About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

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I'd Rather Have Jesus

 

A quick glance at my C D shelves will tell you that whether sacred or secular, there's not many styles of music I don't like.  I often just sit and listen to a song over and over.  One such song of late is "I'd Rather Have Jesus". (Bill Gaither Homecoming - "How Great Thou Art", 2007)  This song has got me thinking.

 

Id rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
Id rather be His than have riches untold;
Id rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
Id rather be led by His nail-pierced hand;

Than to be the king of a vast domain;

And be held in sin's dread sway;

I'd rather have Jesus than anything

This world affords today. 

 

I'd rather have Jesus than men's applause;

I'd rather be faithful to His dear cause;

I'd rather have Jesus than world wide fame;

I'd rather be true to His holy name.

 

I believe we're in an era of church history that's predicted in Revelation 3:14-22.  The Laodicean church we seem to be, is wealthy, self sufficient, and unwilling to suffer for the cause of Christ.  I'm not suggesting we seek poverty or search for ways to suffer.  I'm saying the prevailing Laodicean mentality in church makes it hard to honestly sing "I'd rather have Jesus".  We might prefer to sing, "I'd like to have Jesus along with my silver, gold, fame, applause, and the good life".  

 

The apostle Paul was climbing the ladder of success in an ecclesiastical Judaism that differed little from the Laodicean church Jesus was ready to vomit out of his mouth. (Revelation 3:16)  He was well on his way to the good life until Jesus knocked him off his ladder.

 

Adding to this unexpected interruption in Paul's life, Jesus said, "I will show you how much you must suffer for my name". (Acts 9:16)  I don't know Paul's immediate reaction to this unsettling statement, but I do know he eventually embraced it.  "Whatever was to my profit I consider a loss for the sake of Christ I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things". (Philippians 3:7-8)  In other words, Paul could honestly sing, "I'd rather have Jesus".  When it came to Paul's losses, he felt he had little choice in the matter.  "I am compelled to preach, and woe to me if I don't " (1 Corinthians 9:16) 

 

Paul wasn't alone in suffering.  Most all believers suffered back then.  "The sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives". (2 Corinthians 1:5)  "All who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution". (1 Timothy 3:12)  The apostle Peter agreed.  "It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good ..." (1 Peter 3:17) 

 

Paul suffered things we all suffer.  He got sick.  He experienced environmental disasters.  He suffered financial loss.  Beyond this, he felt the pain as he "faced daily the pressure of his concern for all of the churches". (2 Corinthians 11:28)  If that wasn't enough, he was persecuted by the Jews, the Romans, and sad to say, by some Christians.  "Through it all", as Andrae Crouch sang, Paul "learned to trust in Jesus".  While in damp, rat infested, hell holes of prison cells, he "learned to be content in all things". (Philippians 4:11-12)  As violent men smashed rocks into his scull and bombarded his back with stone studded whips, Paul could honestly sing, "I'd rather have Jesus".    

 

Most of us in the western church haven't suffered like this because Judeo Christian thinking has been fundamental to our society's social consciousness.  That's no longer the case.  Sooner or later, Paul's experience will be our experience.  I question how we will handle this.  To one degree or another, a Laodicean style prosperity gospel has infected much of the church.  Suffering of any kind is often seen as being outside of God's will.  If that was Biblically true, then Paul was seldom in God's will.  No, "Godly suffering" is the normal Christian experience.  When thinking of suffering for the cause of Christ, I'm reminded of a Larry Norman song.

 

"There are Christians in Russia, they meet underground,

In China they're killed when they're found.

And in Cuba the Christians live up in the hills

Because it's not safe in the towns.

And to think it might happen right here in America,

I know you think it's not true,

But it's happening to Christians right here in America,

Wait till it happens to you.

("Right Here In America", from his 1971 "Street Level" album, which I still possess)

 

Paul Clark sang, " satan sends his spirits out to battle if ten thousand surround me, I won't retreat or try to hide because the Lord is here by my side".  ("Here By My Side", from his 1974 album "Come Into His Presence", which I also still possess)

 

Larry Norman's lyrics are more relevant now than they were in 1971.  Paul Clark's lyrics are as relevant as they've always been.  Whether because of persecution, satanic attack, or, for various other reasons, many of us have been suffering financial and material loss in recent years.  This has afforded us the opportunity to either complain or be content.  So, whatever situation we find ourselves in, Paul's words speak directly to us.   "consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus your Lord".  When we can genuinely embrace these words, we will be able to honestly sing "I'd rather have Jesus". 

 

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