Get Excited... About the Right Thing!
2/20/19 – Pastor Brian’s Blog –
Growing up, all I knew about Cuba was what Ricky & Lucy Ricardo told me on their TV show. Later in life I would learn more about Cuba from friends that actually lived there. Friends like Carlos Hidalgo and Adonis Sanchez. Yet never did I ever expect to visit Cuba, but thankfully God had other plans!
Judy and I returned last week from Cuba where we saw God do some pretty neat things. Well to be honest… they were way bigger than “neat,” they were God things. Judy and I had the opportunity to speak at 3 different pastor’s conferences, where we saw over 300 pastors and wives attend. I even had pastors ask if I would e-mail my notes to them. Go figure!! Of course it goes without saying, Judy was loved by everyone she came in contact with.
Each evening, we were in different churches where Bay Forrest (Bay and his wife Peg were the ones that invited us to go) gave an evangelistic message. During our time there, we saw 150+ decisions made for Christ. On Sunday, Bay was able to speak in a Baptist Church of 800+ people and I spoke in a Charismatic church of 200+ people. Pretty amazing opportunities that God allowed us to be part of.
As Americans, many of us cannot imagine the poverty that is experienced by the Cubans. Before we left my friend Adonis Sanchez told me “for a Cuban to have a bicycle, is like an American owning a Mercedes.” Well, because of the financial gifts of others, we were able to give 4 pastors their own “Mercedes.” One pastor told us that he had been praying for a computer for 4 years, another pastor told us that his computer was “fried” and he was unable to replace it. During our trip, we were able to give 6 brand new laptops to 6 pastors.
My translator, who became a good friend, is a full time pastor in Cuba. His church is only able to pay him $8 per month. Someone in Canada supports him $25 per month. That would be $33 a month to support his family of 4. Did I mention that he is a pastor? Full time!!
I have to say that Judy and I came back blessed from the relationships we made with the Cubans, from the opportunities we had to minister, and from the decisions that were made for Christ. Yet as I thought about our week, I was struck with the contentment and excitement we saw in the Cuban Christians, not because of their circumstances, but in spite of their circumstances.
As I pondered these thoughts, I realized that many of those Christians understand something that many of us in the American church have yet to realize. As I was thinking about this, God brought this passage to mind… The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:17-20
Jesus is talking to His disciples and says… “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” What is Jesus saying? As Americans we tend to rejoice in a successful church service, we often rejoice in our church attendance, or the number of people we lead to Christ, the good deeds we may perform in a week, or we rejoice in the things God has blessed us with. Yet Jesus told His disciples not to rejoice in these things, but rejoice because they were related to the God of the universe. Rejoice in their personal relationship with God.
What we saw in Cuba were Christians that were not rejoicing in their numbers, as most of the churches were very small. They were not rejoicing in their circumstances, because for many it was difficult. They were not rejoicing in their things, for they owned very little. Their rejoicing, their excitement, came from their relationship with God.
Satan would love for us to focus on our service, and base our joy on that. For what would then happen if we only saw few results from our service, or no results at all? Jesus set the standard: we are to rejoice in our relationship with God, not our degree of usefulness. What is important in life, is not what you and I do for God, but what God is allowed to do through us. That is where lasting joy, contentment, and rejoicing comes from, and my Cuba friends get it!
The truth is, to the extent that we are in right relationship with God, determines how much we are of use to God. The closer our relationship is with Him, the more God is seen in us. The more we focus on our relationship with God, the more freedom the Holy Spirit has to use us. The more we fix our eyes on Jesus and our relationship with Him, instead of focusing on the circumstances of life, or what is happening around me, the more vibrant our rejoicing becomes.
Is it right for us to get excited about what God did while we were in Cuba? Absolutely! There are people on their way to heaven, there are pastors and wives encouraged because they were taught principles from the Word of God. Is it right for us to rejoice in the results? Yes it is, because it is a wonderful thing, when God allows you to be part of His work.
So we rejoice in what God did. We rejoice, because not only did we experience God’s presence, power, and protection last week; we also rejoice because we will also experience His presence, power, and protection forever. It is not bad to get excited, just get excited about the right thing.
Let us rejoice that our names are written in heaven, because that lasts forever and Jesus guarantees it!! Many of the Cubans we met, got this. Now if I can only get it too!