Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lent, Day 14

"Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted." Matthew 23:12

There's this seemingly incredible upside down feeling to the Kingdom. If I want to save my life, I must lose it. If I want to receive from God, I have to give. If I want God to reward my dedication to Him, I must meet with Him in secret. When we fast, we must act as if we are not. This verse follows that same pattern. If I want to be exalted, I have to humble myself? How do we do that?

First, we must dedicate ourselves to that secret place with God. Getting alone with Him on a daily basis allows Him to infuse us with who He is. He fills us with His love, renews us in and with His Holy Spirit, and deepens that intimacy we have with Him.

Then, as the overflow of that relationship, we begin to see others as God sees them. We put their needs ahead of ours, as we serve. And we do it for them, not for us. We do whatever it takes to minister to the least. We give and serve sacrificially.

I think I've shared this story before, but it bears repeating. There was a time early in our marriage when we were literally down to the last $50 in our bank account. No cash on hand. That was it. We were working at jobs that paid us only once a month. The end of the month was at least a week away. A missionary came to our church and shared the stories of the persecuted Christians he had dedicated his life to helping. He told stories of his personal sacrifices; the ways his own family gave beyond belief to minister to those in other countries who were being maimed, killed, wounded, and in many other ways persecuted for their faith. God pulled at our heartstrings. My husband leaned over during prayer and said, "I think we should give $50." My initial reaction was, "WHAT?! Are you crazy? How will we survive until we get paid?" After some more time in prayer, though, I wrote the check. A day or two later, money came to us in the mail from a totally unexpected source.

I don't tell you this story so you can say, "Wow! You guys really did a great thing." I tell you this, because I saw God's hand of provision, even when I was resistant to what He was calling us to do. And there was a part of me, at that time, that wanted to shout to others: "See how sacrificial we're being?" But we gave it in secret. We let God take care of the rest. No one ever walked up to us and congratulated us for giving out of our own poverty. We didn't receive a plaque with our names engraved in gold. I doubt anyone in that church ever knew we were giving our last dime, because we told no one! So how were we exalted?

For me, personally, I was, first of all, humbled by the dedication of the missionary, and especially in light of my own life. I was also humbled by the stories of the lives of those he ministered to, realizing that they were ready to give up even their lives for the Gospel of Christ. It brought me to a place of seeing myself and my resources in a new way. So we gave, however grudgingly.

Where does the exaltation come from? When the missionary returned at a later date, we heard stories of how the money our church gave was used to minister to our brothers and sisters in other countries. That was enough for me. But God went beyond that and supplied the money we needed to make it through until our next paychecks.

Because, as you see, exaltation in the Kingdom is much different than exaltation the way our world views it. Obedience can be its own reward, simply knowing that we have done as God asked.

Maybe this post was a little long, or a little rambling. But I hope that, in some small way, it has ministered to you today. And encouraged you to obedience, even when no one else is watching.

My offering to God: Today I will put the needs of others before my own.
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