Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Martyr People

"All of creation watches expectantly for the springing up of a disciplined, freely gathered, martyr people who know in this life the life and power of the kingdom of God." Richard Foster

A martyr people, a people willing to die rather than abandon or turn against God.  But how can we be willing to die for Jesus, being tortured and suffering great pain unless we are willing to suffer small pain in order to be faithful and obedient?

I am faithless.  I can't consistently tolerate the "pain" of walking past attractive food without indulging; I protest getting up and am often drawn back to my bed rather than endure the discomfort of being tired even when I know getting up is important for my mental health and productivity and it's something God commands against, calling people like me "sluggards." How can I expect to be faithful to God in more important matters?

I like my comforts and dislike pain and yet it seems that growth happens only in the presence of pain: The pain of going hungry in order to lose weight; the pain of sore muscles when exercising; the pain of getting some place slower because one wants to make a smaller ecological footprint on the planet.  Pain is important and needs to be embraced (ask a leprosy patient who loses a finger or toe because they don't have any pain to tell them the digit in question is in danger).

Spiritually, it is the same.  We need to be a martyr people, unafraid of pain to hold to a higher calling.

I've started using a phone app called LIFT, a motivational tool that allows a person to set some daily goals and check them off as they're achieved.  The app sends words of encouragement when you've managed to be consistent for three days, seven days, etc.  Already I've failed.

Oswald Chambers mirrors Richard Foster's statement when he says, "I never am a sacramental disciple until I deliberately lay myself on the altar of the Cross and give myself over emphatically and entirely to be actually what I am potentially in the sight of God, viz. [that is], a member of the Body of Christ.  When I swing clear of myself and my own consciousness and give myself over to Jesus Christ, He can use me as a sacrament to nourish other lives."

Chambers asserts that when we are "consciously serving [and] consciously devoted to God," when we're conscious of the cost of following God, we are immature.  By this definition, I am definitely immature for I am not only conscious of the cost but too often unwilling to pay it.

"When you are laid on the altar of the Cross all consciousness of self is gone, all consciousness of what you are doing for God, or of what God is doing through you, is gone."  I would like to attain this kind of un-self-consciousness, to be free of self-absorption, self consciousness and the restraints of selfishness, self-centredness and self-indulgence.

Chambers warns us, "Beware of stealing souls for whom Christ died for your own affectionate wealth."  Affectionate wealth?  What's this?  Gaining the affections of others?  Being rich in affection from others?  Thinking that others are drawn to me (if they are) because of my own giftedness, my own ability to say things just right, etc.?  In contrast, Chambers says I need to be "broken bread and poured-out wine for [others]."  Can I do this?  It requires being "a martyr people," in Foster's words.  I can't be a martyr people if my sleep, my belly, my comfort, my "need" for approval and affection all take precedence.  Martyr people are those who make these things secondary to God and who do so so completely they're totally unaware that they're giving something up.

God's purpose for us is service--service to him and service to others but never service to ourselves.  A martyr people relinquishes all measure of self-service.  God help me to be one of his martyr people.

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