grace


So, I just finished reading “Something Beautiful for God”, (If I was savvy, I would put a link here which would lead to Amazon and every time one of you followed it and made a purchase, Amazon would reward me with something like 20 cents.  But I couldn’t figure out how – where are my geeks when I need them?) which is a book by Malcolm Muggeridge about Mother Theresa and the Sisters of Charity.  I’ve been trying to write a blog about it.  I don’t usually write about the books I am reading (at least not directly) and it’s been completely unwieldy.  So I decided to write about how it is influencing the way I view people and the way I treat people and use it as my entry into Robert Hruzek’s change yourself/change the world challenge.

One of the things in the book that struck me forcibly was the elegant simplicity of the ministry of M. Theresa and her sisters.  Their philosophy of ministry is based on Matthew 25 (see below).  They believe that anytime they feed the hungry or clothe the naked they are feeding and clothing Christ.  And what wouldn’t they do to show their love for the One who gave all for them.

She says of the Sisters’ joyful, patient service – what would be complete drudgery to you and to me, “They want to give to God eveything.  They know very well it is to Christ the hungry and Christ the naked and Christ the homeless that they are doing it.  And this conviction and this love is what makes the giving a joy.  That’s why you see the sisters are very happy.  They are not forced to be happy.  They are naturally happy because they feel that they have found what they have looked for.”

Muggeridge goes on to say that after spending a few days with the sisters, he went from pitying the poor and destitute people that they served to realizing that they were, in his words, “quite marvelous people.”  I think he stopped seeing people and started seeing individuals.

One day I had been thinking about the book and also Hruzek’s challenge and I walked by someone in a parking lot that may have needed help.  I didn’t stop.  It wasn’t a straight-forward situation, I’m not sure they needed help and it could have been embarrassing or possibly even a bit dangerous, but that’s no excuse.  Someone might have needed help, help I could give, and I walked by.  And later I was ashamed of myself for not stopping.  I’m a helper by nature.  And if I don’t stop . . . who will?

A couple days later, in a different parking lot, I saw someone I thought might need help, and I walked by.  And then I stopped and thought, “This is one little way that I can change myself and change the world.”  And I turned around.  And I offered my help.  And it was gratefully received.

And I’m going to keep stopping.  Not just when I feel comfortable.  Not just when I have time.  Not just when it’s convenient.  And not just because it makes me feel good.

I’m going to try to remember that what matters on this earth is how you treat the people around you.  When I’m done here I want to be able to say that I did everything I could to help, to encourage, and to uplift all those who came within my sphere of influence.  I want to treat people the way Jesus treated them, with love and with respect, in a way that honored and cherished, in a way that brought help and hope.

 37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

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 . . . there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it aaway from me.  But he said to me, “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Theefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so the Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2Corinthians 12:7b-10

   It interests me that Paul called his thorn in the flesh a messenger of Satan.  How often do we, in this post-modern culture, give credit where credit is due.  Many of our hardships are direct attacks from Satan and his angels.  God allows our diffictulties, our hardships, and our thorns in the flesh for His own purposes, but we must not make the mistake of thinking of them as from God or think that he has abandoned us because we are experiencing a dark time.

  I think our response to difficulties and hardships should first be an examination of the heart.  Is this the result of some choice I’ve made that has opened the door for Satan to reign is this area of my life.  If the answer is no, then God has allowed the pain to produce character and fruit and we need to learn how to “delight in our weaknesses, hardships, insults, etc.”  Ouch . . . easy to say, tough to do.

  The second thing that interests me is the personalization in , “But he said to me, My grace is sufficients for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I struggle with the concept of keeping my eyes on my own journey and not comparing it with others.  I am constantly fighting (and often losing) the urge to ask. Why does that person get healing or deliverence and I still have to live here, I still have to struggle under this load?  But today I noticed that this statement is very personal.  His grace is sufficient for me.  That is all He promised, not that He would make my life look like someone else’s.  And really, shouldn’t I be grateful for grace at all from God when it is so much more than I deserve, instead of constantly questioning the trappings of the grace He’s chosen to extend to me?

  The last comment I have about this passage is that we are so much more comfortable when we operate from our strengths – when we serve and minister out of strength.  The challange for us is to be willing to be used in our weakness so that Christ’s power may be manifested in us.  God gave us strengths to use for his kingdom, no question, but I wonder how much more we could accomplish if we let God use our weaknesses as well.  And what if we then boasted about our weaknesses to others as a testimony of what God can do when we are obedient?