Saturday, September 29, 2007

Tirelessly faithful

I have gone on two mission trips in the last two years. The first was to Jamaica to do reconstruction work on the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf after they were devastated by Hurricane Ivan two years before that. The second was to Gulfport, Mississippi to do reconstruction work on a couple houses in an area that was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina. In both cases, when we left to come home, it seemed like things were on the up and up. Our work, combined with the work of many other people, was beginning to shift the momentum of the people there who were directly involved. They were beginning to look like they could come out of it. We could literally see the fruits of our labor in the people and the places. We had gone to the places God had called us and seen Him bless our efforts. We had stepped out of the boat in faith.

Approximately three weeks ago I received a letter in the mail from the CCCD school in Jamaica. This year another hurricane (Dean I think) had come through and done the same amount of damage that Ivan had done before. Roofs were torn off buildings, severe water damage was everywhere - they were back to square one again. All that work, undone in a matter of hours. Then last night we presented a slideshow and other things to our church from the trip to MS. As we came in, we were handed letters from Dick and Joanne (members of our church still working down there). The letters said that things were not good, in fact they were pretty bad. As it looks right now, the house that we worked the most on will be reposessed as they cannot afford the payments required. There are also physical, mental, and emotional problems wearing hard on individuals there. All that work, undone - their house went from unliveable to gone. They are packing up and moving to a temporary location until they can figure out what to do next.

Where is your faith? I have been examining that question this week for myself. The answer is that it is in God and God alone. We are so tempted to put our faith in the things that we do, in our human efforts. It is especially tempting when we see good results. We think WE really made a difference. To really see it from the right perspective though, we should put our faith in God, and let Him use us however He sees fit at that time, and after it's over - regardless of what happens - we need to keep right on having faith in God.

Our merely human cognitive ability is not nearly enough to understand God's ways. Asking "Why?" is probably the most futile question there is. We will only know when we are joined with Him after this life. So if we can't know why, that leaves us with faith. We have to trust God. We have to put things like this in context. Context determines meaning. If we look at these two examples by themselves, it would seem that God is fickle and lets people down, leading you to help someone and then destroying what was done. But this is far from accurate. Because God has been acting for all time, we need to consider these two small events in the context of all events throughout time. Doing so anchors my faith so deeply that it cannot be moved. Sure, my life and things that happen to me will be up and down. Life IS hard, and no one ever said it wasn't. But when things like this happen, I have to go to the place where my faith is anchored and see these events in light of what I know about God. I know He is a good God. I know He is all powerful, all knowing, and that He loves every person so much that He has already won victory FOR US over death and the consequences of our sin. There have been numerous times in my life when I have been comforted by God, provided for by Him, strengthened by Him, given wisdom by Him, and all the time loved by Him. These are the things that keep my faith anchored deeply in God and not in my own human efforts.

Life is hard. Without God in your life, you will struggle miserably with life. But with God in your life, you will still struggle, but you will struggle well. This is especially evident when other Christians come to your aid with prayer, support, love, encouragement, and grace. And so these people need us to help them struggle well in this situation. They need our support (in whatever way we can), they definitely need our prayer, they may need our encouragement, and they always need our love and grace. Sometimes life can beat you down. It can knock the wind right out of you. We need to be tirelessly faithful in our God. We need to look to Him through rough times and when we do, we will find it to be true that He does help us when we're struggling. All these things create the context in which to view the tragic things that happen in life. Help other people to see that context too. Without the context, people tend to draw all kinds of conclusions about the way things work with life and God that lead them away from Him. We need to help them head towards God in a storm. The things that we do here on earth can be destroyed in an instant. But the things that God does, and that His people do in His name (friendship, love, mercy, grace, evangelism, teaching, praying), these eternal things cannot be undone by even the mightiest storm or power. There will always be people in need, and we will always need to help them. And we should keep going back, and keep helping until there is no more need.

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