During World War II, some posters displayed a stern Uncle Sam pointing and saying, “Your country needs you!” Many people responded to that challenge, going to work or to fight for the country even though they knew it would mean personal sacrifice and change of priorities. They responded because they believed in the cause they were fighting for.
Chances are, somewhere along the way many of these people realized that not every decision being made by their own side was perfect. But they knew that it was better to keep on helping the right side, for all its faults, than to quit and sit it out on the sidelines, or even worse, to fight against the right side.
Rediscovering our commitment
The idealism and self-sacrificing commitment of that wartime generation are harder to find in our society today. But as Christians, we are challenged to rediscover that commitment. Jesus is saying to his people today the same sort of thing Uncle Sam said in those posters. Jesus is saying to us, “Your church—my church—needs you!”
Remember your promises
Do you remember the promises we made to Jesus when we were baptized? We promised to love, honor, obey and serve him. He called us, and we promised to offer our lives in his service. We heard him say it would not be easy.
He has been faithful to his word, hasn’t he? We have gone through difficult times. We have experienced growth in our understanding, and this has challenged us. It has not always been easy. Sometimes it has hurt so much that we have felt discouraged and depressed and abandoned.
But Jesus has not abandoned us. The fact that these things have come upon us is not a sign of his displeasure; it is instead a sign of his relentless love, working always to build his likeness in us. Now is not the time to lose courage. He who began to do this work in and through us does not intend to abandon it, nor does he want us to abandon it. The church has experience and special qualities and gifts that Jesus has given to us.
We have something special in our fellowship, a blessing most churches don’t have. We have ties of fellowship that make us a worldwide family. Many of us know members around the world. How many of our friends in other fellowships have that kind of worldwide family? They have congregations in many nations—but many do not have the personal ties with such congregations that we are blessed to have.
Let yourself be encouraged by what Jesus Christ is doing in your church. Let yourself believe that he wants to and will do such things in this country. We are a smaller church than we were. But we are a living miracle. Cheer up, little flock; it is your Father’s plan and delight to give you the kingdom!
Ask what you can do for your church
In 1961, U.S. President John F. Kennedy spoke some challenging words at his inauguration: “Ask not what your country can do for you,” he said, “ask what you can do for your country.” The motto of our culture is almost a reversal of John Kennedy’s words: “Ask not what you can do for your country or neighbor or family or friend; ask what they can do for you!”
Sadly, those ethics have infected Christians and their churches. Too many Christians approach church with the question: “What’s in it for me?” These are not God’s ethics. They are not the ethics on which a church is built. We are not called so that the church can do things for us. We are called to be the church in order that we may do things for others.
The life of Christianity, the life of the church, is the quest to become a better and better servant. I am deeply grateful and appreciative of so many of you who commit your time, talents and treasure to the work of the church—the local work and the worldwide work. If you have been sitting on the sidelines, I urge you to rejoin us, help us and support us—and let us support you—as we continue to do the work of Jesus Christ together.