The Challenge

DSC_1437One Sunday there sat in a little white church a young girl. The young girl sat in the pew with her family, listening — but not really hearing — what the pastor of her church had to say. Oh, she was “paying attention” — the kind of attention where you are taking notes but your mind is a world away. The text was from 1 Corinthians 16:15 — 18 — “I beseech you, brethren (ye know the house of Stephanus, that it is the first-fruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) that ye submit yourselves unto such, and to everyone that helpeth with us, and laboureth. I am glad for the coming of Stephanus and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied. For they have refreshed my spirit and yours: therefore acknowledge ye them that are such.”

Her mind began to wander as her pastor expounded upon the text…until she heard something that abruptly pulled her attention back to the sermon she was hearing. Her pastor had asked a question: “Would Paul be able to speak to you as a brother (or sister) in Christ?” Would he? She mentally ran back over her notes she had taken on the sermon that morning. Would he be able to speak of me as a sister in Christ? she wondered. Would he be ashamed of me, or be encouraging me in the way that he is encouraging Stephanus and his family?

The sermon was about the house of Stephanus, and the way that he and his household were “addicted to the ministry of the saints” — always serving. Self-appointed. Set to. Devoted. There was no way out of it…..this family was appointed by God to give encouragement to the saints, and to serve them to the best of their abilities when they saw a need. Paul was speaking highly of this family, and holding them up to the church of Corinth as an example to be emulated. She smiled to herself as she thought of a sermon her mother had listened to that week. The speaker had mentioned that he always thanked God for the families in his church that he saw quietly working behind the scenes — setting out salt and pepper shakers, serving the congregation quietly, washing the dishes from lunch — because that was what the church was ultimately. Families serving each other to bring glory to God.

As the girl’s mind wandered in a new direction, she was brought back to attention by the next question her pastor asked. “What ministry has God given to you?” Yes, indeed, she thought. What ministry has God given to me? What does He have for me to do? The pastor continued with a quote: “If we see a need, we are called to the work.”

Then he said the thing that was singularly the most convicting of all to the young girl: “We are to remain faithful, and not give up heart, always rejoicing in God.” We are to remain faithful, she mused. Her heart began to sink within her as she wondered, Have I remained faithful? Has God already given me a work to do, and have I given it up, set it aside, not been so open about it, as I used to be?

All that day she mused about this, and in her bed that evening she was able to commune with her own heart. Remain faithful…not give up heart….always rejoicing. Had she accomplished this task — done it well? Had she let outside influences sway her away from her first love? Would people she once knew be able to look into her life and say that she was still the same person with the same convictions, or had she slipped? Strayed from the path her dear Lord had put her on? Maybe she hadn’t compromised as noticeably as some people she once knew. Maybe she still sought to behave in a chaste manner towards guys, and wasn’t interested in the attention she could gain from them. Perhaps she still desired to glorify God in her dress, and keep revealed from men what was only meant for her husband. Suppose she did still lived at home, and was under her father’s protection. Maybe her outward actions hadn’t changed at all — maybe her inward attitude was different. Was it?

Remain faithful….had she? Was she faithful to the task that God had given her? As a good author once put it, the task of being an “anti-feminist trailblazer of the next generation” — which at one time was exciting to her — was it still? Did she still look forward to it with joy?

Not give up heart….when people had moved away, when the things she held dear slowly became less dear to those around her, had she given up heart? Felt like giving up?

Always Rejoicing….Was she joyful? Was she happy – content – with where the Lord had placed her?

Had she changed? Had her attitude been less than Christ like? Had she fallen asleep in guarding her heart from the evil one? How could she have ever allowed this? Tears of repentance came to her eyes. O Lord! she cried out, Help me! I have strayed from Your plans for my life, been following my own….she remembered a part of something she had read earlier that day: “The easiest place to be is in the center of God’s will.”

