At this time of year, it can seem like a lot is asked of you. While much of the Christmas season in the U.S. is rooted in consumerism, there are some tangible (and profound) reasons why Christians give. By taking hold of these truths, we can honor God through our donating and gift giving.
At the start of our "Living for Jesus This Christmas" series, here are four reasons why Christians give.
Creation itself testifies to the giving Spirit of God. In the beginning, God creates (Genesis 1–2). The act of creation is rooted in love and compassion: When God sees that Adam may be lonely, he creates a companion in Eve (Genesis 2:18–25).
From the divine imagination, comes creation. And God looks at his creation and gives again. Everything good in our world is based in giving.
But after creation, humanity went astray and mucked it all up. This put us humans out of alignment with God; and it put us out of alignment with the intention of God's creation (Genesis 3).
God once again looks at his creation and decides on a solution; he decides to give. That solution is the gift of Jesus (God the Son). And that's what we celebrate at Christmas time: God becoming flesh in Jesus (Luke 1–2). In Jesus, we have salvation (John 1; 3:16).
In Jesus, we see the miraculous. But the way God comes in flesh should tell us something: Out of what seems to be ordinary, God will do the extraordinary. God chooses an ordinary Jewish family and the savior is born in an ordinary place, in impoverished circumstances. The miraculous comes through the unexpected.
God certainly provides via the completely miraculous: We see this when God provides for the Hebrew people while they're roaming in the wilderness (Exodus 16). But more often than not, God uses other people to bring about his provision. And that also seems pretty ordinary.
This is why Paul pleads with the Corinthian church to honor their obligation to help the impoverished church in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 9:1–15). He knows that God will use ordinary people to accomplish his work. Paul himself also depended on other people when he was imprisoned and mentions these types of moments often in his letters (e.g., Philemon 1; Philippians 5:25).
When people helped Paul, or those he advocated for (like the Jerusalem church), they themselves were changed. Paul emphasizes this:
"You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God" (2 Corinthians 9:11 NIV).
Generosity gives us an opportunity to honor God with what he has given us. It enriches our souls. Paul explains this another way earlier in this same passage:
"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:6–8 NIV).
We as Christians are expected to steward the resources we are given. If we give generously, God will give generously to us. That giving from God may not come in the ways our culture can measure, but it will come.
At the core of the Christian value is a value of giving. Let's give this Christmas season.
Right now it's highly likely that you're facing some problem or difficulty that seems impossible to overcome. I've been there. For that matter, I am there. But if there's anything I've learned about faith, it's that Jesus is in the business of hope. Here are four reflections on hope and why it's such a critical part of faith. Here's how hope can change your life, right now.
When the author of the biblical book Hebrews explained faith, he spoke of hope.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 ESV).
As Christians, we do not physically see Jesus. We also do not know when he will return to earth. But we believe (have faith) in him. We have a conviction about that which we cannot see.
Ask yourself: Has God called you to a purpose? Now ask yourself: Do you believe in Jesus' work in your life and the world? If your answer is "yes" to both of those things, then really it shouldn't be hard to take the next step: To hope in what Jesus will do in your life. Have hope that God will see through his purpose in your life.
You may not have faith in yourself, but you can have faith in Jesus working through you. Faith is hope. And it can have incredible power in our lives.
Hope is magical; or better put, it’s miraculous. It changes our perspective and it changes lives.
Consider for a moment one the great problems of our world: extreme poverty, the fact that there are millions of people around the world trying to survive on less than a $1.25 per day.
Now consider that the developing world is full of people with tenacity and strength who lack the resources to make their dreams reality. They need hope. They need opportunities. Those of us with resources can offer them hope. Something as simple as our purchasing and donating decisions can change lives.
When we give of our time, money, or resources, we have the opportunity to watch Jesus’ work in the world. That act of faith should give us hope.
Each of us have a chance to see God at work, to put our hope into action. And doing so can offer us hope in return.
The incredible thing about offering someone hope is that doing so also offers you hope. It makes you believe in what the person you’re helping is yet to see. It changes the way you feel about the state of that person’s life, and in doing so, causes you to think about what hope God has in store for you.
Having hope for someone else gives you a small glimpse at God’s eternal perspective. You briefly see the connections God does: how he has used you to help someone else, and how he will likely use someone else to help you. And it doesn't take long to get from there to believing in what God can do in your life.
Jesus has great opportunities in store for this generation. He is the hope that Hebrews 11 speaks about. It is his work through the Spirit that we’re anticipating and desire to fully realize. It is Jesus’ second coming that we wait for. But it is his work now that we live for.
