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Laying By The Pool

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”  At once, the man was cured. John 5:8

“Lord Jesus, I offer myself for Your people.  In any way.  Any place.  Any time.”

Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place

I was reading recently about what it meant that Jesus called Himself a humble servant of God.  To some that seems contrary – for someone to call themselves “humble.”  And at the time of Jesus the word “humble” was a vile and contemptible thing.  According to Christian author Charles Jefferson, there was no virtue in the all the pagan world known as “humility.”  It was a defect.  

As Christianity spread across the world so did its values.  One of its unique additions to the world was the concept of Christ-like humility and servitude.   It is possibly one of the most misunderstood of Christian values.  To some, it means having a low estimate of ourselves.  To others it means we deny ourselves and make ourselves inferior.  But if we accept all of Christ’s words as true we then must also accept these:

“I am meek and lowly in heart.”  Matthew 11:29

And yet we have never met a person who held their head higher, with more confidence, with such loftiness, as Jesus.  So often it seems we create a vision of the various character traits of Jesus and each believer then feels they must change their personalities to fit that ideal.  When we picture a meek and humble person (not Jesus) do we imagine a rich person?  Do we picture a courageous and bold person?  Or do we picture a small, weak person who lets people walk all over her?

As I’ve progressed in my faith this concept of being a humble servant is something I’ve really mulled over.  I’ve tried “playing” various roles that seem to fit the ideal.  And it’s funny.  When I try to be so quiet and meek-like it usually backfires.  The recipient can tell I’m being a phony.

About a year ago I heard about the book, “The Hiding Place.”  I know many Christians have read this at some point in their lives.  As a refresher, the story is a Christian family from Holland living at the start of World War II.  As Hitler’s army advances, the local Jewish community starts to disappear.  Two of the main characters, sisters Betsie and Corrie Ten Boom, find themselves answering God’s call to not just hide Jews but also play integral roles in the underground system of protecting Jews from all over.  What struck me about this book were the opposite personalities of the sisters.  Both answering God’s call to be humble servants in their own ways.

Corrie was the bold one.  She found herself tasked with much of the dangerous work outside their home.  While in prison it was Corrie who dealt with the officials.  Lest we think this was easy for her because of a strong faith, Corrie frequently questioned God about what He wanted her to do.  And each time she prayed.  And each time either a word from God or someone close to her encouraged her to move on His command.  Near the beginning of their story, Corrie is tasked with obtaining extra food rations cards.  She was led to speak with a local man who recently took a job in the Food Office.  But she wasn’t sure it would be safe.

“Lord,” I prayed silently, “if it is not safe to confide in Fred, stop this conversation now before it is too late.”  

Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place

She found herself asking not for five cards but suddenly 100.    And within a week they were in her hands.  The danger she faced – being turned into the authorities– was replaced with her trust in God’s urging for her to be a “doing Christian.”

Throughout her ordeal, while at home and eventually in prison, she wanted to be so angry with the Germans and those who supported them.  She balked at loving her enemies and showing them mercy.  Really, who could blame her?  And yet over and over she submitted her heart and hands to God.

“My job was simply to follow His leading one step at a time, holding every decision up to Him in prayer,” she wrote.  “I knew I was not clever or subtle or sophisticated; if my home was becoming a meeting place for need and supply, it was through some strategy far higher than mine.”  

Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place

You can contrast her submission to God with a local pastor she encounters.  He, on the other hand, when asked to take in a Jewish mother and child into his home was clearly frightened.  He admonished her for the “illegal” activity and warned her that what she was doing wasn’t safe.

The concept of being a humble servant doesn’t require of us to be a person of a certain personality or style of living.  A longtime pastor can fail while a wealthy man can succeed at this effort.  Throughout “The Hiding Place” one such wealthy man aids the underground effort with both his money and his own hands. 

In all of Jesus’ teachings we see Him asking us to do two things: love one another and take action.  Like the man at the pool who had been waiting for healing for almost 40 years he asks us to first believe Him then get up and start moving.  Along the way he wants us to be teachable and willing to learn.  He asks us to put aside our vanity and social aspirations.  He tasks us to serve and feed His sheep.  He doesn’t ask us to underestimate ourselves, make ourselves small, or feel unworthy.  In fact, He wants us to stand firm in the knowledge we are doing His work.

Corrie Ten Boom was bold and faithful and humble at the same time. She was always looking to serve the less fortunate and those in need.  And when she forgot about serving her enemies, her sister stepped forward to remind her.

I once took a leadership personality test at a conference.  The results weren’t that surprising.  I have a bold personality and I’m good at organizing.  But what makes any leadership situation successful for me is to be paired with a softer, gentler leader.  That person remembers those who aren’t as obvious and reminds me to slow down to see the whole picture.

