What are Lenten thoughts? I guess they are musing that fall within the theme of Lent: prayer, sacrifice, fasting, repentance, etc. This year my Lenten theme has been centered on the meaning and purpose of death, “the last great enemy” of mankind, and using Romans 8:20-23 you could include of creation itself.
One aspect of death that colors our living is our fear of dying, of avoiding conflict, because in many ways conflict can be like a mini-death. Many of us live our lives doing our best to avoid it and trying to stay clear of anything that reminds us of it. However that can lead to a tacit form of cowardice, where we never take our turn to “stand tall against the foe”. I am reminded of a famous quote by C. T. Studd.
Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell. C. T. Studd.
Charles Thomas Studd was an English athlete (cricket) who became a missionary, first to China for Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission as part of what became the Cambridge Seven, and then to Africa. The mission he established there, Heart of Africa Mission, is now WEC International (Worldwide Evangelisation for Christ).
To work within a yard of hell means putting your everyday activity in an obviously dangerous environment. There are physical as well as spiritual dangers. But Studd was standing on the promise of Scripture, a verse that we often turn on its head.
And I tell you, you are Peter [little rock], and on this rock [large rock – his confession of faith that Jesus was the Christ] I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18
Jesus is not saying that hell cannot successfully assault the church, he says that hell cannot resist the assault of the church, no matter how strongly it bars its gates. Hell has been plundered for over two thousand years. What started as a mere forty in an upper room, soon became a major force assaulting the gates of perdition. Within three hundred years paganism had suffered a mortal blow and the Devil was in retreat on the larger front, though he continued to fight, as he always does, using guerrilla tactics and fifth column approaches. Hundreds of millions of souls have been plundered from hell’s grasp since that day in the upper room.
However, for me what is more important to understand is that Charles Studd knew what many modern Christians seem to either have forgotten or never learned: Sometimes confronting the enemy openly and directly within sight of his fortress may be less problematic than living near the comfortable church.
While it is true that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (Matthew 10:7), the Devil is always close also.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. I Peter 5:8
There is no truly safe place, even within the shadow of the steeple, since the real battlefield for each of us is within our own hearts and will. There is no escape from the conflict, no matter what we tell ourselves. That is why I respect those like C. T. Studd, those who want to be actively in the fray. We are all in the fight, some of us just haven’t learned that yet.
Grace and peace to your day.