Hard to believe I haven’t written in over a year on Afflicted4Christ. Time sure does go by in a hurry; and my, how many things have changed. To let y’all know, our family is doing wonderful, all praise to His Holy Name. My husband has been restored health-wise and has a new job, we now have a new home, my children love their homeschool and co-op, and everything we have can only be attributed to Jesus. We have so much to be thankful for, it’s hard to put into words.
With that being said, a few months back I did have some heath issues and some other things I won’t mention here, that put me into a place where I had to discontinue being an area representative with Voice of the Martyrs. It sounds like a bummer on the surface, but in all honesty, it doesn’t matter because I will *never* not be a voice for the persecuted. I will labor to pray for them, work for them and remember them always, whether or not I am an official rep.
I never stop because I am commanded to do these things as written in Heb. 13:3 (actually, we are *all* commanded to. So please, be informed about their plight and what they risk for demonstrating their faith in Jesus Christ in hostile/restricted countries so you can pray for them more precisely. The VOM monthly newsletter is still free, so sign up!).
Now that things have settled a bit, I promise to write more, inform better, ask for prayer, bring attention to, and endeavor to help the Body of Christ that is “hard pressed”. I believe that one of the ways we can help them, is to relate to them based on 1 Cor. 12:26, “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it;”, and 1 Pet. 5:9, “Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.”
If we don’t experience to some degree of persecution by Godly living in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:12) now, how can we really interceed for them? This is where we must pray always (1 Thess. 5:17), study (2 Tim. 2:15), prove our faith and obedience to the Gospel (Rom. 15:18-19, 16:19) and be Spirit taught (1 John 2:27). I think this is very, very important.
Anyhow, I’m pretty sure I have said this before, and that is how God teaches me things all the time. Some are big lessons, some are small. I really love that about Him; that He holds on to me, that He protects me- even from myself. However, this one was big enough for me to heed the call to publish it in order to encourage others and give to them a blessing (even though it was painful on my end).
Much to my dismay (and I do have to catch myself on this, because it is SIN), I confess that I tend to “mentally criticize” the brethren; the brethren I am commanded to love, and to think no ill of, as written in 1 Cor. 13:5:
“[Love] doth not behave itself unseemly… [Love] thinketh no evil.”
(hint, hint: there is no “unless” written there. For example, “I can’t do this with my friend/sister/brother/husband/wife because they really hurt me, or they gossiped about me, or they lied to me, etc.” God doesn’t say, “Love them and think no evil, UNLESS they have hurt you in some way.” NO!).
If we are to think no evil of them in any way, then mentally criticizing them is sin (let alone publically, yikes!). We should be blameless in every way (Phil. 2:15) praying for them, or if need be (due to some type of sin on their own) gently restore them, lest we ourselves are tempted (Gal. 6:1).
For the most part, I’m simply talking about having a critical spirit; which I find myself having at times. Praise God for His sanctification process, though. Praise Him that He continually conforms us to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29), praise Him that He is the Master Teacher (John 17:26), and Praise Him for His chastisement that yields the peaceable fruit of what?? Righteousness!(Heb. 12:11) These are amazing gifts, are they not?
Speaking of gifts, that is the root of this whole article. The gifts God uses to conform us, to chastize us, to teach us. Amazing ones; and no, I don’t mean the spiritual gifts of 1 Cor. 12, oh no. These are super special. So, without further ado, drumroll please… they are the gifts of:
Yes, you read that right; humiliation… weeping… and death. And, this is the part where you scream: SAY WHAT?! Are you crazy??
No! I’m not crazy, and I’ll be happy to explain. But, before I begin, let me say that what I find when I have a critical spirit, is that it almost becomes like a direct challenge to the Lord. The reason I know is because this sort of thing has happened to me in the past. I don’t like to speak for the Lord, but it’s almost like He says, “Oh yeah? You want to criticize how this person should be feeling, or how they are acting, or what they are saying, huh? Well, let’s just see how YOU get “graded” when I hand you your test!”
The heart of the matter is that THEY may fail their test, but that has nothing to do with you, and should give you zero reason to fail YOURS. When we are being tested, we aren’t always aware of it. That is, until after the test is over and the Lord gently whispers to your heart and brings with it a stern conviction. You then have this “Aha!” moment and realize (with pain, I might add) that you were wrong. It is then, that the puzzle pieces slowly begin falling into place when you mentally backtrack all those little (or seemingly big) events that bring you to where you are and put you in the place of questioning of whether or not you passed or failed.
