Always in Trouble.
The “true condition of the Christian”.
Have you ever wondered if you have less chance to be a vibrant Christian because you live in America where there is air conditioning, pizza delivery, and houses with as many restrooms as occupants? Perhaps, the fact that I own five different versions of the Bible, have access to a U.S. passport, and can write whatever I want on my blog without being arrested, all destines to me to a lukewarm faith relationship with Christ.
Sometime in the tumult of the last few weeks of heart surgery and humidity, I ran across a quote in a book. The footnote led me to another book called People Whose Faith Got Them into Trouble, by John Cowart.
I’m surprised I lived 33 years without knowing about this book. It appears to be out of print now, and can be purchased on Amazon here for the cost of having it shipped to your porch.
I bought it, and almost ate it alive with interest in the 13 heroes it discussed. Each chapter describes a stand-out Christian (who didn’t die eating pizza) somewhere on the timeline between Christ’s death and today.
As the author admits, the fact that I read it eagerly is no compliment to me. It’s quite natural and easy to admire the life of a committed, die-hard Christian.
Admiration comes cheap; imitation is the hard thing. I’m sure you can understand my admiration for:
- Francis of Assisi, who wrote “Lord, Make us Instruments of Your Peace,” also said that “if we Christians were to use our energy to practice the Scriptures we do understand, then we would have little energy left to scrutinize obscure verses we don’t understand”, page 51.
- Hugh Latimer, before being burned to death, “We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out”, page 56.
- Jean Guyon, who wrote the hymn, “I would love thee, God and Father!”, also wrote “I felt at this instant deeply wounded with the love of God–a wound so delightful that I desired it never might be healed”, page 67.
- Susanna Wesley, “The best preparation I know of for suffering is a regular and exact performance of present duty” page 82.
- William Carey, life-long missionary to India: “Expect great things from God; Attempt great things for God” and “When I am gone, say nothing about Dr. Carey–speak about Dr. Carey’s Saviour”, pages 92 and 99.
- Hudson Taylor, life-long missionary to China: “No amount of labor and machinery will accomplish without spiritual power, what may be easily accomplished when we place ourselves in the current of God’s will, and wok by His direction, in His way”, page 111.
- Mary Slessor, life-long missionary to Africa, who did not like to be addressed as Lady Slessor: “I am Mary Mitchell Slessor, nothing more and none other than the unworthy, unprofitable–but most willing–servant of the King of Kings”, page 136.
- Jim Elliot, martyred by Auca Indians: “The will of God is always bigger than we bargained for,” page 141.
The epilogue is titled, “Who’s Next?” The author says, “Following Jesus is what made the people in this book different from others…Contact with him changed them. They became, in varying degrees, like him.”
But you know what I noticed about almost all of these people? They were like us. For their time, many of them lived the “pizza, air conditioning, and five versions of the Bible” life, at the beginning. They were the sons and daughters of socially important people and scholars and rich businessmen.
Then, something happened, in the context of their search for life’s meaning: one conversation, one encounter, one phrase in one sermon, one trip, one hero, one bout with their own sin. They caught a glimpse of what life with Christ could mean, and they became unstoppable.
Jean Guyon, high class and very beautiful, even comments on this issue: “I was poor in the midst of riches…”
They did not end their lives in air conditioning, eating pizza. That is clear. Jean Guyon ended up in prison, where she wrote poetry: “My prison walls can not control, The flight, the freedom of my soul.”
But if we know what it’s like to be in the world’s top one percent, where there are more bathrooms than people, that is no reason to think God won’t call us to join the ranks of the “People Whose Faith Got Them into Trouble”.
If anything, history predicts the opposite.