By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross
2 Corinthians 4:8-11
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
Too often, people come to faith in Christ expecting that their relationship with God will make everything come up roses; God will fix all our problems and give us the happy lives he wants us to have. While it sounds nice, that’s a false gospel. Jesus promised we would have trouble (John 16:33) and that we would even be hated for our faith (John 15:18-19). The fact is that we live in a fallen world…one where “thorns and thistles” (Gen. 3:18) frustrate us, steal our productivity, and even choke us out altogether if we aren’t careful to cultivate our hearts to receive God’s word (Matt. 13:1-9, 18-23). So how does a relationship with God make things better?
Justin McKee recently said in a YouTube devotional called “Mud mud mud” that God isn’t about changing our circumstances. He’s about changing our hearts by giving us a warrior’s heart that can face the challenge of any circumstance. That’s really important, because everyone, regardless of their faith, will face hard times. If you aren’t currently on hard times, you’ve either just come out of something or you’re on your way into something that will challenge you…maybe even rock you to your core.
The passage from 2 Corinthians above tells us the result of our hearts being changed by God. Christians experience all the hardships of life that everyone else experiences…maybe even more; but we have been given the Holy Spirit so that we might show the world the conquering Spirit of Jesus. Jesus conquered hate with love, calmed the wind and waves with His words, and rose victorious from a death of shame and ridicule. “Cowboy up” doesn’t even come close to describing the grit demonstrated by His life, death, and resurrection…and that’s the kind of grit he wants to demonstrate in our lives through faith in Him (demonstrated by obedience), not so that everyone will see how tough we are, but so that everyone will see that there are no circumstances into which the grace and power of God cannot reach.
Becoming more like Jesus is not for sissies! When the pain seems too much to bear, remember there is a sweet and eternal reward for faithfulness that is WORTH IT! The next time your circumstances seem to be more than you can handle, remind yourself that Jesus didn’t die to make your circumstances better; He died to make you better for your circumstances! Be faithful, and trust God with the results!
The Kettle Campaign for the Salvation Army is just one of many places a Christian can volunteer and be able to serve others.
Thoughts while ringing the Salvation Army bell.
- Most people actually will look at you and speak.
- I was thanked for my service several times. I fought the urge to remind them it’s not that kind of ‘army’ but I knew what they meant.
- Just having to walk past you, you can tell some people feel ‘guilty’ or bad about not giving. We understand if they’re running errands, they’ll likely pass three or four more kettles—we’re not standing there judging you for passing us by.
- I know what a Code 7 is at Food City. A lot of people buy alcohol on a Wednesday afternoon.
- There is a huge shortage of volunteers. Locally, there weren’t even enough people they could pay to ring the bell. I found myself feeling guilty I couldn’t give more hours than I did knowing there were so many times there wasn’t someone standing with the kettle.
- Someone might yell at you for making too much noise.
- I have rhythm. A lady asked me if it was a recording because of the perfect rhythm I was keeping.
- A dollar is the going rate, at least in the locations I was at. That means it takes a LOT of volunteers and volunteer hours to bring in the funds needed for the Salvation Army to operate its assistance programs.
- A lot of people think the funds are to buy Christmas presents for kids. It does that but did you know they also run programs to fight human trafficking? They operate shelters for individuals and families, they provide emergency assistance to help people struggling to keep the power or water on and they provide drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs and much more.
- The bell is an annoying sound to some but I’ve come to realize it’s the sound of hope – it’s the hope found in Jesus Christ that compels the Salvation Army and their volunteers to help anyone, regardless of their beliefs, values or background.
As Christians, we’re called to serve. Getting to work in ministry full-time makes it easy to overlook the need to serve in other areas inside and outside of a church body.
What a simple way for a family to volunteer with their kids
Bell-ringing for the Salvation Army couldn’t be easier and would make a wonderful Christmas tradition to consider next season. A family could easily do this with their children and introduce them to serving others. There’s no training needed, just simple instructions to follow and a willingness to greet people and be nice.
But there are so many places we can serve and it’s something we’re called to do.
Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
By no means does that mean it has to be through an organization or even our churches. It can be helping someone in your neighborhood
In our western culture, we are blessed with numerous organizations that help in structured ways. Many are Christian-based because of what the Bible teaches through instruction like that in Galatians, but many are simply there to help fill a need. Regardless of whether it’s Christian-based or secular, we’re called to help and the organizations out there provide opportunities.
I haven’t shared my own volunteering this year to call attention to myself but to try to encourage others that it’s easy. I’ve looked for more private ways to help or serve in the past but wish I had done something like this sooner, especially now understanding how much of a volunteer shortage there is.
As Christians, we don’t do it for ourselves, we do it to bless others and for the opportunity to show Jesus to them. But in the end, we end up feeling good after we’ve done it. Praise God for the joy that can be found in serving others at Christmas and any time of the year.