Do You Do Your To Do?

NeglectWhen I examine the landscape of Christianity, I think our practical theology is so skewed that it’s more twisted than a Kansas twister. The focus of the church today seems to be more on a person’s bank account than on the salvation of no-account sinners.

Contrast this to Luke 4:18: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

This To Do List of Jesus should be the lens through which we view the mission of the church, and the rhythmic cadence that calls us to march in step with His command to:
• Proclaim the good news of the gospel to the poor
• Proclaim freedom to the enslaved
• Open the eyes of the blind
• Open our arms to the oppressed

Which of the items above is on your To Do List? How do you view the poor and needy? There has been a tendency throughout the history of the church to overlook the “least of these” instead of looking out for them.

This was the case in Acts 6: “Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.”

“Neglect” and “daily” are the key words in the Scripture above. “Neglect” refers to a side by side comparison for the purpose of value, and “daily” refers to the frequency of the distribution.

What does your daily distribution consist of and who do you neglect? Are your prayers reserved for just your family and friends or do they include the poor, needy, and the misfits of society?

Are you so focused on getting more and achieving personal happiness that you forget the enslaved, the blind, and the oppressed? If so, you’ll find happiness fleeting and never discover true contentment.

The Apostle Paul said: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4).”

Paul experienced many “have” and “have not” moments in his life, and he knew that to “have not” Christ was to not have contentment. From the moment he met Jesus, Paul focused his life on the To Do List of his Lord. It became his mission and goal, and it is the secret to living a life of contentment.

The Thunder of Pain

Shape of the heartGod was in the business of dealing with hurting hearts long before Billy Ray Cyrus became a one hit wonder singing about an “achy breaky heart.” Psalm 34:18 supports my statement: “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart.”

When our hearts ache, we feel less like Jesus who walked on water and more like Peter who sank. When Peter began to focus on the howling winds of adversity, he was deaf to the quiet voice that promised: I will never leave you or forsake you.

Warm fuzzy platitudes, and comfortless clichés do little to alleviate the pain that overwhelms us as the waves do the sand on the sea shore—one wave followed by another. The anguish of pain is a stark reminder that we are mere mortals. Henri Nouwen once said that “Christ becomes most present when we are most human.”

The family of Lazarus had some very “human” expectations of Jesus. After all, they were some of Jesus’ closest friends—and they expected more. They expected Jesus to arrive earlier and they expected Him to heal their dying brother.

When expectations meet reality, disappointment can be the result. This reminds me of something Kay Arthur said, and I’ve quoted it before: “The disappointment has come—not because God desires to hurt you or make you miserable or to demoralize you or ruin your life or keep you from knowing happiness. He wants you to be perfect and complete in every aspect, lacking nothing. It’s not the easy times that make you more like Jesus, but the hard times.”

Philip Yancey has made a similar statement: “We tend to think, ‘Life should be fair because God is fair.’ But God is not life. And if I confuse God with the physical reality of life- by expecting constant good health for example- then I set myself up for crashing disappointment.”

C.S. Lewis reminds us that, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

During the difficult and painful times of life, we should remember that, “Hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us (Romans 5:5).” Perhaps Lewis had this verse in mind when he wrote: “When pain is to be born, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.”

When disappointment comes and the aching of your heart is so intense you think it might not beat again, you may be closer to God than you think. This is because, “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart.”

If you can tune out the thundering pain for just a moment, you might hear His quiet voice: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-20).”