“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward’” (Exodus 14:15, NASB). There is a time for prayer; and I greatly appreciate all the prayers that so many have breathed, and continue to breath, as my name has been lifted up before our heavenly Father. But there is also a time for action. A time to do something in addition to praying. A time to love and to serve. A time to, dare I say it, “put our money where our mouth is!” That’s where faith becomes real, and religion translates into authentic relationship.
I’m reminded of the little preacher story, which some of you have probably heard before, about two brothers, both of whom were called to war; but only one of them was actually required to go because the other needed to remain behind to manage the farm and take care of their aging parents who were ill.
“Rest assured,” the younger brother said to the older, “I’ll be praying for you!”
“Thank you,” said the older brother.
“What else can I do for you? Anything, anything at all?” the younger brother asked.
“Well,” the older brother responded, “We can trade places!”
“Rest assured,” replied the younger brother, “I’ll be praying for you!”
Of course, our “older brother,” the “firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29, NASB), did, indeed, trade places with us. The scripture says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NASB).
Speaking of brothers, James the elder, who was the flesh and blood brother of our Lord Jesus, has this to say about how faith plays out in authentic relationship:
What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:14-18, NASB)
So, I was just thinking to myself: “ya know, I’m so blessed to have so many people who love me, who think of me from time-to-time, and who occasionally whisper my name in prayer. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! But, at the same time, maybe a few of them could deliberately refrain from praying for me today and, instead, actually come alongside and join hands with me by becoming my partner in trying to love and serve others.” And, again, no sooner had I shared these thoughts with the Lord, than unexplainable things began to happen.
I’m beginning to fear that I’ll never actually achieve my “Relay For Life” fundraising goals because God seems to have placed it in the hearts of some of my dear subversive friends to sabotage me in that regard. You see, when I first launched my fundraising efforts, I was automatically assigned a $100 goal. I was thinking, “kewl, ten people with $10 each and I’m there—this will be easy enough.” But then things started getting complicated when my little sister chimed in with half the amount needed to hit that goal in a single donation. I’m like, “oopppsssss… guess I’m not thinking big enough!”
So, I went to my fundraising page and moved the goal up to $250 thinking, “okay, well, that’s twenty-five people with $10 each, minus what my sister has given already, that means I only need twenty more $10 donors to hit my goal—still, fairly easy, right?” That lasted about one day and then another sister in Christ, who wishes to remain anonymous (but I’m informed of who all my donors are), chimed in with a $100 donation, immediately jumping the total up to $150 already, and I’m like, “oopppsssss again… “guess I’m still not thinking big enough!” Are you getting the idea that I typically think too small?
So, anyway, I then moved my goal on up to $500; which would be fifty people giving $10 each, minus what these two sweethearts have given already, and that means I now need thirty-five more $10 donors to reach my goal, or seventeen more at $20. I’m thinking, “What’s going here? This is getting harder! The more people give, the more people I need to give more. I’m starting to feel stressed. Is God trying to stretch my faith a little more, or what?”
I was going to try to leave my goal at $500 because, even after talking to God about how much I want to get out of myself and start loving and serving others on a bigger, broader scale, I’m still selfish. I find myself thinking, “You know, I really don’t need this stress in my life.”
Then God used one of my own kids to call my bluff. She seriously raised the stakes on me by making a single $500 donation—“dooouuuugghhhh…” leaving me no choice but to up the ante to $1,000. That goal, however, was quickly challenged by some more loving culprits who felt compelled to jump in with some big donations; thereby forcing me to reset the goal at $1,500.
Now, after watching that goal be shattered to smithereens—contributions are currently at $2,535—I’ve given up on the whole idea of “goal setting” altogether. I’m telling people these days, “Never mind the ‘goal,’ it’s not even about ‘my goals’ anymore, it’s just about ‘sharing the love.’” Maybe THAT’s the message God has been trying to pound into my head all along. Not that there is anything wrong with setting goals; they can sometimes help us get from point A to point B if they are well thought out, realistic, and obtainable. But, in my particular case, and with my limited faith, goals probably too often work only to limit my vision, rather than to expand it. I’m driven to the Apostle Paul’s comment:
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen! (Ephesians 3:20-21)
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