The Grace of God in Our Circumstances
Why You Weren't Born As an Impoverished Child in an Unreached Nation
Have you ever thought about why you were born into your particular circumstances? If you are reading this blog entry you are most likely a Christian whose life has been purchased by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. You are also likely relatively wealthy, at least compared to most people living in the world. If you have the ability to eat three times per day and have shelter over your head, you are better off than many people in the world. If you earn $25,000 per year, you are the richest 10% of the world. You are rich. In fact if you earn $2,200 per year you are the richest 15% of the world. If you reading this you are literate and likely had several years of education. If so you have received more education than hundreds of millions of people around the world. Perhaps you have gone to college, even graduate school.
So why? Why you? Why your particular circumstances? There are people around the world who might be asking the same questions. Wondering why they weren't born in America. Wondering why they can't eat three times per day, why they don't have the luxury of throwing food away. Wondering what it would be like to go to school or attend college or even read. Wondering what a warm bed feels like.
You could have been born as an impoverished child in an unreached nation. Perhaps as a girl born into a Muslim family where you would be forbidden to show anything beyond what can be seen through the eye slits of your veil and could be beaten if you disobeyed even the simplest command of your father. You could have been born in a remote village in Vietnam with little food or education and no opportunity to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You could have been born as a girl in Africa who will eventually be sold by your parents into sexual slavery. That could have been you.
But it's not you. Instead you were born into privileged circumstances. Blessed physically, educationally, financially, and spiritually. Why? Only by the grace of God. What is our response then to such blessing and grace?
Certainly God calls us to be thankful. But too few of us are. We take for granted the blessings that we have received from God. Instead of thanksgiving for what we have received, we complain about and lust after the things that we don't have. We covet what our neighbors have. We idolize material things. We are surrounded by clear, tangible, practical blessings from God that should be so easily recognized and enjoyed. But our eyes and hearts are too often and too easily diverted toward what we don't have by the power and persuasion of advertising and social pressure. Lord, forgive us for our lack of thanksgiving!
And another crucial response to God's blessings and grace in our lives should be to look to share with those in need. Rather than looking at our own circumstances and then the unfortunate circumstances of others and saying, "Thank God I'm not them!" We need to recognize that our circumstances are by the grace of God alone in order that the grace of God might spread from us to others. This is certainly true in care of the global poor. If Christians would simply tithe it is said that the global church would have sufficient funds to solve world poverty. Many Christians in developed nations of the world are growing more and more wealthy. But at the same time as wealth grows, the percentage of giving is decreasing. Giving among Christians was higher during the Great Depression than it is today. That shows that many Christians see offering as more of a tax than an act of worship and a response of thanksgiving.
But even more important is the response of sharing spiritual blessing with the unreached peoples of the world. If you were born into a fundamentalist Islamic family what would you want Christians in America to do? If you were born into a family of a Shinto priest, how would you want Christians in America to respond? Knowing what you know today, certainly you would want them to share with you about eternal life through the Savior of the world Jesus Christ. Certainly you would want them to bring the Gospel to their nation and teach them about salvation for their souls and about eternal life. Certainly you would want churches and Christians in other nations to sacrifice financially to send missionaries to teach you the Bible, God's Word to this world.
But again, by the grace of God, you weren't born into those circumstances. You were born into your own. So you can ignore what could have been and just continue in the circumstances you have been given by God's grace. Or you can choose to recognize that you are who you are, that you are saved, that you are blessed, that you are undeservedly loved— only by the grace of God— and choose to do all that is in your power to help those in need. To invest the blessing of your education for those who have none. To invest the blessing of your finances to help those who have little or none. To invest your spiritually blessed life to help those around the world who are lost without Christ to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
Takanori Oba is a young man who was born in Japan, the largest unreached nation of the world. He was born to a father who when he would get drunk took out his anger by beating his son and throwing golf balls at his head. In the evening when his father returned to their apartment Takanori would quickly turn out his light and pretend to be sleeping hoping to avoid a whipping by his father's belt. Perhaps you are thinking, "Thank God that I wasn't born into a life like his." Eventually Takanori and his mother escaped their father and home to start a new life. Years later the grace of God reached down to Takanori Oba and saved his soul. He later became the first graduate of Christ Bible Seminary in Nagoya, Japan where I serve as president. During the second year of his studies he was able to visit his abusive father, seeing him for the first time in over 15 years. When he saw his father, God gave Taka a logic-defying compassion for the man who had caused him such pain.
Why was Takanori born into his circumstances? Was it a curse? No, it was the grace of God. And today Takanori is seeking to share that same grace with the father who abused him. That's what Takanori would have wanted if he were born into his father's circumstances. That's the Golden Rule.