Once upon a time, in a country not so far away, sat a middle aged white man, in the back of a pickup truck, with eyes wide open and head on a swivel, his mind trying to process all that his senses were experiencing. He had never been to another country. Sure, he had heard many things about other places, other cultures, other people…he had even read books and researched on the internet, all in hopes of being prepared for what he was going to experience. Guess what. He wasn’t.
He wasn’t ready to see the faces in real life instead of on t.v.. He wasn’t ready for the stories he read to come to life in such a real way, right in front of him. No longer were these words on a page, pictures in a magazine or images on a screen. This was real, too real. As he would find out in the days to come, these people had names, families, children, and in some cases, dreams. There was nakedness. There was hunger. There was disease; but there was also smiles. There was hope. There was love. There was a desire to learn.
That is a lot for a newcomer to process, but for them, it was simply life. Everyday, real life.
Obviously I’m the white guy. I was the one experiencing culture shock. I was the one struggling to wrap my mind around those things. I was also trying to wrap my mind around another thought. One that I could not get out of my mind, even as I came back to America. That thought was simply this…The bible is just as true here, as it is in America.
Think about that for a minute. The bible is true no matter where you were born, what your income is, how people treat you, what society you are in, and what has happened to you in life up to this point. Your race doesn’t change the Bible and neither does the century you are born. The thought of that is amazing. But for me, it is much more than just amazing, it is HARD.
Why hard? Because when I really started to think about that as I read some of the same verses I had read dozens of times, they began to be so much more real to me. Take for instance the verses at the top of this blog, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. BE JOYFUL ALWAYS. In America, that is almost do-able in my own strength. Not quite, but I could try my hardest and come pretty close, minus a bad day here or there. PRAY CONTINUALLY. Now that one actually seems like it would be easier in a third world country. Sometimes I have a hard time remembering to pray as my first response. In fact, sometimes I only pray after I’ve tried everything else and am frustrated I can’t do it in my own strength. That’s not easy to admit, but hey, sometimes the truth hurts. In a third world country, many of our brothers and sisters in Christ have much to teach us on the subject of prayer, but we will save that for another time. On to the heart of the issue…
GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES.
That one hit me like a Patriots middle linebacker. (Another words, it hit hard, and even felt a little dirty, but I couldn’t prove that it was…)
Give thanks in ALL circumstances? My daily circumstances, that should be fairly do-able. I mean yeah, there are times when I feel wronged, shorted, disappointed and the like, but those are short lived and few and far between. For the most part, being thankful for what is happening in my life is a no brainer. But what I was struggling with was that the verse I just read holds true always, everywhere. Think about that. Give thanks when you have no idea when or if your next meal is coming. Give thanks when you are wrongfully accused, beaten, raped, maimed and left to die. Give thanks when you look at your children and have no means of providing for them. Give thanks when your shelter is a hut of sticks and mud and a dirt floor with no running water and no electricity. Give thanks when you are persecuted for the sake of Christ. Give thanks?!?
And here is the most amazing part of the whole thing, there are actually people who go through what I just talked about, and continue to give thanks. They continue to praise God. They may struggle to live through the day, but they smile when they talk about their savior.
What a wake up call for me. What a challenge. What an inspiration. And this is why I say, I need the global church. I needed God to use them to wake me up. I needed to have my bubble burst and my theology challenged. The persecuted church, the churches in third world countries, they all have so much to offer us. As Americans we can easily fall into the idea that this is a one way street. That we give and give and give (financially), getting nothing in return. That just isn’t the case.
In fact, I would go as far as to say this…If you are looking for the best ROI around, invest in a missions trip to one of these places. I’m not even going to try to explain to you what will happen when you go with an open heart, but when you come back, you’ll understand.
This thanksgiving I am making it my goal to give thanks in all circumstances, for the rest of my life, no matter the circumstance. I know I can’t accomplish this on my own. But I’m ready to start setting goals that aren’t attainable unless God shows up. This is one of them.
I’m thankful God wrecked me. I’m thankful that He is going to use me to encourage my fellow christians as they have encouraged me. I’m thankful I’m okay with not understanding everything, but trusting that it is true, even if I don’t completely get it yet. I’m thankful that God’s word is always true. How about you, what are you thankful for today?