Common obstacles to living all out

6 Mar

You have decided you do not want to waste your life.

Your heart is beating hard for the glory of God. You want to make an impact for the cause of Christ. You have looked at your gifts and you have looked at the Scriptures and you have looked around you and you have come up with a way to reach out and show the love of Christ that is both biblically appropriate and radically sacrificial.

You have sat down with godly leaders from your church and you have listened to their counsel and you are ready to begin.

Congratulations. Awesome. He who seeks to lose his life for Christ’s sake will find it. Whenever I read of individuals who have truly laid themselves on the line of for the glory of God, I see time and time again the tremendous, deep, abiding blessing they have experienced as a result.

But, that doesn’t mean it will be easy. There’s a reason Jesus calls it picking up your cross and describes the process as dying to self. Death can be very painful.

It can be helpful to anticipate some of the obstacles to living all out for Christ beforehand. Let me give you just one and maybe, we can come back to some more tomorrow.

1. You will likely be criticized by people you care about and perhaps even respect.

One of the dangers when you are doing something that is a bit different is not listening to good and godly counsel. Another danger is to think that simply because someone is correcting you that they are necessarily right. Balance that.

But the fact is Jesus was deeply criticized by who? The religious leaders of his day. Paul was attacked by people who claimed to be spiritual. And down throughout church history we find men like Luther, Calvin, Whitefield, and Spurgeon repeatedly abused by people who should have known better.

It is foolish to automatically put yourself in the place of men like this the first time you are criticized. It can be a great way to avoid helpful criticism. Oh, they are just attacking me because I am so spiritual. What? On the other hand, some criticism is not really coming from the Scriptures as much as it is coming from a place of guilt. That is just reality. People see you doing something and they are not doing much and they feel guilty and instead of repenting, they come up with another way to deal with that guilt and one of their methods is coming up with all kinds of reasons why what you are doing isn’t right.

Sometimes they nit-pick on your method. These kinds of criticisms can actually end up being helpful as they help you refine what you are doing so that it is more biblical and more effective. These kinds of criticisms also can be an excuse for not ever doing anything. Take evangelism as an example. We are going to the park on Thursday nights to share the gospel. Now, there are different ways we could do that. We could go one on one, we could do street preaching, we could simply hold a Bible study in the park, you name it. Are any of these ways wrong? I can’t think of any biblical principle they violate. But, some might be more effective than others and some people might have more of a passion and gifting for one than another. O.k., now what can happen is that instead of actually doing something, people sit around and debate or criticize the method that is chosen. We faced this same kind of thing when it came to starting the baby home. There are so many different ways of doing orphan care. When we first moved to Africa we were kind of overwhelmed by all the different options and there are pros and cons to each. What could have happened and did for a bit is that we were stopped in our tracks as we debated all the different ideas, but at some point, we had to realize we were living in a Genesis 3 world and choose the method we thought was best. Even after doing that, we know, there are going to be some who come to see what we are doing and walk away saying, what are those guys doing, there is such a better way of doing it. O.k. that is fine, but what is not fine is when people say that and go away and do nothing, which is exactly what happens ninety percent of the time.

Now, with those who are doing something, what can easily happen when you step out to do something else is that people read that as an attack on what they are doing. Like say you church plant in a poor neighborhood, someone might think that means you are saying it is wrong to church plant in a rich neighborhood and because they feel attacked, they respond by going on the attack themselves and coming up with all kinds of funny reasons why you are doing what you are doing. Here, you have to recognize your responsibility to speak biblically. When you are motivating people to do something, it is easy to overstate your case. You think they are not listening and so you say something really shocking just to get them to pay attention, even though if you look carefully at what you are saying, it is not nuanced enough to be completely accurate. This may be effective rhetoric, but it also may be a failure to really trust the Holy Spirit. Also, it helps to recognize that people often react this way. We foster care three children, we are going to start a conference on adoption, and I already know that even though I would never say this, some people are going to look at us and hear us as saying, if you are a Christian, you must adopt. Now, that’s not biblical. I can’t say that. I won’t say that. But people who don’t want to think about these issues will try to write us off by saying that, I can pretty much guarantee it. Now, hopefully I will be wise enough, to say clearly and repeatedly that we are not commanding all Christians everywhere to adopt, that different Christians will make different choices and still be very godly. But I have that responsibility, to speak biblically. On the other hand, you can nuance everything and say it as clearly as possible and some people are very competitive and want to be in the first place position and will not be content with people doing things differently, they will want to make it a matter of right and wrong when it isn’t, and if you are going to step out and do something a bit different, you just have to be ready for that.

Another way people attack is a bit more painful, and that is when they attack your motives. I remember when we first had Muphamuzi come into our home. After about a year of caring for him, we had a leader come into our home, not really one who had spent much time with us at all as a family, but anyway, we were talking orphan care and he was saying that he thought one of the reasons we were motivated to care for Muzi was most likely selfish. I said, hmm, interesting, what exactly do you mean? He said, well when I do kind things for others I receive a feeling of satisfaction and the reason you are so motivated to care for orphans is probably because of something like that, you just want to care for orphans because it makes you feel good.

Now, there is always a danger of being selfish. We are weird people and we can take almost anything and use it as a means of pursuing self. But at the same time, I was tempted to ask him if he wanted to come over at 4:30 the next morning and change Muzi’s diaper and wash his bedding after he had diarrhea for the fifth straight day in a row and see exactly how much satisfaction he got out of that.

When people criticize your motives it helps to remember you are not the first. Just look at what happened to Paul. It also helps to realize that your motives are often all messed up. The heart is deceitful, who can understand it? At the same time, it is helpful to realize that God has a great method for dealing with messed up motives. It is called repentance. It is not called sit there and examine your motives for the next four years and not do anything. Another help is to remember that you are going to be judged and it’s not by the people judging your motives, it is by God Himself. Scary, sure. But also encouraging because by God’s grace, he will also see where people were wrong in judging your motives. He knows your heart better than them and better than you, so repent, ask for help seeing where you are being proud or selfish, and commit your heart to him and go out and serve, all out, looking forward to the day when each one receives his commendation from God Himself.

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