The Secret You’ll Hate Me for Telling You

secret-1142327_640I’ve been thinking about the sacrifices of persecuted Christians in other countries you know, in between television shows and restaurant outings.

In wondering about them and what makes them capable of laying down their lives, I’ve also wondered (during breaks from social media and watching the latest Youtube video) what gets in our way that we don’t appear to have the capacity to lay down our daily “to do” list, never mind our lives.

And I was reminded of the seventh degree black belt who owned the karate school where I earned my first degree. One day, he instructed us to do one hundred pushups and several people moaned. (one of them may have been me) Another complained, “Oh sure, one hundred pushups is easy for you. They’ll never be easy for me.”

In that moment, the sensei stopped the class, clearly annoyed. “Do you know why they’ll never be easy for you? Because you want it to be easy. You aikido-362953_640don’t put in the work. You’re not faithful in the small things. One hundred pushups are easy for me but that’s because I work at pushups every day – before most of you are out of bed. No excuses. No complaining. No whining. And I have worked at a thousand other small disciplines against which you rebel. This will never be easy for you because you want it to be easy. But if you want to be able to do what I do, you can start here with one hundred pushups.”

Too many of us received the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ with eagerness but with an attitude that says, “Wow, this is great! Thanks. This will really enhance my life and help me achieve my goals.” While others receive the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ with grateful tears and an attitude that says, “My Lord gave up His very life for me so I will spend the rest of my life showing Him my love and gratitude through obedience.”

To obey is better than sacrifice.

Since this is true, we would do well to focus on obedience and know that that is the training ground for sacrifice. But we don’t like that word “obedience,” do we? “Sacrifice” sounds hard but like maybe we could reap some credit or glory from it whereas obedience is simply due diligence. Sacrifice seems like a high and holy event whereas obedience sounds like a thankless, daily grind.

And yet, I believe, that persecuted Christians will testify to the value of daily obedience in training the soul to respond correctly in the day of sacrifice. I think that’s their secret.

man-80086_640Obedience is also the remedy for the sins of rebellion, stubbornness, and idolatry, so rampant in the modern church. “So Samuel said: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.” Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.” I Samuel 15:22-24 NKJV

Something inside us wants to believe that Christians in persecuted countries are some other type of Christian, that somehow risking jobs or station in life or social exile or loss of family and friends, imprisonment, or torture – that somehow these things are not as hard for these believers as we imagine they would be for us. I think these believers would respond to us much as my old karate instructor responded to the class.

sport-1260817_640“Do you want to know our secret? You cannot sacrifice because you want it to be easy. You don’t put in the work. You’re not faithful in the small things. We have learned to obey Jesus in small ways, in daily ways, and to deny ourselves for Him a hundred ways before you all get out of bed in the morning. If you want to be ready to do what we do, start here.”

And so, my thinking has challenged me to start here, this week, to deeper obedience. How many passages of scripture have I read and dismissed without putting them into practice? How many times a day do I justify small unfaithfulness like a moment of gossip or an indulgence in self-righteousness? I’m not advocating a life of rule-following perfection-seeking practices (for we are not called to be slaves) but I do want to challenge myself to be rid of any attitude of lazy spirituality and habitual foot-dragging when it comes to translating my faith into a life defined by love of Christ and evidenced by an obedient spirit.

It might be as simple as saying “yes” when presented with opportunities to obey (to love, to forgive, to testify, to serve) and maybe each small yes builds a spiritual muscle that prepares a person for the day of greater sacrifice.

I am not a slave to sin or to modern culture or to selfishness or to a spectator faith. I am free through Christ to enter the ring through the door of love expressed through daily obedience.

And so, loved ones, are you.

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  1. Nancy Wolfe says:

    I have been inspired by your last blog entries to consider the real life of persecuted Christians. So I started learning… I read @ that persecuted Christians in North Korea pray for us. “They pray for us because they feel we are persecuted by our prosperity and it distances us from God.” I’m hoping to me more brave about my faith in even the small push-backs we get here in our more pleasant places.
    Thanks, Lori…xoxox

  2. John Minton says:

    Exactly where I am. Thank you for listening to God and writing this blog. I’m amazed how God use people to speak into my life, and it’s exactly what I need. Thank you again.

  3. Laurie Kincaid says:

    Once again, Lori, you hit it out of the park! Hard is NOT impossible, it’s what builds muscles. Thank you AGAIN for saying so.