A couple of years ago we were sitting around talking with some friends about this plan for a community God had placed in our hearts. Talk turned to spiritual gifts, and we mentioned that God blessed us both with the gift of giving. We had struggled through some very tight financial situations, and we both believed that God had brought us through those times so that he could instruct us on how little we could live on. That way, when He does bless us financially, we will have already formed living habits that will enable us to give more and consume less. Well, I then said something that I almost immediately wished I could take back.
Have you ever said something and immediately had the feeling that God said "Hah, I was just waiting for you to say that. Now I can use you"? Just like the time a friend told me I should teach a class, and I responded "Sure, but God hasn't given me anything to talk about yet". Slam! He suddenly knocked me upside the head with a subject to teach on. (another Homer Simpson d'oh moment for sure).
Well, I told these folks that I was sure glad God had blessed us with a desire to be givers, and hadn't called us to be missionaries in one of those hot places with lots of mosquitoes, or worst yet, martyrdom. Now, aren't you glad God hasn't called you to be a martyr....yet anyways. As soon as I said it, I could hear God say. "Are you sure I haven't? And who is to say I won't?" Wow, I'm not sure that was what I wanted to hear!
That moment has never left my mind. In fact, I have meditated on it. And I have delved deeper yet into my Bible. I think I finally realizing some things.
Do you realize that God never tells us to preserve ourselves in the Bible? Never in his instructions does God say "Do this, unless it will provoke your suffering, or endanger your safety". It doesn't say Love your neighbor as yourself UNLESS he puts his stuff on your side of the property line or raises his hand against you. It doesn't say Thou shall not kill BUT if someone is threatening you it is okay to kill to preserve your own life or to hold on to your stuff. It doesn't say to honor your father and mother ONLY IF they are loving parents. God knows we are going to encounter situations in which we will be tested in our obedience. We will have times when we will be given the choice between honoring God and preserving ourselves. Often we fail. I know I do, and I'm sure that sometimes you do too. Ever wonder why there aren't more martyrs? In moments of suffering we often denounce our faith. Very few people are strong enough in their relationship with God to cling to Him regardless of the personal cost.
What concerns me is how often do we ignore God's instructions and his calling for us because it endangers our sense of comfort or security? Do you think God only calls people in third world countries to be martyrs? Or do you think that in our pursuit of comfort and self-preservation we drown out his calling?
What about missionaries? Aren't we all called to spread the teachings of Jesus Christ - to make disciples of all nations? But how often do we interpret that to mean folks in our own neighborhoods. You know - the ones that are just like us, and already open to receiving the Word. After all, we don't want to step outside our comfort zone, and we certainly don't want to make anyone else feel uncomfortable. Very few of us are dedicated enough to go into hostile areas, where we may not have drinking water, and there are huge mosquitoes among other dangers, to teach others about the love of Jesus Christ. We don't even want to give up satellite tv and high speed internet! "God, ya know, I would love to serve you and go to Africa to help the orphan children. But I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to find a Coke Zero there, and I just don't know if I can go without one that long." Sounds silly, I know, but I do that all the time! Do you?
It humbles me when I compare what Jesus did and continues to do for me with what I am willing to do for him. I have finally realized something though. There are no good or bad spiritual gifts or callings. Any opportunity to serve God should bring me irrepressible joy. The greatest tragedy in my life would be to be so concerned with my own comfort and preservation that I would miss such an opportunity.
Isaiah 6:8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? And I said, Here am I; send me.