Monday, February 4, 2013

Crouching at your door

I probably don't have to tell you that fundraising is hard work. Not only is it hard work, but the wages aren't always satisfying. Yes, there are times when you work hard and are rewarded with a $100/mo donor, a great networking opportunity or maybe some words of encouragement. But there are also times when your "reward" is (or at least appears to be) disinterest, rejection, misunderstanding or even threats.

When that latter "reward" comes our way, it's very easy to start wallowing in self-pity, stoking angry thoughts and entertaining envious daydreams.  Few of us would call such a state of mind "good", but we may easily miss that such thoughts are downright dangerous.
In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it." (Genesis 4:3-7 ESV)
Here we see that Abel's hard work was rewarded as he had hoped, but Cain's hard work was not. His heart moved quickly down a dark path - a journey not unnoticed by the Lord. So God reassures him that all is not lost - He will still be accepted if he does well. But God also issues a strong warning: Sin, like a ferocious lion, is crouching at Cain's door, hungry and poised to devour him. Tragically, Cain does not heed this warning but rather gives full vent to his rage at Abel's expense.

In the course of fundraising, especially in the times of great disappointment, you will find yourself in Cain's position. Sin will be crouching at your door, and its desire will be for you. Failing to rule over it may not result in murder, but there are many other wild beasts that are crouching there. They may take the form of sexual sin, alcohol or substance abuse, retreating into a world of distraction and escapism, workaholism, retail therapy, overeating, cutting, gossip, or any number of false gods that promise deliverance but instead destroy you*. (By the way, if you read over that list and find yourself in shock that Christians could struggle with that stuff, I suggest that you ask yourself why your Christian friends aren't being honest with you... and perhaps why you're not being honest with yourself.)

The image God presents is that this Beast called Sin is just outside the door, ready to pounce. But it can't get in unless we open the door. That sounds simple enough, but if you're like me, once you crack that door open for the first time (likely many years ago), it's very hard to close it - especially while the Beast is tearing you to shreds moment by moment.

So is there any hope for those who have already opened that door? Can we rule over sin?
"O death, where is your victory?
 O death, where is your sting?"
The sting of death is sin . . . but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:55-57 ESV)
Yes, we can rule over sin - but only with divine help! The victory is ours - through Jesus Christ! In Him even death is powerless. Though formerly we were slaves to sin, readily sacrificing ourselves to the Beast at the door, we need never return to that place. We are free to run to another master - and Jesus has shown Himself to be the best Master. When confronted with His grace and mercy, we are left speechless, marveling that our false gods ever appealed to us.

As holy sinners still being sanctified, we'll undoubtedly find ourselves with Cain's thoughts once again. When that happens, Sin will still be waiting at the door - yet we needn't fear it any longer. The gospel has left that Beast declawed and without fangs. It won't give up easily, though; it will still cry out with fearful shouts, trying desperately to destroy us with shame-laden reminders of who we once were.

When that happens, run to your Savior. He was dead but was resurrected to defeat death forever. The Beast is dying too - but will never rise again.

* If you find yourself struggling with persistent sins, don't try to go it alone. Get help! Here are some online resources you may find useful:
  • CCEF: Life-giving, gospel-driven tools for counselors and counselees.
  • Desiring God: Few resources better capture the majesty and wonder of Christ.
  • The Relentless Fight: Encouraging, empowering, and equipping Christians for the great fight of faith.
  • Harvest USA: Proclaiming Christ as Lord to a Sexually Broken World.
  • Escaping Escapism: Finding true refuge in Jesus