Betsie Ten Boom was that kind of leader.  The book in which they are written of highlights her bold sister, Corrie.  But it’s this quieter, gentler servant of God that I saw as a thread throughout.  It was Betsie who would send up prayers for the Germans soldiers who were torturing them.  It was Betsy who thanked God for fleas in their new barracks.  While Corrie was dealing with the big problems, it was her quiet sister drawing people out of the shadows for prayer meetings in the middle of the night.

During one difficult transfer to yet another barracks, the women were made to stand for hours and hours.  The two sister’s personalities and approach to being God’s servants was evident in this exchange:

“Betsie!” I wailed, “how long will this take!”

“Perhaps a long, long time.  Perhaps many years.  But what better way could there be to spend our lives?” Betsie replied.

I turned to stare at her.  “Whatever are you talking about?”

“These young women.  That young girl back at the bunkers, Corrie, if people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love!  We must find a way, you and I, no matter how long it takes…” Betsie said with excitement.

Are we that excited to serve God humbly? To be teachable, free from ambition, and vanity?  Have we looked Jesus in the eye and said, “I trust you.”  And when He has told you to get up and pick up your mat have you obeyed Him?  Or have you decided that you aren’t “good enough,” “strong enough,” or “smart enough?”  

Are you laying around by the pool, waiting for someone else to do the work for you? If you keep saying to God, “show me what you want me to do” and have yet to walk out your front door and serve your neighbors you’ve missed the point.  He takes all types in His Great Army.  Get your mat and get moving.

“All of us are different, but all of us can serve the Lord for His glory.”  

Warren Wiersbe

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Battle Strategy

Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who 
trains my hands for war, my fingers 
for battle. 
Psalm 144:1

I have a very strong personality.  I’m a fixer and a doer.  I’m a creative problem solver.  So, for me to sit back and let God take control or direct me has been one of my greatest challenges.  A few years ago, I was working in a school counseling office.  There were two of us with essentially the same job.  When my co-worker left for greener pastures, we hired a new, young woman as her replacement.  She was fun and interesting.  And then she stopped showing up on time for work.  And at times not at all.  Then she started spending what time she was in the office on personal phone calls or social media.  The bulk of the work fell on me to accomplish.

I jumped into fix it mode.  Trying to help her figure out a better work style.  Talking with our supervisor about how to discipline her.  Each morning as I headed into work, I created all the conversations I wish I could actually have with her.  I became angry and bitter.  I might or might not even jokingly asked God to take her out with a bus.

Fortunately, my faith was maturing.  One morning during my commute, the Holy Spirit whispered to me: “This battle needs a different approach.  Try praying FOR her.”  And so, I did.  For one week, every morning I prayed that God would intervene in her life to help her be more successful at work.  And that whatever was happening in her home life would not deter her from doing a good job.

And after one week she stopped showing up completely.  Two weeks later it was determined she had “abandoned” her job.  Essentially, she had fired herself.  And in the next hiring process I was able to recommend someone else who was amazing!

He is my loving God and my fortress, 
my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, 
in whom I take refuge, who subdues 
people under me. 
Psalm 144:2

You see, I was fighting the battle all wrong.  I focused on myself rather than God.  It was an in-your-face lesson delivered by the Holy Spirit.  

Since then, I have faced other battles.  I’m remembering to pray before I enter the battlefield for God to direct me and protect me.   Because I recognize that I can be a bull in a china shop with my “Miz Fixit” personality.  

“When I release my weaknesses and blind spots to God, He uses them to help me grow up spiritually.” 

Crystal McDowell

I love the visual from 1 Peter 1:13 to “gird your loins.”  The saying comes from the concept of tucking your tunic up into your belt so that it doesn’t get in the way while running.  

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, 
be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the 
grace that is to be brought to you at the 
revelation of Jesus Christ; 
1 Peter 1:13

And in this verse, it specifically reminds us to pull our thoughts together and have a disciplined mind so we can rest our thoughts on the grace of the returning Christ. We escape from the perils of the worldly mind – trying to fix everything ourselves — with the teaching and guiding hand of God.

Before we make that difficult phone call, head into that important meeting, sit down with the wayward family member we need to “gird our loins” and seek God’s battle plan.  Stand confident in prayer and listen to what He really wants you to say or do.  For me, He reminds me I need to be silent at times and let Him do His good work.

Most of us are “can do” people.  And when it comes to conflict or issues in our lives we so often want to take back command of the battle.  But like Joshua before us we need to be fired up and bold in our faith that He will be our deliverer.