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From the Hardcover edition.
For the love of Christ compels us ... 2 Corinthians 5:14
Ever had one of those days when you don't feel appreciated for all the good things you do?
It was a Sunday of all days when I hit that wall the hardest.
I was a university student trying my best to live a good Christian life. But I kept running into people who took advantage of my kindness and wanted my help. Nobody seemed to care about me, but only about what I could do for them.
I was feeling lonely and unappreciated. I went to church that night, and it happened again: "Mel, my car broke down on the highway; I need your help to fix it." So as a good Christian, I did my duty and said, "Sure."
Only then did I discover that the car was forty-five minutes away. And as I pulled out of the church parking lot, the cold rain that had been falling all day began turning to sleet.
The only bright spot in all this was an attractive young girl who wanted to go with us. She was new to the church and on my "prospect list." So I put on a good face as I sped off to help a friend in need.
Low and Alone
We came to the abandoned car on the side of the highway. I knew this wasn't going to be fun, but we grabbed our toolsand got to work. We had to slide under the car, which was parked over a puddle, so in no time we were cold, wet, and feeling downright miserable.
Soon my friend couldn't take it any longer and wanted to call it quits. But there was no way I was going out there again the next day, so I forged on while he went back to my car to warm up ... with the girl. I had one of those strange feelings-cold on the outside, burning up on the inside. But I pushed ahead and eventually had the car ready to drive.
As I stumbled back to my nice warm car, I heard the sound of giggling. The two of them were having the time of their lives, obviously unconcerned about how I was doing. But at least the good deed was over and I could enjoy a leisurely drive back with the young lady-so I thought. When my friend went to his car, she went with him!
I stared in unbelief as their car pulled onto the highway and drove off. But it was true: I was all alone.
On my way back I was feeling pretty low. Absorbed in self-pity, I missed a critical exit and headed over a bridge that took me a long way from where I needed to be. It would take me an extra twenty minutes to reach home. By this time I was frustrated as well as feeling hurt and lonesome.
* I was frustrated as well as feeling hurt and lonesome.
At my lowest point, I remember welling up with emotion. At that moment I heard the Lord speak. Though I was all alone, His presence was clear and unmistakable-so much that I literally turned and looked at the passenger seat, expecting to see Him sitting there. Though I saw no physical form, my spirit heard him say, "Mel ..."
"Yes, Lord," I responded.
I thought to myself, Now that's a little insensitive! Lord, I'm having a moment here.
But soon I began to understand. It was as if the Lord was saying, "Now you know how I feel. The only time we talk is when you need something. The only time we spend together is when you're desperate for My help. And worst of all, you've forgotten how much I've done for you."
I began reflecting on what God had done in my life, how blessed I was, how loved I was. If all I'd received from Him was salvation, that would be far more than I deserved; but God hadn't stopped there-He had shown me grace beyond measure.
The more I reflected on this, the more my spirit lifted and my sorrow turned to joy. He brought to mind events that had shaped my life, people who had invested in me, and so many good things I'd experienced. It was as though my life flashed before my eyes and I saw His hand in every stage.
His presence throughout my life was obvious. And my awareness of this seemed to make everything all right as I continued home that night.
Compelled by Love
After all God had done in my life, how could I complain about helping others in need? I was ashamed as I thought more about my previous attitude.
I also came to realize that my service to others had been motivated by recognition I hoped to receive from them-not by love for God and appreciation for His love and blessings for me.
True Christianity is a life compelled by the love of Christ-nothing more, nothing less. The apostle Paul understood this when he wrote, "For Christ's love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: If One died for all, then all died. And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised" (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, HCSB).
How fully do you realize that everything God has done for you, He did not have to do? He has chosen to act toward you in a way that's totally foreign to our way of thinking-His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). God does things that human beings would never do: He shows mercy to sinners; He forgives their sin and cleanses their lives (think of it: "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us"!-Romans 5:8, NASB); He protects them from all evil, supplies their every need with good things, and grants them eternal life in heaven. Yet He doesn't have to do any of this.
Oh, the wonder of God's great salvation! The person who understands it will be changed forever. To those who repent of their sin and put their faith in Jesus Christ, God shows mercy and grace-He withholds that which we rightfully deserve as sinners and pours out blessings we don't deserve.
In light of what God has done in our lives, we ought to live worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and worthy of His sacrifice.