Well, backtrack with me a bit, OK? Let’s go back… oh, about 3 months or so. I got
roped, dragged, talked into, pleaded with, pushed into, asked to teach drama class at our co-op this fall. Never taught a class a day in my life. Surprisingly enough, I came to enjoy it a bit as I like telling people how to act (surprise, surprise!). I had prayed often for this class, God had given me all the tools and resources to put on a wonderful play about a magnificent missionary named Malla Moe. Malla Moe was one of the greatest missionaries to Africa (if you get a hold of the book titled same as her name, I *highly* recommend it). She had many converts, and amazingly enough even had a Gospel wagon, just like me!
Many hours, much labor, money out of pocket, energy and fuel were all put into this. The kids worked hard at memorizing their lines, and for middle school age children, this was a doozy! We had costumes, makeup, props and sets. Over approximately 14 weeks we prepared and prayed. But, there was always something nagging in the back of my mind and I discovered that it was what I had written in my journal from Sept. 10th:
“First day of co-op! Girls love it, I love it. Teaching is new for me… not sure I’m cut out for it 😦 I desperately need God’s grace. I know it won’t be, or get any easier. I’m waiting for the day I’m in tears. I’m not trying to be negative, I just know *me*. Lord, please help me.”
About a day or so before the play, I remembered this and thought, I guess I was wrong! No tears or sadness, just busy-ness. You know how it is, running, running, rushing. No time for real reflection. Many quiet-alone-prayer times with the Lord praying about other things; sometimes the seasons of life are just like that, I suppose. We may forget and be too busy with the daily things of life, but God doesn’t forget to take us under His wing and He doesn’t get too busy to teach us, let alone chastize us if we need it! Time is not the same to Him as it is to us, which we all know very well, but forget a lot.
So, here is where the lesson comes in: I mentally critized someone for being insensitive and unsympathetic. It does not matter who, as we are all prone in someway or another to be this way at any give time. The “test” was how “I” reacted to their behavior. I mean, we can’t control how other people behave EVER. All we can control is ourselves, and how WE react, right? So, by my reaction and critical mind, God delicately orchestrated events that put me right in the exact spot where I had the choice to either, A.) be insensitive and unsympathic myself, or B.) be senstive and sympathic. But, this is the kicker! If I chose B, I had to choose it *despite* the fact that I severly, severly, severly DISAGREED with the situation (here comes that little word, “unless”. God tells us to be sensitive and sympathetic no.matter.what. there is NO unless). What was it?
On the day of the play, I got a call from one of the members of the leadership team. She expressed heavy concern that putting dark cover-up makeup on our “African” actors would be considered offensive to the black congregation members who might come to see our production. I was so taken back, you would not believe it. A million or so thoughts raced through my head all at the same time, here are some of them:
How can this be? On the very day of the play?!
How is it possible that they could be offended? These are children!
We are portraying noble, honorable, Christ-fearing African people who were saved by the preaching of Malla Moe.
This isn’t a comedy show! This is serious!
This is awful news! All the time writing, driving, working, teaching, yelling, pushing, directing and now we can’t have actors look like Africans?! It won’t make any sense!
Nobody will “get” that they are supposed to be black people. How, how, how!
I would have NEVER chosen to do this play! All the time devoted… for nothing!
Oh… WHY ME?!
Are you getting this? All the “I’s”, all the “ME’s”, woe is me routine? Well, you guessed it. I cried all the way to co-op that day. Had to buy pop for the kids at CVS, red soggy eyes and running nose and everything. I was a mess. I really was upset. I just couldn’t believe it!
In the car, after CVS it was like the Lord kept whispering to me over and over; it was this:
Just, praise me. I didn’t understand. Well, that’s wrong, I DO understand. God is worthy of all our praise at every moment of every day, no matter what. He is constantly working on our behalf, is He not? Constantly interceeding.
So, in my shaking, wobbly voice, I told Him that I would praise Him. I wiped my snotty nose and running eyes and praised Him again.
I get to the co-op, and bless her heart, the leadership lady saw right away that I had been crying, came over immediately and hugged me (that made me start crying all over again!). She was concerned that I was mad at her, and that wasn’t the case AT ALL. I wasn’t mad at her, I was just upset at the whole situation. I simply couldn’t see or believe that something this important would be offensive to anyone, no matter what skin color they may be (this transcends all of that!).
