Just the other day I saw a beautiful quote that Jeanille decided to use for her Melbourne photo album. The most interesting thing is that the quote was about friendship and from Karl Marx - a man who interestingly despised the notion of family and marriage as nothing more than a social institution to keep people in check. He also is famous for saying that religion is the opiate of the people: a drug to keep us all from thinking. So this got me thinking that it is fascinating that you can have on one hand a man who seems to stand for everything opposite to family and friendship can say something on the other hand as wonderful as "Surround yourself with people who make you happy. People who make you laugh, who help you when you’re in need. People who genuinely care. They are the ones worth keeping in your life. Everyone else is just passing through."
But that has been the case throughout history interestingly. Some of the greatest quotes I have ever read have come from murderers, adulterers, rapists and various individuals society would deem to be morally reprehensible. Read through, for instance, the speeches of Adolf Hitler and you will discover that he had an incredible leadership gift and ability to motivate and inspire individuals. Joseph Stalin and Chairman Mao had the same kinds of gifting. The issue is that they turned these gifts to the wrong purposes.
A man like Karl Marx had a gift for communication and for thoughtful insight. He saw plenty about the human condition - yet he also held a disdain for God and religion that blinded him emotionally. God created us to work together, follow him and worship him forever: the way that an artist creates an artwork to reflect their own personal 'glorified abilities'. How much more does an all powerful creator create his greatest artwork to reflect his eternal glory and power?
The challenge though is that we as people, as humans are left with a choice of free will. We can either use our abilities to glorify God and follow His plans for our life or we can go off on our own paths. God has given me various gifts - particularly in terms of communication and expression. I could easily use those gifts for my own purposes or to convince people to follow my own ideologies and create a cult. Yet in doing so I would be fashioning myself into so much less than what I could be.
I had a thought, very early this morning, that God doesn't always give us what we want the most. This can be a challenge to our faith at times when we are dreaming and desiring about something so much and find doors in life slammed in our faces. Interestingly the story of Lazarus teaches us something about faith and trusting God in such circumstances.
John 11: 21-25
21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Jesus could have gone to Lazarus sooner and saved him from death. However, instead, Jesus arrives after his death and resurrects him. As it continues in John 11:41 'So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”'
Jesus used the death of Lazarus to teach those around the area a lesson about faith and the power of God. It became a more powerful miracle not because Jesus prevented death but because he completely reversed it. This might sound like a tough lesson - after all Lazarus would have therefore become one of the few men in history who unfortunately have to die twice - but it is a powerful one. And when Jesus has the power and authority to reverse death who are you, who am I, to question when he decides to act in his authority? For us to question that is to say we believe we are morally superior or better than God himself.
I've been contemplating the notion recently about whether love is blind or not. Given that God is love I think I can safely state that love is not blind in the way that poets so often state (real genuine Godly love at least). I also believe that faith which connects to God's love for us, and our love for God, is also not blind. I believe that love sees the flaws and the problems but chooses to act towards solving those problems and resurrecting the individual behind there. Jesus did not come to Lazarus and simply fix the problem of his sickness: he resurrected Lazarus and no doubt provided spiritual redefinition to his life.
I believe that God looks at us and sees us as the best we can be - as the resurrected versions of ourselves when we might only see a tomb filled with some rotting corpse. Some of us may choose to abuse our abilities, such as the Karl Marx's and Joseph Stalin's of the world. Or in the more modern day and age it is easy to see the decline of pop stars like Miley Cyrus or Lady Gaga who have all the talent in the world and yet make choices that poorly affect their health and don't glorify the God who created them. Even those of us who accept the salvation of Christ make choices day to day that do not fully honour our God.
Despite all these things though we are still meant for more. We are meant to be rulers and guardians of this world - walking in the spiritual power that God grants us and realising the full potential of our gifts and talents. That's why I say that faith is also not blind. Faith is the key to trusting God and being able to see His power more at work in our lives, but for faith to really be powerful it must be based on a solid foundation: the knowledge and intimacy of who God is in all his three aspects.
Let me give you a quick analogy: if you never met me and I told you to jump off a cliff you would definitely not have faith in my reassurance that I would catch you. If however you knew me very well and knew that I could catch you you would be more likely to jump. The same goes for us: the better we know God, the more we realise that he has our best in mind - that he made us for more than mediocrity.
My church is going into a week of prayer and fasting next week. I look forward to drawing closer to God, family and friends in this time and seeing his resurrection power come to life in me. I encourage you all who may be reading this to think about how you can draw closer to God and become the more that you are meant to be. I personally am looking forward to the surprise of 2015 as I journey with God!
1 Corinthians 4:20 "For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God's power."