Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Hebrews 10, verse 32.
I’ve been a practicing Christian for most of my life. There were a few years after I graduated high school when I fell away, when I felt I had lost my faith. Not surprisingly, even as they were thrilling years of being young, I also felt lost. In my faith walk, that feeling persisted for most of my twenties, until we became involved in a church in Colorado Springs. The pastor who led the church was well-versed in sound doctrine and you could feel the presence of God’s Spirit moving in all we did there. It was a pleasure to do church work then. I looked forward to Sunday Bible studies, and found that the company of Christian friends was anything but boring.
It’s easy to be ‘amped up’ on faith when things are good.
Like on my first mission trip overseas. I was in a group that went to China in late 2009. We dug drainage ditches for a school in the southern People’s Republic. One souvenir I got from there was a rusty metal bowl. It was a food bowl used by a student at the school; apparently it was worn out and thrown away. For a week I watched the kids at this school as they each ate their two meals a day out of bowls like that. Two meals of rice, vegetables, and sparse meat; thank you to the Big Brother of the Communist Party. If they didn’t eat then, they didn’t eat. If you didn’t like what was being served, keep quiet or you might not get any at all. After the trip I had all kinds of intentions of raising money to help the kids in that school. Those intentions fell apart when, in short order, I steered a tornado through my marriage.
But I remember the passion of wanting to help, of seeing people in need who really needed help. I remember the feeling of God’s Spirit motivating me, inspiring me to do something, anything, to help those kids who ate out of rusty metal bowls and slept on hard wood-slat beds with one or two kids to a blanket. I look at the bowl today and am reminded of how much people need food for the body as well as food for the soul.
A few years later, I took a trip to Africa. The one place on earth where I felt closest to God was while walking up into a new church in a small east Ugandan village. Our mission group helped finish construction of the building, and we attended the dedication service for it. There were hundreds of people flowing into the building that day. It honestly felt like being in a procession of angels, with everyone singing, praising, and showing real joy at the simple fact of being together in God’s presence.
Those are the kinds of feelings that verse 32 is talking about. When we’re new to the faith, or when we are riding the high water moments of our faith journey, it’s easy to feel caught up in the moment with the Spirit. It feels completely refreshing to have your soul renewed; if you haven’t lived that experience, it’s like a spiritual Nestea plunge. Nothing sensual of this earth compares to the touch of God in your life. Yet when you feel it, the world around us doesn’t suddenly become any easier to live in. Indeed, professing one’s belief in Christ puts a target on your back. Christ Himself promised that, while His burden was light, it would cost His followers everything. Yet there’s something completely invigorating about plunging into faith to which nothing else can compare.
Verse 32 reminds us that we should remember those feelings and cling to those times. In a world that’s hostile to Christianity, we’ll need them to get through the promised rough days ahead and those through which we now persevere.
For further reading: Hebrews 6:4, Philippians 1:29-30.
My Lord, thank You for the times when You’ve filled my heart. I couldn’t have known how empty it was if You hadn’t filled it. Help me to remember that when evil attacks.