Thursday, October 16, 2008
Current Study: People Who Made a Difference
Today’s Topic: Sacrifice Makes a Difference
Today’s Scripture: Ruth 2:10-12 At this, [Ruth] bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?” Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
I felt like I missed out. I regretted parts of my youth because of it. I understand why it had to happen the way it did, but I was jealous of those who had it differently. I’m glad that for the most part it’s different for me now.
“What are you talking about, PJ?” I’m talking about family. I grew up in a family that moved a lot. From the time I was born until the time I left home for college, my family never lived in the same place for more than four school years at a time except once. I went to two different high schools in two different states. I never developed close friendships. Every time I was settled in we would move. Yet it was in the last of those moves in the middle of my senior year of high school that I met someone who had never moved. She was classmates in high school with the same friends she had known since she was old enough to walk and talk. Extended family meant everything to her. Aunts and uncles and cousins were all close and spent lots of time together. She understood and appreciated, and still does to this day, the value of staying connected to family. In fact, it’s probably the most significant part of her life.
That’s why I admire her so much for what she did. She left it all behind to marry me and move out of her home state for the first time in her life. She sacrificed her closeness to family and went from seeing them consistently to seeing them only two times per year. We are so blessed to have been brought to a place in our ministry and service to Jesus that He has chosen to allow us to live close to our family. It is very important to us.
Yet as I have grown, I have also come to deeply respect the sacrifices made by people who don’t have that blessing. People like Ruth, who left her homeland and her family to follow Naomi back to her homeland and support her. People like Dudley and Inge Donaldson, who will soon be leaving their family and friends to go to Swaziland as missionaries for at least two years. Sure, the pain of separation still hurts: it hurts a lot. But when we look beyond that pain and let God finish the story, we find rich rewards at the end.
Ruth left everything to go to a foreign land to be with her mother-in-law. Who does such a thing? But word got around. People in the new land were impressed with her commitment, her sacrifice, and her love. Then, while at work in the fields one day, a man named Boaz told her how much everyone respected what she had done. Then he says this – “May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” As you read that statement, what stands out as the most significant thing Boaz said to her? If we are thinking according to our own desires, then we would answer that the rewards from the Lord are most important. But if we are thinking according to our faith, we must answer that it was the fact that Ruth had chosen to take refuge under the wings of God that is most significant. Ruth made the choice that all of us must make at some point of our lives – to be committed to God above all else, even family.
My wife made that commitment. Thank you, Denise, for sacrificing your family to start ours. My dad made that commitment. Thank you, Dad, for following God wherever and whenever He led you. Dudley and Inge have made that commitment. Thank you, my friends, for being willing to go anywhere at anytime that God calls. You have all made the correct choice to take refuge under the wings of God. You are the people who make a difference, like Ruth did for Naomi. You are the people who look the most like Jesus, who gave up His heavenly to become one of us and save us from our sin. You are the people who truly live out the words of the great old hymn Under His Wings. Thank you!
Under His wings I am safely abiding;
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust Him, I know He will keep me;
He has redeemed me, and I am His child.
Under His wings–what a refuge in sorrow!
How the heart yearningly turns to His rest!
Often when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort, and there I am blest.
Under His wings–oh, what precious enjoyment!
There will I hide till life’s trials are o’er;
Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me;
Resting in Jesus I’m safe evermore.
Under His wings, under His wings,
Who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever.