I was watching CBS Sunday Morning earlier today and there was a fascinating segment on drinking water for the American population. In this age of STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math), it seems like a no-brainer that every American should have access to sanitary drinking water.
But I was amazed that there are several million Americans that do not have access to safe drinking water – SEVERAL MILLION Americans. The hosts interviewed people from various states and it was evident that we are even losing ground – that’s right, the situation is even getting worse instead of better. That means that people who used to have access to water are no longer able to get clean water in their homes.
There were stories of people who have to gather water in buckets from mountain streams and store the water in their bath tubs. Others try to catch rainwater and use that. But we aren’t talking about a week or two; we are speaking about years of not having running water.
What caught my interest in the investigative piece was the fact that there is a small coal town in southwestern West Virginia that was featured in the segment and it isn’t all that far from the Greenbrier, where Janet and I visit several times a year. It is almost incomprehensible to me that these two opposite worlds exist in the same country, much less in the same state.
There was a bright lining in that there is a non-profit that is helping these communities restore their drinking water – but it is a long process and will take many years to accomplish. It occurred to me that we take clean drinking water for granted in this country, but there are people that still can’t depend on their local governments to help them. And, coincidentally, we have another thing that we take for granted that is still a problem in many parts of the world – the fact that we can pray without fear of retribution.
A number of years ago, I was made aware of the fact that people in China, and many other countries, are not free to pray, attend Christian churches or attend Bible studies without fear of being imprisoned. The underground churches that do exist are led by pastors who must get educated at schools off the mainland of China. I was actually asked to travel overseas and teach leadership to these itinerant pastors at an undisclosed island in the Pacific Ocean. Although it never came to pass, I learned a great deal about the religious freedom we have… something I don’t take for granted any more.
These missionaries dare to go and teach at remote islands and other places to bring the word of God to these pastors who then return home and start underground, home based groups, leading people to Christ. Just like the non-profit helping with the water supply, these people dedicate their lives to helping others – and spreading the good news of Jesus to the ends of the earth.
Just like the unbelievable water situation, it is amazing to me that people don’t have the freedom to practice their own faith. But I have come to realize that things we take for granted are privileges that many other people don’t have.
Our verse for tonight speaks to the suffering of the apostle Paul in his quest to continue the good fight and lead as many people to Christ as he could. Paul tells us, in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28, “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”
Paul goes on to let us know that he is made strong in weakness and that he gladly suffered for Jesus. My encouragement tonight is that there may be times in our lives that we will suffer for what we believe in, but if God leads us to it, He will lead us through it. My prayer is that we will acknowledge the problems that exist although many of us have a reason to celebrate how easy our lives are compared to Paul and the millions of others who have, and are, still suffering for the cause of Christ. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…