And the award goes to ...
Counter that with the God of all creation coming to earth as a baby born of an unwed teenage commoner. No red carpet. No music swells. No fan fare. No one asked Mary who designed Jesus' swaddle. It was just them, in a barn, with some animals.
And that was just the beginning.
So I guess it should come as no surprise that He would grow up to preach a message of becoming great by making yourself less, being glorified by being ridiculed, and being first by putting yourself last. Is it any wonder that people were so enamored by Him and His teachings? They were radical! Foolishness to many. But to some ... some who were just crazy enough to believe Him ... they were words of life.
"They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ." (Acts 5:40-42 NIV)Did you catch the red carpet moment in that? The apostles had just been beaten and told never to talk of that which they wanted most to talk about ... and they beamed with pride over it like they were accepting an award! They didn't sleek out with their heads hung low whining about how doing the right thing gets you no where these days. They didn't grumble to each other about their inevitable bruises and broken bones. They pulled out that proverbial acceptance speech and humbly began, "It really is just an honor to be in the same category as those before me ... those I've looked up to for years ... the heroes of the faith. Those who have suffered for the cause of Christ." And when they thank Jesus, you can rest assured it is not a token "shout out" to the Big Guy; it is an emotional utterance of their deepest gratitude for the One who suffered most of all.
I learned something as I read some Revelation passages recently. Did you know the martyrs will be resurrected before the rest of us? And as if that early admission isn't amazing enough, they are resurrected to co-reign with Christ during the 1000 years! (See Revelation 20:1-6)
I'm starting to see a pattern. It makes Paul's words in Galatians 6:9 take on a whole new meaning! "So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up." Our greatest glory comes in sacrificing to bring God glory. The more suffering it causes us, the greater the reward later! I'm not suggesting we go LOOKING for ways to suffer, but imagine how different our perspective could be if we viewed things through this upside down paradigm of Christ ... the one these apostles lived by. Imagine the next moment of excruciating hardship, instead of dropping our shoulders and rehearsing our bitter diatribe of woes ... what if we replied as if we'd just been handed an Oscar!
"Me?! Oh my gosh! This is so unexpected! I can't believe you would even consider me worthy of such an honor!"
Ridiculous right? This is not some pipe dream; this could happen! The Bible is not a collection of exceptions, but examples! (Right, John Elderedge?) If we will press in and allow God's view of life and circumstances to radically change us ... we too could walk the red carpet of fellow sufferers ... with joy!
Oh, that I would view difficulties and obstacles this way, Lord. May each problem arouse anxious anticipation instead of fearful dread. As if the envelope is being opened to reveal ...
... and the winner is ...