Every week at our church, whoever preaches has the opportunity to write up devotional for some follow up study or reflection. Here is my last sermon and the devotional that goes with it. Enjoy!
ENCOUNTER: Read 1 Peter 4:12-19
A dear friend and mentor of mine is navigating an incredibly difficult situation. His wife of 40 years has developed a degenerative disease that is impacting her ability to function. Her brain is fine, but her body is exponentially collapsing. And her deterioration has happened at such a rapid rate, that my friend has had to walk away from an incredible job, cash in some funds prematurely, and completely reorder his life.
As someone a bit younger, I am watching him navigate this. I have to admit that selfishly, I worry that I wouldn't be mature enough to handle something like this in my own family. But when I talk to him, he does share how hard it is, how much he is challenged by this situation, and how there is some suffering for him. But, all of his complainings are muted by his wife's suffering combined with his overwhelming love, affection, and commitment to his her.
You see, he is navigating this because his love for his wife has matured. His life is so wrapped up in the life of his wife, that whatever joys she experiences are his joys, and whatever sufferings are hers, he joins in. To sacrifice his money, resources, job, status, freedom for her sake to join in her suffering is a no brainer. And watching him do this has become a model for me, a model for me to make sure I am developing a mature love for my wife and the people in my life.
Even more, I am making sure I am developing a mature love in my walk with Jesus, for this is the mature path of Christian formation and discipleship. We are invited to not just share in the power, but to share in the sufferings of Christ. We are invited to have our heart's break for the things that break his, to give our heart away to the things that Christ gives his heart to, and to sit heavy, to sacrifice for the sake of Christ. We are invited to go to the hard places that will cost us in ways we have yet to discover.
This is not an easy teaching and one that gives me pause. But let us not let that pause deter us from the deep waters. While we may not be there yet, let us put one foot in front of the other, let us work diligently to deepen our maturity and gladly embrace the more difficult things. And in doing so, may dramatically expand the Kingdom of God in both hidden and visible ways as we love Jesus, all the way to death.
What are you doing now to take some next steps to mature your love for Christ? What is an invitation that Jesus might have for you to either take on or sacrifice for? Is there some callousness in your heart toward Christ that you may need to spend some effort in healing? Would you be willing to wrestle with God about whatever he has put on your heart or in your mind after reflecting on these questions?
BE A BLESSING:
Anytime you sacrifice yourself or give of yourself for the sake of Christ; it blesses others. Who is someone you can sacrifice, even a little bit, to benefit or bless? These little things we do, especially for those we love easily builds our muscles for the mature task of sacrificing for those who we still need to forgive, or who we don't like, or for whatever excuse you have to keep them at bay.
Like all things, we are not meant to make this journey together. It takes a community to have the strength to die to ourselves, to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus. Jesus even had friends, and people pray for him in his hour of need. Who can you invite into this journey?