Ebola, ISIS, Putin, Syria. These are the words that dominate our news today. It's fuzzy at times to make out what God's purposes are within all of these global realities. But then again, it's still really simple-make disciples in the midst of all the chatter. But for many, that chatter is suffering.
Suffering is a catalyst for the Spirit of God to move in radical ways. 1 Peter was written to believers who were suffering. Peter encourages his readers by calling them "living stones who are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ". Our spiritual sacrifices here in the States can look so different than the spiritual sacrifices being made by those living in Iraq, Iran, Syria and West Africa?
I recently visited Northern Ireland, a country with a history of suffering and conflict after 30 years of Troubles. I visited a Peace Wall in Belfast that separates Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods. It was sobering and sad to talk to those who had suffered. Peter again writes in 3:8-9, "Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because in this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing."
This is radical and irrational love, but that's what makes the gospel so powerful. I haven't suffered much really. But I'm sure many of you have. I know the people I met in Northern Ireland have. Regardless of what God puts on our path, we are all called to make disciples in the midst of both good times and hard times.
The late Dallas Willard in his book, Spiritual Disciplines, lists 15 disciplines, one of them being Sacrifice. Willard writes, "We give up even necessary things in our life (as opposed to frugality, where we give up unnecessary things). The discipline of sacrifice is one in which we forsake the security of meeting our needs with what is in our hands. It is total abandonment to God, a stepping into the dark abyss in the faith and hope that God will bear us up."
This is challenging and has me wondering, where does God want me to practice the discipline of sacrifice? Is it with my time, my finances, my future plans? Yes, but even those things seem petty. God wants my very life and isn't satisfied with half-hearted commitment. Jesus tells us to take up our cross and it's through that I actually become a living stone that goes into building His spiritual house.
I don't drift into sacrifice like I do into comfort. It takes a whole new level of intentionality.
Anyway, I know this has a heavy tone. But just sharing what God is teaching me. I hope it encourages you to be a living stone that make disciples regardless of your circumstances. Thanks so much for empowering us to be about that.