Sorrowful, Yet Always Rejoicing
December 14, 2011
by Bob Finley
Chairman and Founder of Christian Aid
Those who enter fully into the Christian experience will continually share two opposite emotions: joy and sorrow.
When our Saviour was born the heavenly angels announced "good tiding of great joy" to shepherds abiding in the fields. But some time later when the newborn child was presented to the Lord in the temple at Jerusalem a prophet named Simeon said that He was "a sign which shall be spoken against" and warned His mother, Mary, that because of this child a sword would pierce through her soul (Luke 2:34-35).
To the saints in Rome the Apostle Paul wrote, "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep." To the Corinthians he said he was "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" (II Corinthians 6:10). He said he was "always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus" (2 Corinthians 4:10). For what reason? "That the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body."
These mixed emotions should be ever present with us. When the Christmas season comes many of us want to sing "tis the season to be jolly" and forget about the sorrow. That doesn't honor our Lord. It should also be a time of sorrow, weeping and giving (to Him) as we remember how He is suffering in His body (the true church) in lands of poverty and persecution.
The Scripture indicates that God allows the suffering which millions of believers are going through right now in order to provide an opportunity for us who are spared to minister to those in need. When we stand before Him He wants to say, "I was hungry, and you gave me food" (Matthew 25:35).
Christ our Lord lives on this earth today within the members of His body, collectively called His church. So as we minister to suffering members of His body we minister unto Him. And failure to do so is an indication that we are not living in God's will and need to make things right. "Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" (I John 3:17).
I know that many of us live more or less isolated in suburbia where we don't see starvation or persecution and other forms of suffering. "But," we say, "let a neighbor's split-level, four-bedroom, three-bath house catch fire and we would rush to the rescue." God won't let us get away with such a limited attitude. He uses photography and printing and videos in the hands of His servants with Christian Aid and other ministries to graphically portray the needs of His people in lands of great poverty, persecution and desolation.
It's not enough to say, "If I see someone in need, I will help him." You aren't going to see many in suburbia, or even in inner cities of America. The poorest people in America appear to be fabulously rich when compared to victims of war, famine and contagious diseases in Africa. Or the millions of sharecroppers trying to survive in rural villages of India, Nepal, Burma and elsewhere.
Virtually all of the 800 native missions assisted financially by Christian Aid in poorer countries try to care for the poor and suffering in their midst. They help famine and disaster victims, those sick and in prison, homeless refugees, orphaned or abandoned children, and many more who are destitute and suffering. So whenever you send a gift to Christian Aid for any one of these works of God you are ministering to the needs of our Saviour as He lives on earth today in His body, the church.
Let me put in modern English a paraphrase of what I think our Lord wants to say to every affluent Christian when we stand before Him in our resurrected bodies at His coming:
You saw how I was hungry, and you sent a check to provide food for me. You saw that I had no clothing or blankets or bedding or firewood to provide heat for my tiny hut, and you gave for an indigenous mission that provided these things for me.
You saw that believers in my little church had to walk five miles to get one can of drinking water, and you gave $600 to drill a well for them.
You saw how entire church congregations were driven from their little homes by invading rebels and religious extremists, and you sent funds to provide food and housing for them.
You saw how I was put into horrible dungeons because I steadfastly refused to deny the living God, and you sent gifts that enabled local believers to provide food for my helpless children and to bring some for me also, along with blankets and clothing.
You saw me stricken with leprosy, and tuberculosis, and malaria and other infectious diseases, and you sent love offerings that enabled native missionaries to provide shelter from the sun and rain, cots on which to lie, and life saving medicines that restored my health so I could continue to advance the kingdom of God among my people.
Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
It's not because we minister to our Lord's body that we will share His heavenly kingdom forever. It's the other way around.We give to Him (not just at Christmas but all year 'round) because He first loved us and gave Himself for us. If we really believe He died for us, and has accepted us purely on the merit of His blood shed for our sins, we will love Him and give ourselves for Him. And the way we do it is to minister to the needs of those members of His body who are suffering because of wars, famine, disasters, diseases and persecution.