This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from Lucien Accad (from Lebanon, Mr. Accad is a former director of the Bible Society in Beirut. During the war in Lebanon, his house was severely damaged many times.), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 8:3)
Jesus' call is to forsake all and follow Him, and we willingly do this, declaring there is nothing too precious for us to give up for Him should He require it of us.
But then, just as our lives are settled, the Lord takes away our precious things and we are left empty. Had we given up these things voluntarily it would be different, but this is out of our control. We see ourselves small, crying out to God in our pain, truly humbled, there is nothing we can do.
We are left with a void--an emptiness, described in the verse as hunger. The Lord does not replace what He took away--no, He teaches us to do without, and His promise is that He will feed us with manna from heaven--something we had never thought of before or are able to imagine.
Though we hunger, we don't want the manna, it is not real to us, can it really satisfy us? We want the solid flesh pots of Egypt--the things we have known before. But then we see and know: we submit to our Lord; we trust in His causing us to hunger, and eagerly await His manna. We get a taste of the heavenly blessings--not a replacement of what we lost, but a completely new thing.
A moment of introspection: In the Christian annual experience of Christmas, it may seem unfitting and unwise to more deeply consider the call of Christ on our lives: to forsake all and follow Him. But the question remains in the back of my mind. How is it, that millions of Christians believe so passionately in Christ, that they will not deny Him under duress or torture? It is, I believe, because that faith is all they have. Jesus and their relationship with Him becomes precious in a way that few prosperous Christians might comprehend. In college, in Sociology, we studied the difference between the voluntary and involuntary poor. There is a significant difference in outlook between those who voluntarily give up worldly goods and those who find themselves without much worldly possessions because they live in a culture of poverty. The difference? Primarily it is one of outlook or purpose. The voluntary poor have a purpose for choosing to give up worldly possessions; the involuntary poor have no such sense of purpose.
Lucien Accad notes that "Jesus' call is to forsake all and follow Him." Responding to Christ's call is purpose enough, and Mr. Accad continues by saying "and we willingly do this, declaring there is nothing too precious for us to give up for Him should He require it of us." It is good if we should be ready at a moment's notice, to rid ourselves of possessions and heed the Master's call--if He calls us so to do. But Mr. Accad also notes that there may be occasions when "the Lord takes away our precious things and we are left empty. Had we given up these things voluntarily it would be different, but this is out of our control." In these times, it seems, more and more Christians find themselves financially living on the brink--from paycheck to paycheck. And the thought of "What if...?" seems more real. What we are reluctant to cede of our possessions, God may remove from us--not out of anger, but out of love for those whom He has been calling.
But... Whether individually we are called by God to give up what is not ours anyway--is between God and each of us. The Israelites learned the hard way in their leaving Egypt (Deuteronomy 8:1-5). The rich young ruler learned the hard way in turning away from Christ (Matthew 19:16-23); many who heard Christ preach on the hillside learned the hard way (i.e., in the sense that many of those who were astonished at Christ's words, as recorded in the Gospels, later were part of the crowd who called for his crucifixion). The apostle Paul felt strongly about forsaking all, and said: I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13) He also confirmed his feelings about Christ’s call to forsake all, in Philippians 3:10-16 (especially vv.3:15-16). This Christmas season, as we once more prepare our hearts and our homes for Christ's birth, let us consider His later words and prayerfully listen to Him: (Luke 9:23) And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.