As Christians, we are convicted that Jesus was resurrected from death and is working even now. We believe in what he is yet to do, and we should do everything we can to be a part of it.
In hope, there is something magical that ignites our spirits—and it’s something we can bring to others in the name of the Jesus.
This article is adapted in part from my earlier article, "Hope is Magical."
Jesus fought against poverty and regularly advocated that his followers do the same. Jesus’ ministry can be characterized as one of faith in action. He had faith that the evil that causes poverty can be beat. And he asked that we be people who fight against poverty.
Here are seven life-changing sayings from Jesus about the impoverished and poverty in general. Read them slowly and let the meaning of each sink in.
First and foremost, poverty was personal for Jesus. He was born poor, lived among the poor, and advocated for the poor.
Jesus also shows us that poverty is not merely a nameless thing we fight; it's advocating for people, living in real relationship with them. Fighting poverty is relational.
Poverty should also be personal to us. If we are to call ourselves Christians, we must take action to alleviate poverty.
Jesus cared deeply about the poor. We, as his followers, must do the same. We must embrace the God who came as a poor man, lived as a poor man, and died as a poor man.
Jesus gives us the power to fight both spiritual and physical poverty. When he came as a poor man and died as a poor man and rose as a poor man, he beat evil itself. He gave us the power to beat whatever difficulties we may face.
Jesus is good news to the poor. We must act on Jesus' values—loving others with everything we have, in every moment, in proclamation of the eternal life Jesus offers.
This article is adapted in part from my earlier article: "7 of Jesus' Life-Altering Sayings about the Poor."
When Jesus looks at the world, he sees what can be. Jesus shows us what the kingdom of heaven looks like and asks us to live its principles here on earth. This means turning normal personal economics upside down. This is what Jesus' economy looks like. Here are five ways you can live Jesus' economy.
When Jesus first called his disciples, they dropped everything to follow him:
“Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, [Jesus] saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him” (Mark 1:16–20 ESV).
Jesus’ earliest followers literally dropped their livelihoods to follow him—they completely dedicated themselves to him. Similarly, we are called to make sacrifices for Jesus—to show others love by giving, praying, and investing in them. For Jesus, belief and actions are one and the same—you cannot have one without the other. We must be willing to give whatever Jesus asks of us.
To a young rich man, Jesus says:
“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21; see 19:16–30 ESV).
Regarding a poor widow who put a seemingly insignificant amount of money into the offering box, Jesus says:
“Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43–44; see 12:41–44 ESV).
The currency of Jesus’ kingdom is different than ours. Jesus’ currency is self-sacrifice and love.
To a man with a recently lost love one, Jesus said:
“’Follow me.’ But [the man] said [to Jesus], ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:59–60 ESV).
Jesus was right there, calling him in person. And this meant the man had to act now. We all have these moments in life: When Jesus tells us to act now, and we have to take him seriously when he says so.
For Jesus, it’s all about God’s kingdom. For us, it too should be all about God’s kingdom. From a different man, Jesus hears:
“‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:61–62 ESV).
There are no hesitations in service to God’s kingdom and there is no looking back—it’s all about what God is doing here and now. It’s all about putting our hand to the plow of God’s work. If you love God, you love the kingdom and you love people. If you love the kingdom, you’re not going to ask yourself what else is important: you’re going to just live for the kingdom.
At the end of it all, Jesus notes that he will recognize those who follow him by whether or not they are caring for the impoverished, outsider, and marginalized. This is what the "least of these" passage is about (Matthew 25:31–46).
Jesus has also given us a mandate to bring the gospel to those who are yet to hear his name. Jesus' economy is not just about alleviating physical poverty; it's also about alleviating spiritual poverty. Jesus tells us to "make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19–20).
God has asked us to demonstrate our belief by bringing good news to those who feel hopeless. We are called to drop everything for him. This is what Jesus’ economy is all about: envisioning what the world could look like and joining God in the process of making that vision a reality.
Jesus has called us to join him in his work—to believe in it with all we have. The cost may be hard to bear or understand at times, but when it’s put in the perspective of all that Christ has done for us—dying for our sins—it seems like very little.
When God calls us to something great, it is immediately followed by a faith decision. Similarly, every action towards making our world a better place is a faith decision.
For example, when we go about alleviating poverty or bringing the gospel to the unreached, we’re placing faith in what can be. We are looking at the current situation, calling it “not good enough,” and then acting to create a better situation. When Jesus calls us to help the poor, he expects a faith-based and faithful response. This response requires understanding our place in the world.
Jesus’ disciples were not expected to leave the world, but to be part of it—and to be vehicles of change in it. Jesus makes this point in his final prayer for his disciples:
“I do not ask that you take them [my disciples] out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth—your word is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:15–18 LEB).