The Smile of Christ
I've generally considered myself to be sacrificial, ready to do whatever it takes to follow the Lord. My understanding of sacrifice, however, took on a much deeper meaning when I joined a group from our church that went to Mozambique on a mission trip.
I'd been on several short-term mission projects within North America and had given lots of money so others could go on missions, but this was the first foreign mission trip I'd really experienced for myself. Because of it, I'll never be the same.
I met a man in Mozambique named Lavish. He was the pastor of a small church in the capital city, but he also had a mission church in a small fishing village on the Indian Ocean. We were excited to go out to this remote area where there had been no church whatsoever. A year earlier, we had sent a team there to secure some land on which we could build a church. Our job was now to do construction work on the church building with the village men, have a Bible study with the women, do various sports activities among the children, drill a water well for the village, and show the Jesus film for the entire community.
Everyone on the team was prepared for their assignment and ready for some long, hard days. We were tired of talking about sacrifice in our comfortable church back home; we were ready to put action to our words.
At that remote village, we slept in tents, cooked over an open fire, and constructed a bathroom with no more than a shovel. (You get the picture!) Ministry among the people was great. Many responded to Christ, and I had the opportunity to conduct a baptism in the Crocodile River (another story in itself).
Meanwhile, with great interest I watched Lavish as he worked alongside us. It was evident to all that he was living the abundant life Christ had promised. His smile would grab you and pull you in, and I couldn't remember meeting anyone so full of the joy of the Lord.
* It was evident to all that he was living the abundant life Christ promised.
As our time of ministry came to an end, we decided to give away our tents, cooking equipment, and extra clothes. Not wanting to create a riot in the village, we decided to take all these goods to the pastor's house in the capital city, where he could distribute them as he saw fit.
We loaded the items into a truck and drove across the city to Lavish's house, a place we had not yet seen. He led us through a section of town where we would have never gone alone. I couldn't believe my eyes! I'd never seen such poverty and dire living conditions. It was worse than any ghetto I could imagine.
It was getting dark as we drove down narrow dirt roads lined with shelters made of salvaged rubbish. I was captured by the sight of people wandering in the night, just as they were no doubt intrigued to see foreigners driving into their neighborhood.
When the truck came to a stop, we jumped out. I quickly loaded up Lavish with some of the goods, then went to grab some myself. When I turned around, however, he was gone.
My eyes darted around, trying to figure out where Lavish lived, but I saw nothing that made sense. As I started walking in the direction I thought he'd gone, I caught a glimpse of him turning into a tavern. I looked in the tavern door just in time to see Lavish going out the back door. I quickly started through this local hangout, trying to appear confident in what appeared to be a very dangerous place. I walked as tall as possible, flexed a few muscles, and did my best to look like a guy you didn't want to mess with! Everyone inside stared at the white boy with his arms full of articles they would love to have for themselves.
Before anyone inside could react, I made it out the back door and into a small dirt courtyard. At the other end was something like a cement box with a metal door. There stood Lavish, unlocking the padlock to let me into his home.
We stepped into a room almost empty. Just a cot, a few rustic cooking utensils, a small stack of clothes, and a single lightbulb hanging from the ceiling. I surveyed the room, trying not to look as if I were checking out his house. I was stunned to realize there was no running water or bathroom to be seen.
When my eyes returned to Lavish, I was struck by the radiance of his smile. Then he said something that cut me to the heart: "Thank you so much for helping us; your sacrifice has been great."
Sacrifice? I felt ashamed, knowing that what I held in my hands cost more than he owned. As I stood in the home of a fellow pastor and thought of all I enjoy at home, how could I consider my service a sacrifice? It was Lavish who had made the ultimate sacrifice for the Lord. He had a good job at the airport, but gave all his income to support his church and its mission. Moreover, he spoke six different languages and had the skills to pursue a much more lucrative job if he wanted to devote his time to it. But he considered his calling as a pastor to be the greatest privilege in the world.
In the world's eyes, he had nothing. But as far as Lavish was concerned, he had everything. You could tell it by the look in his eyes. He knew the Lord, and the joy of the Lord was bubbling out of his life.
Lavish had found the Lord ... on the second mile. And nothing else mattered.
Let's find out more of what this "second mile" is all about in the life that God has called each of us to.
Excerpted from GOING THE SECOND MILE by MEL BLACKABY Copyright © 2006 by Melvin D. Blackaby. Excerpted by permission.
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