Think how many times you have said 'no' because of a schedule conflict or just did not have the resources to follow through? You see, you really CAN'T do 'whatever you want.' You may want to do two vastly different things at the same time; you cannot do both.
So if you are free to act with no constraints - and have no competing desires - you can be truly free. Not only physically but mentally as well. You can enjoy yourself, unfettered by fear or anxiety, guilt or blame since you chose the commitment.
I think what binds us up the most is our internal fears - the fear of failure, or the fear of success - no, I am not kidding. If you are the first to succeed in your arena of expertise, you may be standing all alone.
Faith is what gives us the power to overcome our fears. Faith is what gives us the freedom to do the radical, the unheard of, things that please God.
In other words, I have come to believe that faith produces courage.
Now courage is not the absence of fear, but rather acting selflessly at great personal risk to achieve a desired end. It is moving past the fear into action - and action that can and will put you at great risk.
I think faith gives us courage to act more "freely." Faith gives us a choice of doing a thing that is dangerous or of not doing it. When there is no faith, there is only one option - self-protection (which is usually followed by a statement of incredulity, i.e. "Do I look INSANE to you?").
I've said it. You have probably as well or at least thought it.
We tend to resent those who act in faith, disregarding their courage as being 'unreasonable' or 'foolishly taking unnecessary risks.' I might agree, if their faith is misplaced.
But if their faith is in Jesus Christ, I find myself more and more willing to encourage and observe instead of decry with a comment.
Faith in Action
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:
"'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'"
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
Last night at DuPage County jail I taught about the Wise Men (magi) who came to see the Christ child to 12 inmates. Having written a science-fiction novella on the same passage, I was very familiar with the story.
We know they came from the East. We know they studied the stars and saw in the conjunctions a MAJOR event - the birth of the King of Israel, the messiah of the world.
We know they brought gold, frankincense and myrrh - very expensive gifts - solely to honor whom they believed would become THE Great King.
We know they were so convinced of this that they went to King Herod FIRST, to find this royal child.
But what we blow past again and again, is that these men were not only filthy rich, they put their money where their mouth was to find the King. They traveled it appears hundreds if not thousands of miles to get to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Do you have any idea what the trip ALONE would cost? Remember - no law in the desert, bandits everywhere and lots of precious goods to protect.
Then when they get there, not only Herod but ALL of Jerusalem is upset. Herod was a ruthless tyrant - I wonder how much of Jerusalem was upset BECAUSE they were afraid of Herod's reaction to the announcement?
Still, we are told they continued following the star (perhaps a supernova - we don't rightly know) until it appeared over the house of Mary and Joseph (obviously they stayed a while after the child was born).
And then we read - you have GOT to get this image folks - after all that traveling, all those "heads of state" dinners, all that preparation, they found the child with Mary and worshiped Him.
Modern day version: 5 limos pull up outside a 'pay by week' hotel, out pour Arabian sheiks and Persian businessmen who walk up to your door, knock on it and seeing a 15 year old girl holding a toddler, begin praising God and laying thousands of dollars of merchandise at your feet because of your baby. And these proud, noble men of wealth and education are WORSHIPING your child. Like bowing down and stuff.
Willingly, happily and ecstatically.
They risked everything - including their own well-being - to follow the path Father Abraham had taken 2000 years earlier out of the East to see the Christ, the King and Savior of the World.
They put their money where their mouth was.
I guess what amazed me for the first time was to stop thinking of these men as anecdotal - trying to get me to see how important Jesus should be in my life.
These were wise men of great wealth who simply used their reason after revelation.
They KNEW the stars said the King was to be born in Israel. They did not use scriptures but logic, born of their typical studies. But once they understood that, they came to the conclusion we should have.
If Jesus is the TRUE King, we need to go to Him and give Him our very best, no matter what it may cost.
If He is not, He is not worth a plug nickel.
These wise men saw Him as King and courageously sought Him out. They did not care how humble the circumstances of His birth were - they simply followed the light they had and did not back down.
It is my prayer for you this season to do the same. Seek Christ however you can - but do not stop until you have met Him and given Him your very best.
The magi had the courage to do that. With weeks of hardships and deprivations, they sought Him fearlessly.
I think God honored their search, though they were not His covenant people, and protected them.
For you see, King Herod had every intent to kill the Child - and what do you think would have happened to these 'instigators' once they had revealed where the Christ lived?
But God was kind to these Gentiles. He warned them to not go back to Herod - and this ended up saving their lives I believe.
May you, dear Reader, seek Christ this Christmas. May you find Him worth EVERYTHING you have to give.
And may He rescue YOU from the ruthless and heartless this very day, so you can be truly free from all the fears this world has.