And, it was this that she told me, and I firmly believe this is exactly what God wanted her to say because it was exactly what I needed to hear:
She said, “Our intentions are always good. In our hearts, we *never* want to offend anybody. Unfortunately, people can not see our hearts, or our intentions. They can only see how we act and what we say. I personally know the black congregants in this church, and some are very close friends. I can tell you, because I know them, that the minute any child steps out onto that stage with darker cover-up on their face they will immediately be offended. And, this is what will happen, they will *immediately* shut down to the TRUE nature of the play and that is, the power of the Gospel message. The only thing offensive that we cannot help, is the offense of the Cross. What we can control is offending others through our own ignorance, such as the need for sensitivity when it comes to theatrical black makeup on white actors. Does that make sense? Because of the long history, only in theatre, of whites portraying African-American’s in “black face”, this is a very, very, VERY sensitive subject. And, we don’t want any African-American’s who may come tonite get up and leave over this, and miss out on hearing what’s truly important. Because I know them, I know they would leave.”
This of course, is not word for word, but it’s pretty close. It’s the first three sentences of what she said that really stick out. Only God knows our hearts, people do not. Every single Christian believes their hearts to be good, and our intentions are very RARELY bent on doing evil. ESPECIALLY, when it comes to trying to present the Gospel through the medium of theatre! For those in Christ, that is our cry, that they might hear and be converted! That’s why we do what we do!
Long (very long) story short, it took some time and some meditation and some prayer and some reflection and some humility and some crying to see that she was right.
The humility came when I was humiliated for realizing how SELFISH I had been. It siezed upon me like a dark, cold blanket. The lesson for this was that I needed to be self-LESS. Let me put it in contrast; we can be selfish IF:
We put in a lot of time into something.
We’ve paid a lot of money.
Worked really hard.
Respect is owed to us for all our work, time and money.
We’ve sacrificed much.
We are to be self-LESS even if we have done all those things and more! We are to be self-LESS even when it hurts, even if it hurts A LOT. I wasn’t allowed to be selfish even though I had done all those things.
The weeping came when I realized my feelings had been injured. I “felt” that no matter what, because of the content of the play, my feelings were somehow superior to the black congregants who might come to the play. Because of all that I had done, therefore, I was allowed to feel the way I felt.
A right, and proper attitude would have been to understand that if the Gospel presentation was going to be injured in ANY WAY over something as trivial as makeup, then *immediately* I should have been willing to drop whatever I needed to to work around it. But, this is another catch. A lot of times, things are VERY, VERY, VERY trivial, yet we are willing to forsake what’s truly important because of our ego’s. We are many times “too ready” to cause our brethren to “stumble” over something as trivial as wine and meat (Rom. 14) because of how we “feel”.
Death was actually the realization of having died TO myself (and you too):
“I am crucified with Christ…” (Gal. 2:20)
“For ye are dead, and your life hidden with Christ in God…” (Col. 3:3)
“Now if we be dead with Christ, ” (Rom. 6:8)
“For if we be dead with Him [Christ],” (2 Tim. 2:11)
And, there’s many more. We must MORTIFY the members of our bodies which are on the earth which creates in us fornication, uncleaness, inordinate affection, evil desires, etc. (Col. 3:5) and, we are commanded to CRUCIFY the old man (Rom. 6:6) and our flesh (Gal. 5:24). Is any of that easy? I think not. We are incredibly selfish people and are very in love with our opinions and how things *ought* to be.
At first glance these things may not seem much like “gifts”, but indeed they are if they produce a sweet Christ-likeness in our lives. Better yet, may He be fully funtioning and operating in your world simply by using your body as His own! When that happens it will look like: humility, long-suffering, consideration, empathy, sympathy and sensitivity for others no matter how much you’ve toiled and sacrificed.
“Let nothing be done through strife and vain glory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient…” (Phil. 2:3-8a).
Bottom line: we can cling to our opinions, feelings, emotions and rights all day long, but none of that edifies anybody. We *must* lay aside those things even when it’s painful to us in order that we “esteem others better than ourselves”; we do this in the name of Christ and in the name of love for the sake of the Gospel.
Even in the midst of pain, we esteem others better than ourselves and look to the things of others.
Thanks for reading,