Do Even Harder Things

shovelThere’s a book out there, Do Hard Things, by Alex and Brett Harris. I’ve never read it, though having heard it cited by a number of teenagers hopelessly on fire, I’m intrigued. It seems to have inspired Christian youth to break out of comfort zones, live sacrificially and selflessly.

But I haven’t read it. So perhaps it is redundantly that I ask –

Are we really doing hard things?

A young man from our youth group preached a sermon from Acts 10 last night. I hope he will not think of me as simply regurgitating what he so finely said (is that illegal?), for something fell together for me in my own words, and I’ve got to get it out.

It was not ten chapters into our current era – the era of salvation through Christ, of his church on earth – that the gospel went from being “just for Jews” (in the Jews’ mind) to open for all nations. You’d think this turn of events would have been obvious from “and Judea and Samaria and to all the ends of the earth” (1:8), but whatever. To get his message across, God orchestrated an encounter between Peter and a Gentile – a centurion of the hated Italian Regiment, natch – and brought the Spirit upon him in full view of Jewish believers. After that, there could be no doubt that the gospel was for all people, Jew and Gentile alike, who would hear the Word and respond.

What’s crazy is that God had to send Peter three visions to get him into position.

Would Peter have gone with Cornelius’ messengers without the visions immediately beforehand?

Somehow I doubt it. It looks safe to say that Peter would rather take the Gospel to his own countrymen than to the Gentiles.

That’s no small statement. Peter’s fellow Jews were zealots. He’d already undergone brutal persecution from the religious authorities (Ch. 4, 5, 7, 8). We read in 11:4 that these are the kind of people to call him on the carpet for eating with”uncircumcised men”. Good grief – genuine Christians already turning Pharisee? Already in Acts 11, it’s shades of Matthew 9:11, the Pharisees asking Jesus’ disciples why he ate with sinners. Peter had no doubt been one of the disciples asked. Now he stood “accused”.

That Peter would rather witness to these people than to the Gentiles, says a lot about Peter’s heart towards Gentiles – or lack of heart, really, until the Spirit got involved.

We saw something similar with Jonah, who was asked to preach repentance to despised Nineveh. As my pastor once asked, why did Jonah ask to be thrown into the sea once God’s displeasure became clear, instead of simply repenting on the boat and pledging to obey? His conclusion: Jonah would rather die than go to Nineveh.

So the “hard thing” has nothing to do with nation. It has to do with our hearts.

Consider: for some of us (though not all of us), it’s actually easier to go and help a Muslim believer in another nation. For one thing, we already have sympathy towards them. Both the Christian and worldly medias have seen to that – rightfully so. They are suffering, in need of every form of help. For another, we needn’t face much consequence for our witnessing if we’re only abroad for a couple weeks. We go, we share, we return home. That makes us bolder even in peaceful nations.

But our obese, obnoxious, frequently intoxicated neighbor, who blasts Pearl Jam at all hours of the night,lets his St. Bernard use your lawn for a toilet, and isn’t moving any time soon…

Does he get compassion?

Does God value his soul less than that of a foreigner?

Is it possible that he’s the hardest thing for some of us?

The least of these span the globe.

Some Christians won’t eat with those who swear. We swear off anything that strikes us as a worldly trapping – a tattooed guest in church, or working at an unsavory mechanics’ shop – without asking if there might be lost people there. It’s these people against whom our hearts are often hardened. Perhaps the “hard thing” is not the hard thing to do, but the hard thing to want to do.

I say this with some trepidation, for I know God will hold me to this, too. But I trust him to empower us. Let us not be like Peter, for whom being sent was like pulling teeth and canvases of dead animals. Whether a refugee in a distant country or an arrogant, selfish neighbor across the fence, I trust God to send us well.

Perhaps this all is what Do Hard Things says. If so, I guess I’m saying it again. Some things can’t be repeated oft enough.

17 thoughts on “Do Even Harder Things

  1. Oh this one sucks, but in a good way. God holding us to the same things we preach and pray for others.
    How doe one love one’s neighbor? As you say it is fairly easy to go where no one knows us or is watching. It’s the Pearl Jam guy that can be tough.
    He’s watching how I react to his St. Bernard. How I respond when he cranks the tunes up. How I greet him when I see him out, or not.
    Personally I would probably go get a six pack, if that’s his thing and ask him over to hang out. Now I hate beer but have never considered it a sin to drink on a rare occasion .But I have a reputation among local believers for hanging out with drunks, potheads and other disreputables in general.
    The hardest thing for me, at times, is hanging out with those of the household of fellowship who seem to have no concern for the lost around them.
    The “Jesus is coming back any day now” crowd who don’t hang out with sinners and are hunkering down until He returns.
    And, as Daddy often has and does, I am being challenged more and more to go and love them.
    The church is becoming my mission field. Helping people to see and know His love and grace for them. Seeing them set free from those secret sins and healed of hurts and wounds from others.
    But, mostly letting them know about the end time move that is coming and encouraging them to prepare themselves for the greatest outpouring o His Spirit since Pentecost.
    Millions around the world are hungry for God and He is about to answer that hunger. The world will once again be turned upside down and my heart must be ready for whatever role He may choose for me in it.
    The buildings we all attended church in will not contain all those who are coming in. It will be awesome and terrifying at the same time.

