Today's "thought" comes to you from the Christian devotional classic, "The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas a' Kempis (1380-1471). His name means "Thomas of (or from) Kempen" - a small town in eastern Germany, just a few miles from the border of Holland. His God-given gifts which come through to us in his writing consist in his wisdom, keen insight into human nature, and ability to say a lot in very few words (a gift I missed out on)!
In terms of personal transformation he taught: "The acknowledgment of our weakness is the first step in repairing our loss." In terms of spiritual leadership he stressed: The loftier the building, the deeper the foundation must be laid." In terms of the self he said as we all can: Who has a harder fight than he who is striving to overcome himself." And in terms of Jesus words in John 14:7 he assured us: "Without the Way, there is no going, Without the Truth, there is no knowing, Without the Life, there is no living." This selection is entitled"Few Bearers of His Cross." Enjoy.
"Jesus now has many lovers of the heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of His Cross. He has many who desire consolation, but few who desire tribulation. He finds many companions at His table, but few of His abstinence. All desire to rejoice with Him, but few are willing to endure anything for Him, or with Him.
Many follow Jesus unto the breaking of bread, but few unto the drinking of the cup of His sufferings. Many reverence His miracles, but few follow the shame or disgrace of His Cross. Many love Jesus so long as no adversities befall them. Many praise and bless Him so long as they receive consolations from Him. But if Jesus hide (the sense of His presence) and leave them but a little while, they turn to complaining or into much dejection of mind.
But they who love Jesus for the sake of Jesus, and not for some special comfort they can receive from Him, bless Him in all tribulations and anguish of heart as well as in the state of highest comfort. Even if He was never willing to give them comfort, they would, even then, praise Him and wish to be always giving thanks.
O how powerful is the pure love of Jesus, which is mixed with no self-interest or self-love! Are not all those to be called mercenary who are ever seeking consolations? Do they not show themselves to be rather lovers of themselves than of Christ, who are always and only thinking of their own profit and advantage? Where shall one be found who is willing to serve God for nothing?"
Now, here, I do need to confess I am one who enjoys and cherishes the comforts and consolations of Jesus when they come. I believe we all do. Even Mr. A'Kempis did, as he confessed elsewhere. That's not really his point. His point is that if that's all we seek; if we only seek, love, praise, and thank Jesus when we are receiving those things, and we cease doing so, or walk away in bitter anger and disillusionment when the opposite comes (whether it be for a short or extended time) we must question what we are seeking, who we are loving, why we are praising, and why difficulties would make us stop giving Him thanks.
If we love Jesus only when the blessings are flowing, and not when the struggles come; if we cherish and adore Him only for what He gives, and not for the sake of who He is (the Lamb worthy of all glory and honor and power - Revelation 4:6-5:14) we must truly question if it's Jesus that we love. If a child only "loves" his father when his father was giving him gifts, and is indifferent or does nothing but complain when he withholds those gifts, what would it say about the object of that child's "love"?
You see, a pure love for Jesus mixed with "NO self-interest or self-love" may be an ideal that we can never fully achieve so long as the principle of sin still clings to us in this life. Yet, that ideal can be placed before us, and should be placed before us (as a'Kempis does here), to serve as a means of grace which helps us move away from the all too common tendency to love so conditionally the Lord who loves His children so unconditionally. Only you can know the reaction a'Kempis' words caused inside you, but I must confess they lead me to say, "Sorry Lord, please change my heart."
Thankful for His Grace, Pastor Jeff