Sunday, May 18, 2014

What a Job Offer!

To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure;  being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.” – 1 Corinthians 4:11-13

Last year I went on vacation with my daughter to the Dominican Republic.  While there we were on a beach one day and I saw some young men who were busy cleaning up the beach with rakes and buckets.  The sun was hot, they were wearing long pants and long sleeved shirts, and happy.  Not only were they happy, but joking around with each other, and smiling and laughing.

While I laid there watching them God spoke to me.  His words were “Would you become poor if that’s what I asked of you?”  I was glad I had on sunglasses because I started to cry when I knew the answer in my heart was “Please God! Not that!”  Yet, these people were, and it wasn’t money that was making them happy.  I think we put too much emphasis on what money can do for us, seeing it as a ‘blessing’, and too little emphasis on the blessings God can give us that have nothing at all to do with money.
Paul writes of his and Apollo’s’ circumstances to the church family at Corinth.  He tells them that they are hungry, thirsty, and poorly clothed.  He says they have been beaten. They are homeless.  They’ve been reviled and persecuted, and others have spoken badly of them.  They were made to be the lower class of people.

How many of us would choose that job over those offered around us today? 
Wanted: Inexperienced person to work 24/7 365 days a year, often having to travel away from your family and home with no definite time to return.  You will not receive enough wages and benefits to clothe or feed yourself.  Physical and emotional harm are not only possible but likely.  Hard labor may often be required.  It will be required for you to socialize with the outcasts of society, and speak out against inhuman and ungodly activities.  You may suffer as you’ve never suffered before, for a blessing larger than you’ve dreamed to receive in the future.  No monetary compensation will be given.  No heath care. No 401k. No dental or vision plans.

I dare say if this job offer received any responses at all it would be to the tune of “Are you kidding?” Yet one of the greatest preachers of the Bible, the Apostle Paul, made this his life.  And I dare say he had no regrets except those of the life he lived before accepting the position. 
We often read Jeremiah 29:11 which says “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”, and want to believe that God’s plans for us include abundance of our needs and wants.  Well, it didn’t for the Apostle Paul.  It didn’t for Thomas, who was crucified upside down.  It didn’t for Sister Teresa, who chose to serve God in the poorest of India.  It didn’t for many who have become unnamed martyrs trying to put the Word of God into the hands of those who have never heard it.

Friends, there is a greater blessing to be earned in service to God than a buck or two here and there.  What if your highest degree of happiness was in being poor, in sweeping a beach each day with a rake, going home to hard labor in a garden that fed your entire family and your elderly neighbors?  What if from that job and the friendships you made in it were the greatest pleasures you could receive?  We underestimate God’s blessings when we believe they are only to meet our physical and emotional needs.  And we further underestimate what God can do when we fail to step out in faith, as Paul did, and follow God’s calling on our life.  Yes, you may go hungry.  Yes, you may not be a fashionista.  Your entire wardrobe might fit into a single homemade dresser drawer.  Yes, you may walk from place to place because you don’t own a car, and you may not own a bed to sleep on at night. 
But if you become one that God looks at and says “Check her out! That’s my girl!” or “Well done my son! You've been such a good son!”, is it not worth more than that?  Is knowing that God, Almighty God, is pleased with you not worth more than all the money in the world?  The answer to that is in how much we value our relationship with God.

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