From the beginning of our faith walk to the end of it in this life, our journey is about being in this world, as actors of change. Faith is not a journey that is about removing ourselves from this place, but one about bringing God’s kingdom to this place. It’s a chance to make change happen that matters—to be empowered to change the course of history for the better.
What we do with faith is as important as coming to faith, for what we do once we come to Jesus is what makes a difference in the lives of others. It’s where change for the betterment of our world occurs.
How is your faith connected to your actions? Is your faith changing the way you live each day, and the way you help others?
This post originally appeared under the title "The Unfathomable Power of Faith."
“Where do you want to be in five years?” a professor asked me in the middle of the crowded dining hall.
It was March of my freshman year at a Christian university.
“Oh, I don’t know,” I answered. “Maybe Uganda? Somewhere doing missions work, though.”
While there is nothing wrong with wanting to go into full-time missions, there was a problem with my answer. The problem was that I wasn’t being honest with myself. I didn’t truly see myself in Uganda, or even want to go there. But I wanted to want it, because I thought that was what faithful Christians were supposed to do.
I thought full-time overseas missionary work was the best work any Christian could be called to. That was my first mistake. The second was that I didn’t have a clear understanding of what being a missionary really was.
Like many Christians, I had a misconception about the nature of missions work. I was 19 and convinced that full-time missions work in an impoverished nation was the best way to serve God. And I was worried that it meant I wasn’t a good enough Christian if God wasn’t calling me away to do big and scary things.
I disregarded the fact that I am an introvert who is easily exhausted by groups of people. I disregarded the fact that God hadn’t given me gifts of public speaking, teaching, or leading. I knew I could learn all those things if the mission field required it of me. God would give me what I needed to succeed in his plans.
And that’s true. But I was disregarding the gifts that God did give me; and I knew that going into full-time overseas missions wouldn’t be the best way for me to use those gifts. I knew that I didn’t really feel called to Uganda. I had for a long time felt like God was calling me to worship and serve him through writing. Of course, I could’ve written in Uganda, but I knew God was asking me to not go that far—he was asking me to stay close by and work on creating art that could make people feel and remind them what’s important in life. He wanted me to spread the gospel right here.
Every believer receives spiritual gifts to use as a member of the body of Christ. These gifts empower us to do God’s work. Not everyone is going to be gifted and called to lead. Nor will everyone be called to missions work in another country. We’re all different, and that’s a great thing about the body of Christ:
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Corinthians 12:27–30 ESV).
It is important that believers work together as different parts of the same body. If a finger suddenly decided it didn’t want to be a finger anymore, and started to act like an ear instead, everything would fall apart. As a body, we will be most successful at spreading the gospel if we each use the gifts God has given us and not attempt to be someone other than who God created us to be.
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:4–7 ESV).
The professor saw through my lie and called me out on it.
“What really gets you going? What do you love?”
“I love writing. I’ve always wanted to write.”
“Why do you see yourself in Uganda and not in, say, Paris, writing every day at a café?”
“I-I don’t know.”
“Why full-time missions and not full-time writing?”
“It just doesn’t seem like enough,” I finally confessed.
There it was. Sometimes, doing the things we’re good at doesn’t feel like enough. Even when God gives us gifts, we disregard them in favor of pursuing what we consider to be a more noble or spiritual occupation.
I believed the myth that becoming a missionary in a far-away country was the best thing anyone could do for the Kingdom of God. I know I’m not the only Christian who has made this mistake, and this has led Christians to mission fields they do not belong in. When this happens, the kingdom is missing out on the work we are actually called to do.
Being a missionary doesn’t always mean traveling across the world. Being a missionary means taking on the mission of spreading the gospel—which is something we are all called to do:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20 ESV).
Being a missionary isn’t always about leaving. Sometimes it means staying right where you are and using the gifts God has given you. And no calling is higher or lower than another. The whole world needs the gospel, including the community you live in now.
After pursuing a writing career, God might still call me to Uganda. I’m keeping my ears open. But no matter where I go or where he calls me next, I’m going to listen and be honest with what I’m hearing.
I encourage you to do the same. Respond to the call God has placed on your life. Be a missionary in whatever you do.
Global catastrophes sadden us. The images are terrifying and experiencing such moments in history are deeply painful. Why does God allow this to go on? Is God causing it? Where is God in hurricanes and pain? Here are some answers that make sense biblically.
When God first created the world, he pushed back the chaos. He brought order where none existed. This is what much of Genesis 1–2 is about. This is why God’s focus at the beginning is the sky and the waters. He is pushing back the madness. He calls doing so “good.”
