I recently read a story about the conversion and baptism of the Gauls that speaks to the on-going challenge of living our faith. The Gauls were a fierce and warring people who once inhabited what is now France and Belgium. Before they were conquered by Rome and converted to Christianity, these ancient people spoke a Celtic language and followed a Druidic religion. Myth has it that when one of these warriors was baptized, he would extend and keep one arm up out of the water of baptism. Missionaries quickly learned the purpose of this odd act. It seems that not long after baptism, a warrior would hear of a skirmish, grab his sword or ax with his unbaptized arm and run off to smash his enemy in a most unchristian manner. The arm, they said, had not been baptized. Can you see how that may apply to our lives? Is there anything that we hold out on and not allow Jesus to be lord over? Maybe it is our work or our home lives? Maybe it is how we spend our time or how we use our talents? Maybe it is our plans and our future? Or perhaps it is that thing Jesus and the Bible talk about so much that remains not fully baptized - our treasure? In all of those we might discern areas of our lives that we suppose and act as if they are unbaptized and so left to our own direction and use.
Many will recall the story of Jesus and the rich ruler (Matthew 18, Mark 10, Luke 13). This man told Jesus that he had kept all the commandments since his youth. That is commendable and better than I could say, but there was something the young man was still holding out of the water. Jesus told him to sell all he had and give to the poor, then come and follow. This is not to say that all must do exactly the same, but it is to say that even our treasure is meant to be baptized and under Jesus’ lordship. That young man went away sad because he had many possessions. He could not let go even though Jesus had told him he would gain the treasures of heaven. Letting go of what appears to be the sure thing and trusting God with our future can be hard. Trusting that God will provide when we follow in faith can be hard for people who have been convinced that it is by our own doing that we sink or swim.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells the gathered, to not worry about things that are needed such as food and clothing. We might add education, health care, retirement, leisure and other things we experience as needs. Jesus says that worry is what unbelievers do, but believers are to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. Then all things needed will be given. Is it not a great faith challenge to trust the word of God that in seeking the Kingdom, and the way of the Kingdom, God will be faithful in providing what we need? It is a matter of trusting God with all we have been given. All our time, all our talent, all our treasure. All our hopes and all our dreams and our very future.
One of the most inspiring stories of trust I know is that of George Müller. George was a German evangelist who built a five house orphanage in Bristol, England. During the 19th Century, his orphanage cared for over 10,000 children and eventually 17,000 by the time it was sold to the city in 1958. The amazing thing is that he never made an appeal for money. Instead, he prayed and he did Kingdom work, and over £86,000,000 ($112,000,000) was given to this Kingdom work. Müller dared to believe that God still heard our prayers and that God was active in the world working with those who sought the way of the Kingdom. So he prayed, and he worked, and gave the rest over to God, trusting that God would provide the necessary money. Here is George in his own words, “This, then, was the primary reason for establishing the orphan house. I certainly did from my heart desire to be used by God to benefit the bodies of poor children, bereaved of both parents, and seek in other respects, with the help of God, to do them good for this life. I also particularly longed to be used by God in getting the dear orphans trained up in the fear of God; but still, the first and primary object of the work was, and still is, that God might be magnified by the fact that the orphans under my care are provided with all they need, only by prayer and faith, without any one being asked by me or my fellow-laborers, whereby it may be seen that God is faithful still, and hears prayer still.”
Like George Müller, I also believe that God is active in the world, listening to our prayers, seeking co-workers for building the Kingdom, and is calling us to a greater trust. Trust was not easy in Jesus’ day nor was it in Müller’s. It is not now but it seems clear that we must try. I invite you to join me in a season of prayer where I will be praying that we would all become more faithful in seeking God’s Kingdom, discerning what God is asking of us in mission and ministry, living according to God’s righteousness, and become trusting that if we would submit more of all we have been given to the lordship of Jesus, he will provide the treasures of heaven we need to accomplish the work he has called us to do.
Grace and peace and trust be yours, now and always,