Are You Looking for a Purpose in Life?

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” –Numbers 13:30

 

Have you ever been around someone who just exudes confidence and faith? They have a real gift of encouragement, if people are willing to listen. Not so with our dear Israelites. In this account of biblical history, twelve leaders, one from each tribe, are sent to spy out the land of Canaan and report back on what they see & hear. Out of the twelve, only Caleb & Joshua tell the community that the land is everything God promised, and that with God’s favor they will be able to possess the land the Lord will give them.

Have you ever been influenced by a group of people that is fearful? The other ten men in our little spy group were afraid of the people in Canaan, and emphasized to the other Israelites their physical size, saying, “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13:33) Yet Joshua and Caleb tell the people, “Do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” (Numbers 14:9)

These ten men that spread the fearful report have the Israelite assembly so riled up and feeling defeated that they want to stone Joshua & Caleb, the men that are trying to encourage them to trust in their God! They grumbled against Aaron and Moses, whining: “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt? And they said to each other, ‘We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.'”

When we look at our circumstances and assume negative outcomes based on supposed facts stripped of faith, we would most likely come to a similar conclusion as the Israelites: if only I didn’t have to face this problem. I was better off before God’s intervention in my life. Let’s elect a different leader who will guarantee my safety and happiness.

Sound familiar? I know I have days where I struggle with the wrong outlook, and then the Lord reminds me I am forgetting about trusting him to do good for me. The only leader who can guarantee my safety and happiness is Christ. He is our Rock.

When I read the above account I couldn’t help but think of our current political climate. I’ve been praying recently about the handling of Syrian refugees, whether or not they should be allowed to come to the U.S. or if we should close our borders to them. I have come to the conclusion that while proper security measures should be exercised, actions motivated by fear alone frustrate the will of God. God’ will is to love Him and other people as you would yourself. I know if I were a refugee, faced with homelessness, war, death, hunger–I would want someone to take me in and show me some kindness and mercy, not to fear me because of my ethnic or religious background.

Jesus told his disciples that when it comes to their own hides, they should fear God, not man. It is my duty as a follower of Jesus to love–both my neighbors and my enemies: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5: 43-45) If you ever wonder what your purpose in life is, it is to love people and God. Like Jesus’ life illustrates, sometimes that means laying down our self-interest to focus on the benefit of another.

Should We Be Angry With Sinners?

About twenty years ago, when I was a baby Christian, I remember getting angry about a rather well-known person’s sin. She happened to be in the media spotlight, had just come to Christ, and the Christian community was rejoicing over this victory (touchdown for team Jesus!). Then this woman said something very offhand and disrespectful of Jesus (most likely out of sheer ignorance–what does a brand spanking new baby know?). Anyway, I recall feeling angry and became offended at how ungrateful she seemed for God’s goodness. Then the Lord broke into my thoughts. Pray for her.

The idea of doing something good for her took me aback. She doesn’t deserve it, Lord! But grudgingly I prayed for her correction and true conversion. A few days later, she was in the news apologizing for her earlier comments. I was overcome with joy, because the Lord not only corrected her, but also fixed my own attitude as well.

I can’t say that I never get angry at sin anymore, but the good Lord does not tire of reminding me when I need to have my heart more tender toward people. After all, Paul tells the Ephesians that unbelievers are  “darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” (Ephesians 4:18) It should not surprise us when non-Christians say or do things that are offensive, because it is only the glorious light of the gospel message that frees us from spiritual darkness.

As a matter of fact, it should not surprise us even when fellow Christians say or do things that are offensive. I love the apostle Peter. He blurts out what is on his mind. When Jesus talked to his disciples about sin and how to handle it, Peter wanted to know how many times he had to forgive his brother or sister. The fact that he wanted an exact number so he could keep a running tally is so human. But Jesus tells him “not seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:22) He then proceeds to tell a parable that illustrates God’s generous mercy towards each of us, and how we must imitate that mercy among ourselves.

When I think about it, Jesus did not get angry with sinners. The only times we read in scripture that Jesus became indignant was when the religious leaders showed no mercy. Jesus, on the other hand, reached out to sinners to help them, teach them, forgive them. When the Jews caught a woman in the act of adultery and dragged her out to be stoned, Jesus was not angry with her. In the parable of the prodigal son, the father (who depicts God) is not angry with his wayward son–he is grieving for his lost child. When Jesus is dying on the cross between two criminals who mock him, he is not angry with them! He actually used that opportunity to do what he came to do, “to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) He still does. Let us “go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37)

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, even when you hung on the cross and the thieves mocked you, the people mocked you, and the religious leaders mocked you, you did not get angry. You said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Help us recognize opportunities to pray, not condemn. Amen.