back, but Love that gave to those who were poor, bankrupt, enemies – 

“And who will give away, and their lives?” I am telling the story now to me.Why is the world hungry when God’s people have bread? Are bread? What is there more to be in this life than to be bread for another man?” 
I hurt and I know it. 

~Ann Voskamp , excerpt from The Great Giveaway
How then shall we live? I think God asks different things of each one of us.

Maybe He wants some of us to sacrifice our time by taking time to pray for the needs of believers and non-believers around the world.

Maybe all He's asking is for a heart change. Instead of the "I worked for it, so it's all mine! I do what I want with my money!" attitude, maybe God wants us to be willing to give it all up if He asked us to, surrendering our bank accounts and belongings to Him.

Maybe He does want us to re-evaluate where we're spending our money in the coming year. If "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" is true, where is our heart? Is it in our entertainment? Our car? Our house? Our kids? Not all our priorities are wrong, but are they in the right order? Where are you investing?

One thing I have learned: it's essential to not look at what other people are doing, or not doing. You'll be discouraged, feeling like your gift isn't enough in comparison, or sorrowing for those who close their hearts. Or, you might become complacent, and content with the status quo, and miss out on the blessings God would give you.

I don't have it all figured out. I'm still wrestling with God. I know what's true, I just don't know what to do about it. I feel deep inside that He wants to use me to do...something more. I'm waking up in the night, I can't sleep until I find out what it is. I burst into tears randomly. I feel so small. I am so small. I am one person against such a vast world of pain and hate. Deep inside I know He can use me, but I wonder, how? Where? When? 

Perhaps I have been so busy searching, that I have forgotten to be still, and listen for His voice.

Perhaps I'm not alone. Do you need to be still and listen too? Let's strive to listen for His voice together this Christmas.

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