Shining brighter as a servant than a star

Imagine.

The lights dim; high-powered colored lights flash; the crowd cheers; the spotlight is on you. The world’s a stage and you want to be the only actor in full view. The blinding spotlight shuts off God but you go about basking in the limelight of being the center of everyone’s attention. Ever experienced that before? I have.

I’ve been a part of a band made up of like-minded Christians who frequently share the gospel through evangelistic concerts. You would expect that being in a Christian band would enable everyone to perform with the right motives. But, sometimes, that isn’t the case.

The allure of the stage is something unexplainable, only experiential. Having people clap after each song, coming up to you after a program and telling you how well you’ve done is a great feeling. Soon enough, the spotlight is what many performers crave after.

It beckons the question: Do we yearn to have the light of the world upon us or to be the light of the world?

The disciples in Jesus’ time were not spared from desiring to be in position of glory. In Mark 10:35 -44 we read of the account of James and John asking to sit in the places of honor.

Their request was one that was over the top when they requested to be given seats at the right and left of Jesus in heaven. This was not an ordinary request. It was one that would have elevated James and John above all the other apostles.

Jesus said that it was not His decision to grant such a favor. He then taught the disciples that biblical greatness is different from the world’s understanding. Those great in the world exercise their authority over people. However, a Christian who wants to be great is to be a slave. Even the Son of Man came to serve and not to be served.

This truth shocked me. We find the same truth in Philippians too.

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
Philippians 2: 5 – 7 (ESV)

The King of kings came to be a servant. It was way beyond comprehensive logic that a King would do such a thing. But this was the love that God had for His people. Jesus served to the point of death.

When we reflect upon this truth, we can’t help but be amazed at what Jesus was willing to do for us. His Servanthood is indeed something that we are to emulate. This issue of hoarding the limelight is sinful because we are meant to give all glory unto God. His glorification is our priority.

Now, imagine.

The world walks by without noticing you. People sneer at your Christian “antics” and persecute you. But God watches every step you take, providing encouragement through His Word. He causes His face to shine upon you and peace that surpassed all understanding to fill you. God is awaiting to commend you, “Good and faithful servant, in whom I am well pleased.”

note1

Written By Isaac Tan for YMI

Forgiveness (3)

By MeL Scribe, Australia

Short Story: Forgiveness
“Please, let me go,” he pleaded. I looked down at him in his miserable state.
“I don’t belong in that gang, I don’t belong in any gang anymore. Please,” he continued.
“But it doesn’t change what happened, does it? You were the one who killed my girlfriend!” I screamed at him, giving vent to my hatred. “You have no idea how much I love her.”

Suddenly his face hardened. “It doesn’t change the fact that your girlfriend was the one who killed my brother,” he spat, dignified.
“That was an accident. She would never kill anyone!”
“Accident or no accident, my brother is dead!”
“A life for a life,” I agreed bitterly. “My girlfriend for your brother. Now we are even.”
“ ‘The past can hurt, but you can either run from it, or learn from it,’ someone said to me once,” he repeated, as though quoting a person he highly respects.
“So you have been running from your past, while I have been running to find you,” I growled.

Why wouldn’t my arm move to slice his throat? My other hand was wrapped around his neck; his back pushed against the wall. His feet were still on the ground, but he was entirely at my mercy.

“And now that you have found me, you are afraid,” he mocked.
“You forget who holds the knife,” I muttered. “And whose life is at stake, you fool?”
“I’m sick of pleading for forgiveness.”
“How quickly we sink back into our old ways!” I paused, my mind suddenly remembering something my girlfriend had said to me:

“I know you have your friends in this gang, but it’s not good for you.
It’s your decision in the end, and I’ll love you whatever you choose.
However, I think it best if you leave them. These are my best interests for you,”
she had said quietly.

She had made it sound so simple. How would she have any idea what it would mean if I gave up the gang? She couldn’t understand that if I leave them, I would have nowhere to go, nothing to do, no way to survive.

She and all her Christian values. She had come from the ideal background–a loving family, good education, hope for a future, money to spend, never a worry about where her next meal came from. She had everything, including a perfection I could never achieve.

“I only hope that if you choose to leave the gang, you won’t fall back into your old ways,
whatever the future may bring,” she whispered, as though assured of something I didn’t know.
“You’re worth more than this, I know it. You’re worth more than a cycle of revenge and hatred.”

It was her angelic face that flashed in my mind now, soft and meek. How could I bear it if her death was never avenged? But then, what would she think if I kill for her sake? I shook my head in confusion, my thoughts a blur.

I straightened my arm above my victim, my grip on the knife tightening. I swung the blade in a crescent and dropped it on the pavement.

His face was astonished, his body unmarked.

“This is no accident,” I declared. “But it’s what she would have wanted. She would have wanted me to forgive you. Now turn from your evil ways,” I heard my voice saying, but the words I spoke were not my own thoughts.

I picked up my knife then released him. Slowly I turned away from him, but he called my name before I took another step. “You spared my life. I shall spare yours, friend.” He held out his hand, and I shook it. “I know a place that you can board and work. Want to come?”

“Where? With the Salvation Army?” I asked, sarcastically.

“It’s not so bad,” he said to me.

Forgiveness (2)

By MeL Scribe, Australia

How can we find the strength to forgive?