When God’s will is connected to natural disasters in the Old Testament—like the flooding of the earth—God is not happy about it. It’s a last resort. It means God letting his own work be undone. He isn’t causing the big disasters in the Old Testament; he is moving out of the way of the disasters that would be present otherwise. He wants order, not the chaos of storms. The storms sadden God. (Why destroy what you created? God wouldn’t want to destroy his own creation.)
God reaches his last resort in very distinct moments, like when an entire city has turned away from righteousness. This was the case for Sodom and Gomorrah, where not even ten righteous people could be found (Genesis 18:32–19:29). This was also the case for the flooding of the earth—only Noah and his family were found to be righteous (Genesis 6–8).
I know righteous people in the areas affected by Harvey and Irma; you probably know plenty of righteous people there too. If we do the math and run the probability of God causing all this, the answer here is pretty clear: God doesn’t want this. Instead, it’s caused by the chaos that still exists in the world. This type of chaos has been present ever since people went against God—ever since the fall of humankind with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). Chaos was reintroduced into the world on that day. But there is good news in the midst of this sadness.
When Jesus came, died, and was resurrected, the very fabric of the relationship between people and God changed. Likewise, the relationship between people and the out-of-control creation changed. (Chaos took a serious blow.) Paul describes it this way:
“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves … as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22–23 ESV).
Creation awaits the full redemption of Christ, just as our very bodies—which are currently subject to death—await that redemption.
Jesus brought full reconciliation with God the Father to humanity. And one day all of creation will experience the full meaning of redemption. We have signs of this already in the acts of Christ.
Jesus calmed storms (Mark 4:35–41). Jesus walked on water (Matthew 14:22–33). Jesus talked about how to build spiritual houses that would withstand storms (Matthew 7:24–27). Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, which empowers us to do his work (John 14:15–31). We are able to look into the eye of the storm with hope because we know what is to come.
Pain and turmoil still exist because Jesus has not returned yet. Peter puts it this way:
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise [of returning to earth] as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:10 ESV).
It is because of God’s great mercy that Jesus has not returned yet—because God wants to see many people come unto salvation. This is also why we have not seen creation completely redeemed.
When we experience great catastrophes in our world, it’s easy to doubt God’s mercy. It’s easy for us to look to God and place blame on him. But remember that one day new creation will come to be, when Jesus returns. Every tear will be wiped away and chaos will be completely put to rest. Death itself will end on that day (see Revelation 19–21).
Please pray for those in the midst of the chaos or recovering from it. Please pray for the chaos to be pushed back. Please pray because it matters. It can change things.
And take action. Support and encourage those living in the eye of the storm. Show them your love. You can even volunteer to help people rebuild. Or you can give fiscally to the relief efforts. There is power in God’s people coming together to fight back against the chaos. It shows that we believe that chaos won’t win.
This article is adapted in part from my older blog post “Is God Angry at the East Coast?” published on ConversantLife.com.
When I traveled to Northeast India, to one of the last unreached people groups in the world, I was making a good salary and a nice home. But this last year, my wife and I sold nearly all of our stuff and followed Jesus into the unknown of leading the non-profit Jesus’ Economy full-time without a salary. We sold our stuff, including our house, to make it work. The reason: We can’t live in a world where there are people without a voice and where there are people who have not heard the name of Jesus. We cannot live in a world where there are solutions to poverty and bringing the gospel to the unreached, and not take action.
In Northeast India, I saw the Holy Spirit work—and I saw the liberty of Jesus completely transform lives. Those who had formerly never heard Jesus’ name were so grateful that they now knew Jesus. But there are still 101 Million there who have not heard Jesus’ name. How can I live in a world like this and not do something about it? I also had other reasons for making such a drastic life change.
How could I not serve a God who has given me my very voice? God helped me learn to speak—95% of what I said as a child could not be understood but I now speak perfectly. How could I not be willing to give up everything to follow this God?
Creating a more equitable and just world is part of my calling, as is bringing the gospel to those who have not heard Jesus’ name. It’s how I’m called to use my voice.
But I think we’re all called to this mission. It will look different for each of us, but what’s certain is that Jesus will drastically change your life. Here are three biblical lessons that I regularly come back to during this journey.
The Bible’s grand vision for the world is seen at the end of Revelation. It’s a world where there are no more tears, where there is no more pain, where God’s people stand equal and in loving relationship before God. The Bible’s trajectory is clear—evil will be destroyed and good will be restored. Justice and equity in their full form will exist when Jesus returns.
