THE COST OF FAITH

cp.pngIn the words of Pastor Martin Luther King Jr., “There are some things so dear, some things so precious, some things so eternally true, that they are worth dying for…”

One way of defining value is usage or benefit. We value something based on how important the benefits are to us. Another way of defining value is the cost of attaining and retaining something. We determine value by how much it costs to produce, buy, store, protect or preserve it .

In a way importance and costs are complimentary to each other. How much are we willing to pay in order to attain and retain something is regulated by the importance we place on the thing.

To the biblical giants faith, not religion, carried an uttemost value. To them success meant the following: knowing God better, having a deeper relationship with God through the Holy Spirit, appreciating God’s love, and more importantly complying to the will of God in their life – the will that always involves improving the wellbeing of others. To them these values meant more than anything else. Their faith pushed them to be ready to sacrifice even their lives for their values’ sake.

I strongly believe that the quality of life on earth is directly proportional to the degree to which a person understands and accepts  God’s unconditional love, His autonomy, and abstruse wisdom. Such an attitude – apart from making one feel fulfilled, happy, and calm at all times – enriches the bearer with  an understanding of life that fills them with an appreciation, a sensitivity, empathy, respect, love, and a deep concern for the welfare of others.

Sadly, most contemporary Christians have a different set of values. According to a recent study an ordinary Pastor or Minister of the Gospel success means attendance, amount of giving (money), number of programs, number of staff and square footage of facilities. In short, a modern Christian values material prosperity above all else.

While most of us ‘Westernised’ Christians today brag about how famous we are, how many properties we have, what kind of cars [or jets] do we own, how much money we have or where we live faith legends, like Paul would say, “If I have to “brag” about anything, I’ll brag about the pain and weaknesses that make me like Jesus.”

The author of the book of Hebrews has it in chapter 11 that Spiritual legends such as Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless—the world didn’t deserve them!—making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.” [The Message]

Paul belonged to an upper class and had a prestigious CV. Born of a Pharisee father in Tarsus, a prominent Univesity and business city, Paul was well educated in phylosophy, science , law and religion. Holding both Roman and Hebrew citizenships Paul was fluent in all major languages – Latin, Hebrew and Greek.

Spiritually Paul was circumcised when he was eight days old. As a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin Paul was a passionate member of the Pharisees, who demanded the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. Paul obeyed the law without fault.

Yet Paul says, “now I consider all these things worthless because of what Christ has done.  Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him… I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death…[Philipians 3:7-10]

And concerning loving others Aposle Paul says’

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” [1Cor 13:1-3]

Unsuprisingly, perharps, Paul paid a heavy price for his values. Writing in 2Cor. 11:25-30 Paul explains,

“I’ve worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time. I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I’ve been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard traveling year in and year out, I’ve had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I’ve known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather.”

“And that’s not the half of it”, He continues, “when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of [caring for] all the churches. When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut.”

Apostle Paul is challenging us to “Think of ourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.  Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father. [Phillipians 2:5-11]

My sincere prayer is that when our time here on earth is up we should all be able to echo Paul’s own epitaph recorded in II Timothy 4:7 that read, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” Amen

 

 

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