By Pastor Phillip Rutledge
“Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.” – Billy Graham
It must be an age thing but I find myself looking at the obituary column with greater frequency. I look at them with a certain awe.
Every day the paper will have a page or two of death announcements. Like an endless march of souls stepping off the face of this earth. I can’t help but wonder how many gave their life to Christ before they left. How many had a Christ-like character?
Recently I read that two children of God folded up their tent and went home.
Passing on the same day, at the ripe old age of 90, was the world renowned Anglican Theologian Dr John Stott and at the “Glorious” age of 106 was one of my church’s own… her name was “Madge”.
Chris Wright, director of Langham Partnership International, said this about Dr. Stott; “for all of us who knew him, (he was) a walking embodiment of the simple beauty of Jesus, whom he loved above all else.”
That too would describe “Madge”.
Dr Stott was described as “warm and humble”. He wrote over 50 Christian books in which he took complex theology and explained it in a way lay people could understand. I dare say virtually every Christian pastor would recognize the name.
Given his literary and speaking gifts I would describe Dr. Stott anatomically as the heart, mind and larynx of God’s Word. Madge would have been the breath of God – gentle and calm. Virtually unseen to the world but always present around our church. I can’t imagine her raising her voice in anger.
Dr. Stott and Madge both exemplified the love of Jesus. They were Christ-like. Although they may have expressed themselves in different way, they both shared the compassion that Jesus shows in the gospel of Matthew 14:13-21 (NIV)
Jesus had just been informed of the death of John the Baptist.
When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.
Yet… “Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.” They were relentless. If we were in their place would we not have acted the same?
Matthew 7:12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
Did Jesus scold them for hounding him? No.
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
By the end of the day I imagine the disciples were tired… maybe a little whinny. “… Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
But again Jesus had compassion on them, too.
“They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
Can you imagine what the disciples must have thought when they heard that? This is not one of those “fish” stories you tell at the cottage. Jesus was serious. They were about to witness a miracle.
And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
Jesus performed a miracle that day and it happens still today. God provides in abundance. Not in a glutinous way like when we know we’ve eaten far too much turkey dinner, but in ways that we can’t imagine – filling our needs, and more.
What has God put on your heart this week? Is he asking you to do something you think is impossible? Something hounding you that you need to deal with?
Whether you are known around the world like Dr John Stott or known only around our church like Madge, God has a plan for you.
John 14 (NIV) Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these… I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” You are not alone.
I pray that like Dr Stott and Madge, we too may leave this world bearing the same Christ-like character.
Give thanks to your Father in heaven, Trust God, believe in the Holy Spirit, seek God’s plan and your life too will reflect the heart of Jesus. – S.D.G.