- Give junk to God.
A highly-anticipated and heavily funded program that didn't reap the results we anticipated.
The dynamic pastor of a mega church resigns to pastor a mission church in Africa.
Seem like a waste?We don't like to admit it, but we apply worldly standards of success to God's work as well.
We'd like them to be. In fact, if any one of us had been standing with the disciples that day when Mary broke her expensive vial of perfume and poured it over Jesus, we'd have joined right in with the murmuring. "Why'd she do that? She could've done so much good with it! What a waste of perfectly good money. It should have been put to better use. We need to appoint a committee to address wasteful jar-breaking practices." (Matt. 26)
And most of us thrifty-minded Americans would fully expect Jesus to agree. With kindness, yes, but still agree. He should have thanked Mary, given her a hug, and gently explained that next time she might think more carefully before wasting herself on Him with such extravagance.
But that's not what He did and His answer often leaves the rest of us scratching our heads and feeling embarrassed that we still disagree.
In fact, He drove the point home even more firmly when he told them that everywhere the Gospel was preached, her story would go with it.
Every wonder why? Why THIS story over all the other amazing events that happened wherever he went?
The secret is in the word "wasted." When we apply the world's standards to this incident, the perfume was, in fact, severely wasted. It was wasted money. It was a waste of Mary's future income. Women in those days didn't have access to luxurious treasures like that very often. Once it was gone, it was gone. No chance to put it on Ebay. No garage sales. No Antiques Roadshow host would offer her a shocking fortune for it. It was gone, puddled on the floor, dripping off the hair of the one she considered worthy of such an offering.
The disciples totally missed the point, even after Jesus explained it. But we don't have to.
Jesus told them that this story would be told hand-in-hand with the Gospel--because it IS the Gospel.
Jostling crowds followed this preacher from Nazareth from shore to shore, eager for a front-row seat to the show. They wanted healing, wanted demons cast out, wanted fed, wanted hope. But what did they bring? Who among them brought Jesus anything?
Salvation is a gift to us from God, but it is NOT free. We present the message often as though it was free, as in "free gift with every purchase!" There was a terribly high price to pay for rebellious Man to experience God's forgiveness and Jesus knew he was about to pay it. And at that moment in history, Mary was the only one who caught on.
Her act of emptying her priceless jar perfectly symbolized what Jesus had been telling them all along, but they were too dazzled by the miracles and free food to hear it. "If anyone would come after me, let him take up his cross daily and follow me."
God's gift is more than an offering. It's really an exchange. We can't keep what we have and gain what He offers. He offers to exchange his riches in glory for our ragged robes. His righteousness for our sin. His everlasting life for our pathway to destruction. It's not until we are willing to empty ourselves of our own willfulness that we can accept that gift.
Until we are willing to waste ourselves and all we have on Jesus, we aren't worthy of him. And He cannot fill us with himself when we are already filled with ourselves.
Wasted on Jesus. It's not possible. God keeps excellent accounts and nothing is wasted that is given to Him. We cannot know the peace, the joy, the fulfillment that God has for us until, like Mary with her alabaster jar, we have totally wasted ourselves on Him.
Oh, not again!
Bad stuff always happens to me!
I'm willing to bet you've said every one of those. We tend to magnify the things that don't go our way and ignore the millions of situations and events that do turn out the way we want them to.
BAD usually gets all the attention.
As Christians, we go a step further. We often try to help matters by overusing a little promise in Romans. We treat the Scripture verse like a topical ointment. And we're right in one sense. When applied correctly, it brings strength and healing. But when slathered on incorrectly, it irritates and causes bitterness. It's best used on yourself, rather than try to treat someone else in the moment of pain.
The verse is found in Romans 8:28 "All things work together for the good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose."
The grieving mother looks at her dead child. The unemployed man shakes his head at his last paycheck. The pregnant teenager feels her swollen belly and turns her face away.
No drowning victim wants to hear a chirpy Bible verse from someone on dry land. One look at your situation and you know in your heart that there is no way this is good. You may not admit it. You may smile and nod, as though the promise applied to you-- but you know it doesn't. God skipped over you this time.
What is not stressed in that verse is the little word "together."
Ever tasted cocoa straight from the box? What does baking powder taste like? How about dry flour? Good? Hardly. But when mixed together and baked just right, the cake is delicious.
God is telling us in Romans that even though what happened to you may be horrible, it doesn't stand alone in your life. Not all events are good, so we don't have to pretend they are. Pain is pain. Disappointment, heartache, and shock are real and God never intended to slap a happy band aid over your hurt with this verse.
Instead he is promising that if you stick with him through it, He'll stick with you. He'll take those raw ingredients that make up your life and bake them just right. He'll weave purpose through all the seemingly random events and bring a good from it you never considered.
The problem we have is looking at each event as a separate issue, as though not connected to the rest of our lives. God doesn't see it that way. He views you as a work-in-progress, as He did with original creation. As each created entity came into being He said, "It is good." It wasn't finished, but He already saw how good it was going to become.
Our lives are not finished either. As each event unfolds, we have a choice.
We can rant and rave, angry at a God who should have made this turn out better. Or we can be still and listen for the voice that says, "It is good" and trust that it will work together with everything else to bring about the greatest purpose in our lives..