Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Attitude of Hospitality—part two

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Meeting the need of another

Obviously, hospitality is more than just being able to see the need of another; it is reaching out to meet that need! Meeting a need requires a deliberate act—opening up your home, cooking a meal, delivering a meal, making a phone call, putting your own schedule on hold to play a vital role in someone else’s, writing a letter, giving financially, speaking words of encouragement and counsel, listening, listening, listening, being sensitive to the struggle of another, spending quality time in prayer that God would comfort and provide, praying out loud for those in need, etc... But the ability to preform that act, whatever it may be, is often rooted in your own experience. The more you acquire in the “need department” the more resources you will be given to meet the needs of others, that is, if you have responded correctly (as did Job) to God’s sovereignty.

Webster’s defined the word attitude as a “mental position, a feeling, or an emotion toward a fact or state.” The only way we gain valuable treasure, a reservoir that we will draw from in order to minister to those in need, is by receiving our own trials with the correct mental position. When God began to reveal this truth to me, it changed my perspective drastically—even though it did not decrease the pain. God was teaching me the absolute precious value of experiencing a need! Agony, disappointment, heartache, sorrow, discouragement, etc… these emotions still overwhelm me at the point of need—they still well up inside my soul without warning when I am reminded of my want or when pain has been inflicted—but now they do not control my response.

As I cry out to Jesus and seek His comfort, in the midst of my pain, I become increasingly aware of His presence. Despite my "not again, Lord!" thoughts and the tempation to think that He must not care, I choose to look up though my tears. And there I see Jesus holding my situation (that ugly, hurtful, lonely situation) in His nail scarred hands—He has those precious hands stretched out in front of me and He is asking if I would accept this difficult reality as a gift—He wonders if I would be willing to embrace it as I would one of His blessings. In that intimate moment, my mind expands to the realness that what I choose will effect another—the truth that God is entrusting a priceless resource to my possession—a possession I will be able to invest in someone else's life. Even when my strength fails (for it does!), my desire is to reach out and do that one thing that is pleasing to the Savior.

I still often wrestle with the fact that in doing so I am not only saying “Yes, Lord”, but I am willingly agreeing to His timing and to His decision as to the amount of pain I will be receiving. I spend a lot of time praying that Jesus would give me the strength to continue holding it. It is a complete surrender—a death I feel to the uttermost. But what follows is a stillness that covers every ounce of the pain and an awareness that God only asks from me that which He intends to use. He tells me that I am of greater value to His Kingdom when I am content.

Are you experiencing loneliness in your life, disappointment in your marriage, or accusation from a friend? What is your mental position regarding that thing? I’m not suggesting you justify the sin committed by another or ignore the pain that is real—but how about leaving that which is out of your control with the Lord, and instead, consider your attitude in light of His sovereignty. When we focus on those things we cannot change we will quickly become self-centered, and that, we have learned, is a sure way to quit "doing good." A wonderful picture of this principle in play is found in Luke 22. Jesus is arrested—talk about being sinned against, feeling deserted, and stepping into a situation that seems completely out of your control. In the fear and choas of guards and soldiers and swords and fire coming to take his master, Jesus' dear friend and loyal disciple reaches for his sword in order to defend the Savior—slashing through the ear of one of the High Priests servants. Jesus, despite His own agony, stooped down and touched the place that had been wounded, bringing complete healing to the young man's ear. Jesus "went about doing good" even in the midst of a horrible trial. That is because Jesus had the correct mental position (He had settled it earlier in the garden) regarding what was happening.

You must believe that nothing enters your life without our Savior’s stamp of approval. Are you resisting what God is obviously allowing by thinking you don't deserve it? Has it made you angry? Are you sulking? Are you harboring bitterness—updating that record of wrongs daily in your mental journal?

Or...are you surrendering your attitude toward this trial and taking the time to seek Christ through it?

Dear believer, God has a plan for your pain—He wants to use your sorrow to awaken your heart to His love, and He wants to use your affliction to make you aware of someone else’s pain. Allow Him that precious privilege. Respond correctly to His chastisement—whatever that may be.

Be assured that God has a purpose. He wants to teach you how to adorn the attitude of hospitality in a practical way—He wants you to wear that attitude, as did His Son. He allows the need in order that you might experience what it is like to have Christ meet that need. Tell the Lord that you desire to glean from what He allows in order to minister God's blessings to others.

Your awareness of another’s loneliness is heightened when you are alone yourself. Your sensitivity to those who suffer is learned while enduring your own pain. You would not know the depth of another’s need without being in want yourself. View your trial as a precious jewel—a valuable experience—that will teach you how to serve others as your Savior chose to serve you. Thank the Lord for it—for you will only excel in this “good work” if you accept what the Lord is allowing you to experience. It is okay to ask the Lord to take it away—it should increase your prayer life—but wait quietly for the Lord to remove it. You will find that your acceptance will make you a better friend and will grant you freedom within your relationships (even those hard relationships).

When you are determined to turn your eyes from yourself and accept hard things in your life, you will beautifully demonstrate the quality of hospitality. It is gained through humility!

In desiring to be hospitable learn how to be nothing. It is only in emptying yourself (of yourself) that Christ can fill you completely with His love, compassion, time, and energy! Hospitality is the attitude that allows you the wisdom to see a need. Hospitality then becomes the act of meeting that need!

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

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