by Peter Ditzel
There was a Christian physician in Bangalore, India. While others in his field drove expensive sports cars, he drove a broken down vehicle and lived in a small house that had no hot running water. On Sundays, he held church services in a lean-to shack made of scrap boards and raw lumber. “The faithful walked, limped, and dragged themselves to that mat-covered room to worship…. It was poverty at its most extreme. The people listened to the sermon, sang, prayed, and had communion. Then they did an astonishing thing. They gave their money. Having almost nothing, they gave very little, but the percentage of their earnings that went to God was extraordinarily high” (Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton, Toxic Faith, [Nashville, Tenn.: Oliver-Nelson Books, 1991] 61). Why did these people do this? Why did they sacrifice so much? Because they saw what so many of us living in the affluent and, so called, Christian world have become jaded to. They saw Christianity as THE light in a very dark world.
Do you know that there are some people who would say that these people in India are poor because they are not faithful to God? They judge a person’s Christianity by his material success in this world. But here we see a physician and his congregation who were giving their all to God. Yet they lived in poverty most of us can only try to imagine. Why? Because they were not giving enough? Of course not! The answer lies in God’s sovereignty and His blessing His people with what He knows they need, not depending on their works. And, as the authors of the book I read this in explain, these people “seem to prove that when all you have left is God, you get as much of God as you possibly can. The comforts of wealth often rob people of dependency on God” (Toxic Faith, 62). Accounts such as this ought to make the purveyors of the “name it and claim it” and “health and wealth” gospels pull their books off the market, cancel their TV programs, and hide their faces in shame.
And, of course, money is not the only way to serve. Let me give you another example from Asia. A Christian was visiting a Chinese couple in Hong Kong, before traveling into Communist China. I’ll quote what this visitor wrote,
A friend took me down a narrow alley to a second-floor flat to meet a man recently released from prison in China. I knew I would be pressed to carry Bibles and literature on my trip [into China]. But I was hesitant and tried to mask my fear with rationalizations about legalities and other concerns.
A Chinese man in his 60s opened the door. His smile was radiant, but his back was bent almost double. He led us to a sparsely furnished room. A Chinese woman of about the same age came in to serve tea. As she lingered, I couldn’t help but notice how they touched and lovingly looked at each other. My staring apparently didn’t go unnoticed, for soon they were both giggling. “What is it?” I asked my friend. “Oh nothing,” he said with a smile. “They just wanted you to know it was OK—they’re newlyweds.” I learned they had been engaged in 1949, when he was a student at Nanking Seminary. On the day of their wedding rehearsal, Chinese communists seized the seminary. They took the students to a hard-labor prison. For the next 30 years, the bride-to-be was allowed only one visit per year. Each time, following their brief minutes together, the man would be called to the warden’s office. “You may go home with your bride,” he said, “if you will renounce Christianity.” Year after year, this man replied with just one word; “No.” I was stunned. How had he been able to stand the strain for so long, being denied his family, his marriage, and even his health? When I asked, he seemed astonished at my question. He replied, “With all that Jesus has done for me, how could I betray Him?” The next day, I requested that my suitcase be crammed with Bibles and training literature for Chinese Christians. I determined not to lie about the materials, yet lost not one minute of sleep worrying about the consequences. And as God had planned, my suitcases were never inspected.
Eric Fellman, Moody Monthly, January 1986, 33
We’re not serving to that extent, are we? And yet, we must never think that what we can do is not enough. I’m going to quickly read Galatians 5:13-14. “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
Let’s look at another example in the Bible. It is in Acts 9 beginning with verse 36:
Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did. And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber. And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.
What did Dorcas do? Was she a great evangelist? Did she preach to the multitudes? No, she sewed coats and garments for the poor. But what was the result, a result that she never expected? In verse 42: “Many believed in the Lord.” If she had not been so loved because she so gave of herself by sewing clothes, the disciples would likely not have called for Peter who raised her up, resulting in many believing in the Lord.
Dorcas apparently believed Galatians 6:9-10: “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”
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