I am not a hunter. It’s not for ethical reasons. I find many of our furry woodland friends, particularly deer, to be quite tasty and enjoy having a freezer full.
I do not, however, enjoy getting up several hours before any reasonable creature is up and at it in order to climb up into a tree in the freezing cold of winter surrounded by the thick darkness of night.
What was most torturous about this practice was that all of this effort must be expended for even the slightest chance that Bambi and friends might wander across my path at some point between when the sun rises and when the sun sets. I always struggled to see the sense in intentionally subjecting myself to suffering.
Let’s put a pin in that thought for a minute, shall we?
As I have noted in a previous post, every summer, youth from all over the country head to various locations to engage in service projects with Mission Serve for a week at a time. While on these trips, youth and adults sleep on air mattresses or cots in classrooms at churches or schools.
All of these prepackaged trips take place during the summer months, resulting in participants working out in the blazing sun and heat of summer. They get up at an unnaturally early hour in the morning to head out to their worksites. What’s crazy is they actually choose to do this of their own freewill. They actually pay money for the privilege.
My family and I are currently just outside of Washington, D.C., on just such a service project. The band that was supposed to lead worship was unable to attend, so leadership asked if I might be able to put something together to fill the gap.
We arrived at the church at 11:30 p.m. Monday night, unloaded all of our gear, set up and checked the sound system, and at 1:30 a.m., we finally headed to bed, which consequently is located behind a curtain on a stage in the dining area.
At 4:15 a.m., just after we had fallen asleep, lights started turning on, music started pouring out of the kitchen across the hall and the joyful voices of kitchen workers making breakfast arrested our slumber. As I lay in my cot on the stage, a thought occurred to me: I chose this. Given the chance, I would make the same decision again. I love this stuff.
Here is where the two stories converge. Why would someone intentionally subject themselves to suffering? We will willingly and even gladly suffer and sacrifice for the things that matter most to us.
Athletes endure strenuous, even torturous, training to prepare their bodies for the rigors of competition. Students will spend years of their lives studying for hours on end, even pulling all-nighters in pursuit of the knowledge that will unlock their chosen careers. Parents sacrifice in more ways than can be counted in order to bring their children into the world and to assist them in the pursuit of their own dreams.
I don’t love to hunt, so I’m not willing to sacrifice much to make it happen. I love sharing the Gospel, so I’ll gladly subject myself to various inconveniences. We will sacrifice and suffer for that which we love. We will even count it a privilege and an honor to do so.
In Acts 5:41, we read that the political leaders of the day have the apostles beaten for talking about Jesus. That’s what most of us would call a bad day, but the response of the apostles indicates something quite different.
Acts 5:42 reads, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the name (of Jesus).” They saw suffering for the name of Jesus as a privilege for which one had to be worthy. They understood that through their sacrifice, the light of Christ shined all the brighter in and through them.
As they gave of themselves so that others might experience the hope and grace of Jesus, they walked the very path that he had laid out for them.
The Rev. Dr. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at jeremysmyers.com.
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