I said I’m praying for persecution, but I should mention that the persecution I’m praying for is the big, glamorous kind. I’m not really interested in the daily obedience that paves the way for the big obedience.
It kind of reminds me of when I wanted to run a marathon. I hated the stupid training. It felt pointless to me. I would end my runs early because I wasn’t particularly into running meaningless miles with no glory and no pay off; I figured I’d just pull it out when it really counted. Yeah. That worked out exactly like you think it would.
In 1 Peter, our boy spends some time talking about how suffering is super great. Then he tells the people that they should stand firm when suffering comes:
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, (1 Peter 1:14)
It wasn’t hard for me to get the point of this text: when persecution and suffering comes, you’re going to be tempted to just do whatever you want to make the pain to go away. Don’t. Don’t let circumstance lead you to disobey.
The challenge isn’t interpreting the text, it’s applying it. Okay fabs, where is the pain of your circumstance leading you to disobey God?
Before I could answer that question I found myself pouting – (yes POUTING) – to God that I’m not persecuted enough. I wonder how I would respond in the Jim Elliot moments of life. Would I stand firm? Or would I just conform to the world? How could I know that about myself if the moments never come?
And then I had a shaky shuddering thought. I’m like a kid wondering if I would have the strength to lift an anvil when I consistently drop a paper weight. I’m wondering if I will have the heart to run 26.2 miles when I don’t have the heart to run 3 miles. When did I start thinking that faithfulness only counts in the big ‘exams’ and not in the daily mundane trials?
Here’s the deal: today – without any crazy persecution and without any devastating news – I let my circumstance drive me to disobedience. Today, I let the weird things about singleness drive me to covet and envy. Today, I let my physical exhaustion lead me to feel a million emotions other than love. Today, I let my schedule lead me to feel bitter towards God. Today I let the tiny molecules of suffering result in living just like I did before I met Jesus.
Most of us really do want to live radical lives for Jesus. Most of us want to create bold and crazy stripes for the kingdom of God with our lives. We see the mighty men of the Bible and we see the history of redemption laid out before us and we wonder what kind of huge thing can we do with our lives to be a part of that story.
But mostly, when I read the Bible, I see the story of redemption knitted together with a bunch of normal people who obeyed in the tiny details. They exploited their circumstances as an opportunity for obedience. They were faithful with whatever was right in front of them.
That’s one of the things I love most about the book of Ruth. Right smack in the center of the line of King David and in the lineage of Christ Himself you find Ruth. What grand thing did she do to get to be a part of this story? Did she lead all the people of Israel back into obedience during the time of Judges? Did she compose great songs for God? Did she write a curriculum (or a blog post) that led thousands to repentance?
Ruth shows us what it looks like to live a radical life for God:
In the midst of some really hard circumstances she throws her lot in with the Lord and His people. She turns her back on anything that would define her apart from Him. She seeks to serve her mother-in-law well. She works hard. She falls in love and she has a kid. And she’s faithful in all those details. And that’s what it looks like to live a radical life for God.
Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s great to dream big for God. But, the primary call on your life is the call that’s clearly written in the pages of His word. It may be God’s will for you to be the next Beth Moore, or the next Jim Elliot, but what we know for sure is that thoughts of tomorrow shouldn’t distract us from faithfulness today. After all, hasn’t the Lord shown us what is good? He’s dreamed bigger dreams for us than we could ever imagine; dreams to do justice, love mercy and to walk humbly with our God, (Micah 6:8). It isn’t God’s dreams that are small; it’s our vision.
Live a radical life for God. It looks less romantic and a whole heck of a lot harder than one single grand gesture of faith. It looks like watching your tongue when you’re tempted to ‘vent’ about someone. It looks like loving the least of these and helping watch your friend’s kids. It looks like changing your kids’ diaper for the joy set before you and loving your co-workers, even the ones who are out to get you. It looks like sharing Jesus with everyone who breathes. It looks like caring about what you do with your body and your heart and your thoughts. It looks like being a good friend and spouse – not out of a desire to be loved, but because you desire to love.
This life holds suffering enough to test the strongest of us. As for me – may He forgive today’s failure and find me faithful tonight.