I’ve missed my morning walks this week. I was scheduled to go, but the few days it wasn’t raining I slept right through the alarms a few times. Unfortunately one of those days I left my accountability partner waiting outside for me. That was the 3rd or 4th time in the past few weeks that I’ve done that. Grrrrr! I hate standing people up. Thankfully she has known me for almost 20 years and knows that’s not normal for me. She never called to wake me up and yell at me for making her drive all the way to my house only to have to turn around without walking. Instead, she extended concern recognizing that if I wasn’t awake that I needed to sleep. She put my needs above her own interests. No condemnation. No ridicule. No sarcastic attitude. Just sincere love and support. I am grateful for friendships like that.
I’ve heard people say; well actually I’ve said it in the past as well; that you can only have a few friends during your lifetime. That’s just sad! How horrible is it to not have people around you to care about, and who care about you? Yes, there are always going to be those closest to you and that’s a smaller list, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity to have many more people in your life that you share a bond with. Granted, some you will see more often or talk to regularly. As I’m writing this faces of those I dearly love are crossing my mind. Although I’m not engaged in their daily life they are cherished and if a call ever came needing support during a trial or to share in joy over a victory I would without hesitation.
Paul had friends like that. He was traveling over the miles; without phones or Facebook; and was unable to engage in the lives of his friends on a regular basis. Reunions were spent catching up on everything that had happened for each during their time apart. They would rejoice with each other and spent much of their time in prayer building each other up. Their bond of friendship was strengthened because of God among them.
We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.
After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’” When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”
Paul’s friends rallied to warn him about being persecuted. They wanted to protect him from the hardships that loomed like a dark shadow over his life. Several times leading up to these encounters, Paul was warned that he was going to face prison and hardships, yet he wasn’t deterred. He didn’t run away from the threat. He didn’t alter his course to find a safer route. He didn’t plea with the other believers to go in his place in order to protect him. He wasn’t deterred by his friends or fear. He understood his cost of following Christ and was emboldened to pursue preaching the Gospel to his death. That’s grace!
We have become too spoiled in our society. Flip a switch and there’s light. Open the refrigerator and there’s a cold drink. Turn on the water and there’s a hot shower waiting. We don’t understand what it is to be in need; although many times we think we do. The bottom line is that we’ve become accustomed to being comfortable. Maybe that’s the reason so many believers choose to not serve within the body … it’s not comfortable. It stretches your limits and exposes weaknesses that are often times exploited by others. It takes you to places that you would have never chosen to go, and then has you stay there. It compels you to put others material, physical, emotional and spiritual needs above your own. It reveals to you when your wrong and teaches you what is right. Yep, serving God is definitely not an easy path.
That’s not the best marketing campaign to get people on board with your cause. Those are the things that keep people at arms length, not fully committing to a life of making disciples of all nations. I pray that anyone who is at the point of feeling drawn to participate in the capacity they are being led would push through the many reasons why not to serve and just do it. Today, we see the fluff about how great something is, but we know that there is always the fine print that will give the warnings. God; just like in everything else; doesn’t work the same as this world. He gives us the warning up front, nothing is hidden. If we pursue this craziness of walking with Christ, we have more than the challenges before us. We have peace, freedom, purity, holiness, joy and so many other blessings waiting for us. Everlasting life is the fine print in God’s plan. But that comes only after we first say “yes” to Him, and then stick to it.