Think about it. Look around you and take a big view of our entire culture – the world’s, and the churches. Yes, even the reformed churches. And while you may be able to look around and see others who have strayed from their first convictions – who act ashamed of their Saviour – who can’t be bothered with what their parents have taught them…..think of yourself. How have you changed? Think of your spiritual life. Has the ardour and zeal you once served the Lord with cooled down? Are you as outspoken as you once were about the things of the Lord? Do you still gravitate towards the deep, challenging conversations, that make you excited about life in general, or do you head for the shallow, meaningless, “fill-up-the-time” conversations?

I read an interesting article from King’s Blooming Rose recently, and it encouraged me. I’m talking, it REALLY encouraged me. Reminded me that there is a battle to be fought, and that it falls to us, as Christians, to “fight the good fight.” It falls to my generation…not my parents, and not my children’s. Mine.

“Will we, the second generation, carry on the Godly standards and principles given to our fathers?

Or – will we slide away from them? Will we find the world’s ideas and customs and standards too alluring, too attractive? They are very attractive, because they appeal to our flesh. We can’t deny it – they can be very tempting.

I fight this as much as any of you. We can’t foolishly think that we won’t be assailed by this at some time – or, even more foolishly, think that because we are being tempted we must…just give up. This is one of the biggest battles I see facing our generation today. This is a forefront battle, something that, if fought, will bring us joy and blessing – if succumbed too, will slowly and steadily pull us down into the reeking mire.

…Will we fail and follow the world, or fight the good fight and cling to the things passed down to us by our parents?”

Do you ever feel discouraged? Like giving up? It would be so very easy. It would make me more popular. I would have more fun – the kind that would make me temporarily happy. But would it be worth it?

Would it be worth compromising my purity to be with a group of guys and girls that I know are always seeking to gain attention by touching, acting foolish, saying wrong things?

Would it be worth it to skip church on Wednesday because, after all, it is just a Wednesday service, and I could have more “fun” with friends who are getting together…missing out on the Word of our Lord being taught, and gaining spiritually in areas that I am weak in?

Would it be worth it – this having fun – if it put a breach between my siblings and myself? Between myself and my parents? Could I respect my parents if they taught me one way in my childhood, in my youth, and now that I have reached “adulthood” – I am nineteen – they let me make my own decisions and just didn’t seem to care what I did?

Our church just finished up a study on the book of Judges, which was very enlightening. When it was started, I wasn’t sure how it would be applicable to my life today…but that mindset was quickly changed as I realized how very poignant this book is in our lives today. What does Judges have to do with this topic, you may ask? Well, it is a book full of examples of what happens as people slip in the faith. Judges 3:4 says: “…to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the Lord which He command their fathers…” It doesn’t say He gave the commandments to the children personally – He gave them to the fathers, and commanded them to teach their children “when they walkest by the way, and when thou liest down and when thou riseth up…” – this was written several thousand years ago, but is still the challenge we are facing today. Will we children – the second generation – turn our back on the teachings of our parents…ultimately the teachings of our great and mighty God?

If we decide to follow the Lord’s guidance, it won’t be easy. The challenges that our parents faced will be ours. We will have to say goodbye to some friends. We will face ridicule – not only from the world, which is expected, but by other believers. By our friends. Those we are closest to…and that is what can hurt the worst. Perhaps this is what the Lord wants – to challenge us…test us. Send us trial so we can become meek and patient under His hand.The article from KBR ends with a challenge:

“Right now, this is our crisis. This is our challenge. Yours and mine. Will we take up the mantle that is being thrown to us? Will we fight the good fight? Will we conquer our sin and our self for Christ? Will we – you and I – learn Christian warfare and victory from the faults and temptations God has left in our lives? Will we cleave to the principles God has shown our parents, or will we fail?

Will we fail? It is all too easy. I pray we will not.”

This may be shared at The Art of Homemaking Mondays, Monday’s Musings, The Enchanting Rose

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