Can an experience become a cliché? And if it does, does that make it invalid? I am writing because I have no access to the internet. I have no access to the internet because I am in a small town in a less developed country, Rio Negro, Colombia. I am here to speak to scores of pastors from around the country. And my frustration over the lack of internet once again exposes my frustration over my own sanctification. Which is what always happens when I find myself in less than comfortable surroundings.
This is not, by the grace of God, my first time in a less developed nation. Beyond several such trips I have also been privileged to minister from time to time in prisons around the country. In each case I walk into the situation thinking myself a fine fellow, and walk out ashamed. My shame is found in my relative spiritual immaturity in comparison of those I have come to “help.” I’m supposed to be bringing a message from God. Instead God speaks to me- “You are soft, pampered, and worst of all you are proud.” I come in eager to teach. I go home grateful for what I have learned. And then I forget.
In Africa, in Myanmar, in Colombia I have met believers living under terribly difficult circumstances. It may be simple poverty. It may be persecution from other religions. It may be an aggressively inhospitable state. What draws my eyes away from the circumstances is the blindness of the saints to those circumstances. They are far too busy rejoicing in the grace of God, far too consumed with His glory, to be distracted by their surroundings. They are too passionately committed to preaching and teaching, to fulfilling the Great Commission to notice that things for them are not so great. They sit on tiny patches of unproductive ground, staring with greater joy than an American child on Christmas morning, at the Pearl of Great Price.
My point here is not to wallow in guilt for prosperity, far less to encourage others to bemoan their blessings. Rather I want us all to learn to appreciate all the blessings from the hand of God. Rejecting hot showers, dependable internet connections, or even heavy laden dinner tables will not make me better, nor my new friends more comfortable. Instead my calling is to give thanks for all His good gifts in due proportion. These are good things, and I am to never take them for granted, as if I am owed all these things simply by virtue of being born in these United States. That my daily bread is wrapped around the finest meats isn’t evidence that it did not come from God, but a sure sign that it has come from Him.
I must, however, ask my Father in heaven for this grace on top of that grace, that I would learn to rejoice in the gospel as these men do, that I would learn to rejoice in want, and better still, to know that I am always in plenty, wherever He takes me around His globe. I have Jesus. And I get to learn from those who rejoice in the same.