On the cross, Jesus prayed with his dying breath, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” This man, who had done no wrong in his life, had every right to demand their destruction, and every power to carry out their sentences justly. They wanted him dead, and they accomplished it, but instead of cursing them, this innocent man chose to plead for their souls, hard as their hearts were against him. Who is this Jesus guy? Why should I care about what he did or said? Maybe he was an important man, sure, but why should I be concerned with him? Yes I’ve heard of him somewhere sometime, but why should he worry me? So what if he’s such a controversial man?

Well, it looks like you missed the bit about his never doing anything wrong in his life. That’s only comprehensible if you believe that Jesus is God. There! I should have said this earlier, and it’s taken me so long to say so, but we both needed a chance to warm up to each other and to the topic at hand. Because Jesus is God, He is perfect. Everything about Him is perfect.

The road to self-discovery starts here, my friend. Either you can choose to completely reject all I have written to you and keep living your own way, or you can live this new and better life, giving God control over your life, which He already has, anyway. That’s right. Control over your life. God won’t bring you to anything you can’t get through, and He’s not going to completely and utterly annihilate you because He loves you.

Am I going too fast for you to catch onto me? I’ll strain out my ramblings. God loves you, more than anything you can possibly imagine. Well, unless you can imagine someone sending his or her son to hell to save you, which is what God sent Jesus to do, then yeah. Why would He do that? Because we have all rejected God and pushed Him away because we didn’t want Him in our lives—that is the one thing He can’t forgive. We deserve the death sentence, and to be separated from God for the rest of eternity, but Jesus took our sentence on Himself when He died for us on that cross. Every wrong thing you have ever done can be forgiven—if only you believe it.

So, you can choose to reject God for who He is and what control He actually has over your life and ignore His love for you, try to run your life in your own haphazard way, and face the consequences of being condemned by God and facing death and judgement, which I know isn’t going to be pretty. Or you can choose to submit to Jesus as your ruler, rely on His death and coming back to life, and be forgiven by God and receive His gift of eternal life.

If you want to know more, you should—you guessed it—start going to a church near you, where you can learn more about Christianity.

Forgiveness (1)

By MeL Scribe, Australia

The world is in need of forgiveness, now more than ever. In times of crisis, one’s first instinct is to shift the blame to someone else, or when an appropriate scapegoat is discovered, all eyes and hatred are turn to him or her, ready to begrudge that person of everything. We are a flawed and cruel people.

The media portrays some just reasons for anger, especially in the last season of the Victorian bushfire crisis. No person can be held responsible for an earthquake, but the thirst for revenge is stirred at the news of a disaster deliberately started. It is a natural response for us to want our loved ones avenged, but this desire is not a beneficial or healthy one.

Such is the cold and harsh emotional climate in which I endeavour to reach you, my audience. Hear me out if I have lost you with my first two paragraphs. Each and every one of us makes mistakes or bad decisions over both trivial and important matters at some point in our lives. Some of these foibles are more significant than others, but all of us have fallen short nevertheless. We are as guilty as Eve who bit into the forbidden fruit.

Yet there is room for us to show the better side of our character. Each of us has the capability to be a considerate, self-disciplined citizen of a loving world—if we would only try. A world where no one is ostracised, excluded, ignored or rejected. Why bother? You ask me. Why should I be nice to everyone around me, even toward those whom I don’t like? Because we can make this wretched world a better place in ways beyond our wildest imagination. And you, yes, you, have that power just by choosing to make the right decision. You have the power in your words and your actions to make someone’s day. You could choose to smile and show appreciation to the person at the supermarket checkout, or the bus driver who brings you to where you need to be, or the boss who pays you every month so you have money to spend. You have the power to positively rock their world. What a great privilege!

But even my enemies? You think. Yes, even your enemies. In fact, your enemies will be the first people to notice the change in your attitude. Initially they may be wary of you and suspicious of your motives, but your persistence will win them over, and eventually you will see how valuable your enemy can be to you as a friend. So what’s holding you back? Why do we refuse to improve ourselves in order to make a positive difference in this world? All of us have a need for others to recognize our identity and purpose as an agent of change; a desire of ours is to make the world we live in a better place.

One of the things that may be stopping you could be pride. Why should I treat my enemies with mercy and forgiveness when they started the war against me? If anyone should make peace, it should be them, not me! They’ll think me weak and susceptible to attack; like a doormat they’ll wipe their feet all over me! Not a chance. But I tell you, that may not be true. At the end of it, they will see you a strong and determined individual for the worthy cause of a peacemaker.

Another thing holding your forgiveness back could be pain. You think that they have done you an unforgivable wrong, and your imaginary wound is still smarting from the hurt they have dealt you. In a short story I’ve written, Sandra has a clear reason for not wanting to forgive her enemies, but still the Captain trained her, or hoped to teach her the lesson on forgiveness. Was it too much of him to ask that of them? Perhaps to you it was, but let me explain the Captain’s demands from his point of view. He asked them to forgive the ruthless pirates not just because he needed them alive when the ship reached the port, but he knew that if they never let go of their hatred, they were never recover from their loss and would hence grant their enemies a victory from the agonizing invisible wounds remaining in their heart. (Look out for this story in my future post!)

By refusing to let go of the past pain, you would be allowing the enemies to achieve their goals. You would be granting those enemies a victory over you by letting your past hinder your present and control your future!

Forgive and forget, unless you want to grant them this satisfaction. It takes time, but it is possible.