    Liked by 2 people

      • As do I! I also believe, whether I pray or not, that Daddy is about to “draw a line in the sand” where His people will have to choose to be completely sold out or become stale and lukewarm.
        My hope and prayer is that most will choose the former.

        Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a LOT more fun to put the golden rule into action with such a neighbor … “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” … so … since clearly the neighbor wants to be blasted with music he doesn’t choose and can not turn off – offensive music even – y’all ought to blast back with some southern gospel – or maybe some old recordings of George Beverly Shea. I threatened to do that very thing with the UCC church 3 houses down when I still lived out Cornville way – when they began playing an old, and I mean OLD carillon tape system over the loudspeakers in the bell tower. It literally rattled the windows of my house and was quite shrill – so badly worn were those 40 year old 8-track-like cassettes they were using. Their initial response was to turn it up. I complained to the UCC regional HQ in Chicago – who sent out a rep and ordered them to turn it down or off, when I pointed out during a face to face meeting that while they claimed to LOVE their music, it was worship, the INDOOR volume knob was fully OFF, and the OUTDOOR volume was dialed up to 10. “If you love your music so much, why it it turned OFF ?” When still they refused to turn it off or down, they were “evangelizing” with it, after all, it stopped working after a nasty thunder and lightning storm blew through – and they never repaired it again.

      Lest that sound hard-hearted on my part – it really was quite unnerving. Neighbors even closer left home for the post office (a small town with no local delivery) when the bells played at noon. Or they kept the TV on for noise all hours of the day to drown out the church music.

      Now the scriptures talk about “turning the other cheek”. That can be taken 2 ways – western Christianity typically holds that means to open yourself up to be struck again. But imagine this, from middle eastern culture – have your brother (pretend to) slap you on the cheek – now turn your other cheek towards the hand he just struck you with. Not so easy to strike someone who has now turned his face opposite your hand. Works the same way with a more typical (historically and culturally speaking) backhanded slap. To turn the other cheek is a defensive maneuver – not some deathwish action to set yourself up to be struck again.

      Implied in such reaction to being struck by someone who clearly is disrespecting you, is standing up for yourself. Why then is it necessary to take crap like that from your neighbor? So they can form the opinion that Christians are wimps?

      Doesn’t scripture also say “speak the truth in love” and elsewhere “stop lying to each other”? So how is swallowing how you feel about the inconsiderate actions of an oaf of a neighbor an honest response? All you are doing is teaching him that Christians are wimps and dishonest.

      One more true story … a young woman had been evangelized by her aunt and 2 older friends for years – but refused to accept their version of religious Christianity. One day, the Lord told me to accompany the women on a visit to the young woman’s house and to “take your guitar with you”. That’s right Lord – I love hanging out with religious old ladies. But I obeyed. The old gal had me lead some modern worship choruses and Amazing grace at the girls bed side, where she lay dying of cancer. When done, she looked pained – and brother, I’m no slouch on guitar / vox. Her eyes narrowed as if to peer through me and she asked “know any Arlo Guthrie?” I played and sang what I could remember of Alice’s Restaurant and City of New Orleans … she just lay there, smiling as I did the best I could with songs I hadn’t played in 20 years. Then she said “thank you”. “I’d like to receive Jesus now”.

      All she was waiting for was the assurance she could continue to listen to the music she loved and NOT replace her music collection with old Pat Boone records, and gospel choirs, like her aunt and friends played at their houses, all the time.

      Maybe the neighbor just needs to see something real from a Christian – some humanity – some honesty – before coming to Christ himself. It might not have the desired result – but might be the beginning of him having some love, respect, compassion for others.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like Peter have needed multiple promptings to move. God has his sovereign timing. I also have had the Lord warn me that something was going to be required of me sometimes weeks in advance sometimes a month. I do not believe the Lord was surprised on the amount of prompting either Peter or I needed. Thank God we serve a sovereign Lord.

    Increase my immediate and absolute obedience to Christ alone. Thank you, Jesus Amen

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Brandon, thank you again for telling it like it is. I do believe that those who are filled with the Holy Spirit and the true calling by and to the Gospel will know where and to whom we are to speak. It is a hard thing at first, but also a heart thing ~ if we truly believe and have experienced the power of conversion, we may not yet know how to witness, but we can pray and expect that He will answer and show us how to love that unloveable neighbor. If only to show signs of love and friendship to begin with, we are on the right track, and will know the next step, being ready always to answer those who ask what is our hope and reason for joy and contentment in the middle of this chaotic wilderness. Blessings. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This convicted me… thanks Brandon! So blessed to have come by your blog years before. You have such a passion for God and for others. It is truly inspiring! May u continue to delight in Him all the days of your life..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a wonderful blog post! I’m trying to blog as well at my site thedailydisciple.blog, I’d be honoured if you gave me some suggestions and let me know what you think. Thank and God Bless 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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