I have always been fascinated with construction work. It brings out all those building instincts within me. Who would not be awed by such enormous projects as putting a ten lane highway through a residential neighborhood, chiseling around mountains, blasting through rock, moving millions of cubic yards of dirt—it all seems like such a superhuman task, even with huge machinery. But they have learned some short cuts over the years, like building a highway bridge on the ground and then digging the roadway out from under it when it is finished. That way they don’t have to worry about workers falling off or determining how to get heavy machinery up to it.
I got to thinking about that procedure as I watched them put together one of the bridges over Squaw Peak (Piestawa Peak) Parkway many years ago. For weeks it was difficult to determine what was happening as lines, conduit, and rebar were all strung together and covered with concrete. There was no way one could tell what that gray mass was all about until they began to dig beneath it and suddenly expose….a bridge!
How very like the process our Lord uses in the Sermon on the Mount when he takes this ingredient and that ingredient and puts them together in a strange combination that seems out of place to the undiscerning. We wonder why He is so insistent that we follow the procedure exactly and why He is so intolerant of our own natural inclinations. That is why following the Word of God demands faith. It isn’t just a matter of “doing what comes naturally.” Some of His demands appear very unnatural. I was speaking with a man who was telling me of his work for a former employer who is presently seeking to undermine his efforts in the new company he had just started. “It makes me angry at their unethical behavior,” he confessed, “and I want to retaliate. But I know God doesn’t want me to do that.” I assured him he was correct and that if we do things God’s way, we will get God’s results. We can’t always understand how that works, but we know from experience that when the storms of life come and the winds and rain do their job, only one thing remains standing: the life He designed. There really is no substitute for following the Designer’s specifications.
One of the unfortunate by-products of living in a wealthy, influential and vast nation is in thinking that what happens here is the only thing that matters. This “geographical arrogance” has also spilled over into the Church. It is noticeable when we handle prayer requests. Most of our requests deal only with our own circle of acquaintances. Only occasionally do we hear requests concerning regional or national matters. Almost never do we hear about those from other lands. We might reply that we have our hands full dealing with local issues. But God doesn’t wear blinders. He has children everywhere and is as concerned with a problem in Nigeria as one in America.
I think one of the most beautiful facets of our faith is the tie that binds us to Christians everywhere. Are you aware, for instance, that Manzoor Masih of Lahore, Pakistan, was arrested for preaching Christ, released by the courts, then shot to death by his Muslim accusers? Or that five house church buildings near Wenzhou, China were demolished by Public Security Officials (two of them having more than 1,000 members)? Or that Pastor Ishak Christian, his wife, daughter, niece and a church worker were burned to death as a crowd of three thousand Muslims went on a church burning spree in Situbondo, East Java? By the time order was restored 25 places of Christian worship had been burned in seven cities. The “Suffering Church,” as they have been called, really understands what it means to live for Christ in a hostile environment. But these people are not “foreigners.” They are brothers and sisters who are part of that great family about which we sing “Blest be the ties that binds our hearts in Christian love…..”
Not only would knowledge of these events keep us better informed, it would also inspire us to live boldly for Christ here in our own country. If you would like to know more, a place to start is by writing to “Open Doors Ministry,” P.O. Box 27001, Sana Ana, CA 92799; or “Voice of the Martyrs,” P.O. Box 443, Bartlesville, OK 74005. They will keep you informed about the Suffering Church and issue regular Prayer alerts so that you can call down the power of God upon your brothers and sisters thousands of miles away. Isn’t it great how large and inclusive our family is!
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship