I’ve been a Christian for 31 years. Or have I?
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).
I made a decision to follow Christ at the age of three. I’ve lived my life in light of this decision. I’ve also lived my life in the shadows of this decision.
Over the past year and a half or so — in the transition from ages 33 to 34 — I’ve journeyed through a season of personal crisis that touched all aspects of my life: physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological. And for the first time in my life, standing at a crossroads, I made a deliberate, intentional choice to stay with, and follow, my Lord Jesus Christ. I am more aware than ever of the consequences, cost, and blessing of that choice.
I’m beginning to understand for the first time what abundance truly means.
Apparently I’m rather stubborn… and a slow learner. But my resulting gratitude increases exponentially as I grow in my understanding of his abundant pardon and abundant mercy.
What are the results of that deepening understanding?
It looks like gratitude. It looks like action. And it looks a lot like risk.
I recently returned from a disaster response trip to northern Iraq, during which our team fed and clothed those displaced by ISIS. Now, saying you’re going to Iraq is a bit of a conversation stopper. And many, many people thought, and still think, that I was crazy for going there: “It’s so dangerous!” Well, yes. And so is being a follower of Jesus Christ. So is living by Isaiah 58, the personal calling I strive to fulfill in the Spirit’s strength:
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday (Isaiah 58:6-7, 9b-10).
You see, I am a project manager for an international humanitarian aid organization. So Isaiah 58 is not only a mandate for my life, it is a mandate for my work. Nice how that fits together, isn’t it?
And yet that does not mean you are off the hook if you’re a teacher, a stay-at-home mom or dad, a writer, a mechanic, or a candlestick maker. Isaiah 58 has no fine print that says “only for aid workers.”
I strongly believe God protected me in Iraq. Just the other day, a car bomb exploded in the very area I visited multiple times while in-country. He heard the prayers of the many, and for reasons not yet revealed, he kept me safe.
And so, my understanding of abundance also looks like a protected sojourn, praise God.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore (Psalm 121:7-8).
Let’s say God “keeping” my life, keeping my going out and my coming in, looks vastly different than my definition of “keeping”. Or the definition according to those who care about me. Because it does not necessarily mean protecting me from pain, anguish, suffering, even death.
Is the abundant life worth it?
Having walked through these past 15 months—and continuing my pilgrim’s progress—I can say, unequivocally, my Lord Jesus is “abundantly worth it.”
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).