The followers of Jesus will sit down at a table and celebrate. They will celebrate justice and equality for all. They will celebrate what Jesus has done (see Revelation 19; 21).
In the meantime, we’re called to be ambassadors of this message—to be people who help make way for the kingdom of God here and now. Global equality can come to our world. Justice can come to our world. We can create equal opportunities for all. Each person can have a place at this table. And when we make these opportunities for the impoverished, we bring a piece of the kingdom of God here.
One of the things we often forgotten about the story of the Good Samaritan is that it involves one man responding to an opportunity to do good. A Samaritan sees a man who is beaten and poor on the side of the road—and he takes care of him. He steps in when all others have ignored the hurting man on the side of the road. The Samaritan sees an opportunity to do good and acts upon it (Luke 10:25–37).
Today, we likewise have an opportunity to do good. We often forget that there are opportunities right in front of us, each and everyday, to change the lives of the hurting. There are opportunities to help our neighbors who are far away and to engage in relationship with those who are near.
Doing good betters our entire world. Creating opportunities for the impoverished, outcast, and marginalized to be empowered is good for us all. What’s good for you can be good for me; what’s good for them can be good for us. Because we’re all connected in some way or another—in some sort of loose affiliation. We’re all human after all.
In the book of Romans, Paul the Apostle notes that he intends to travel to Spain (Romans 15:24). This is because he plans to bring the gospel to the far western point of the known world of the time. Meanwhile, Thomas the Apostle—according to Syrian church tradition—was bringing the gospel to India. That’s the far East of the known world of the time. There is a global trajectory here. This is a direct reflection of Jesus’ command to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
While on this path, the early church leaders recognized just how interconnected their efforts were. We see this when Paul raises funds for the impoverished in Jerusalem (Romans 15:26). We also see it in the numerous mentions of other churches in Paul’s letters. And we see this interconnectedness in the story of the book of Acts, which involves multiple missions out from the Jerusalem church and the church at Antioch to bring the gospel to other cities and regions.
Our world is more interconnected today than ever before. And we can leverage these connections for the sake of the gospel. The work of the early church is far from complete. So my question becomes: What are we going to do about it? And what do you see when you look at the world?
When I look at our world, I can see how we can create a new, global and spiritual economy for those that need it most. I can see how the thirsty can have clean water. I can see how marginalized women can have gainful employment that lifts their entire families out of poverty. I can see businesses in the developing world creating opportunities for us here in the U.S. I can see the freedom and liberty of Jesus being accessible to all. I can see us rallying together around the common good of equality for everyone. I can see grace reaching every person.
How is Jesus asking you to drastically change your life?
We look around us and are daunted by the poverty and suffering and darkness we see. We know it will take a lot of work to change, and we know God asks us to, but we often choose to sit back and wait.
It’s easy to be lazy and complacent and wait for other people to do the work. But these are some of the most dangerous ideals. They threaten the kingdom of God. The whole body of Christ needs to be working together if we are going to get things done. Even if the hands are equipped with a hammer and nails, they can’t get anything done if the feet don’t take them to the construction site. We simply have to rely on each other. Paul uses the body metaphor in 1 Corinthians to remind the church of the importance of unity. He says:
“But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:24b-26 ESV)
We have our own jobs, families, and lives, and these things help us justify spiritual laziness in the church. Sometimes, we don’t even notice we are failing to act because we feel like it’s a positive thing to be investing in ourselves. Laziness can, and often does, mask itself as selfish hard work. We might be working for recognition and self-righteousness instead of in love and for Christ. But we have to acknowledge that work done for the wrong reasons has no place in the kingdom of God.
The body of Christ needs to be operating together—and it needs to be moving with the intent God desires. When believers do things for the wrong reasons, the action itself is rooted in selfishness and sin. The action may be fruitful for a time, but it will crumble because it has the wrong foundation. The church cannot stand on actions carried out without love. Paul understood that it is difficult for believers to be united for the right reasons:
“And I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 12:31b-13:1 ESV)
I know we’re all a little tired; it seems like less work to focus on our lives than it is to participate in a body of believers. It’s especially hard when we don’t call all the shots. Listening to God’s direction, and any leader’s direction, makes us incredibly vulnerable. When we start putting others first, we stop guarding ourselves as much as we like to.
But it is vital that we do this. We radiate God’s love when we love others. And the body of believers will not lose anything by rejecting selfishness, and choosing love instead. Paul reminds us:
“If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3 ESV)
It’s not enough to have action without love, and it’s not enough to love without action. The things we do on a daily basis should be in response to the callings God puts on our lives. We need to be giving it all we have. Paul returns to this issue in his letter to the Colossians:
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17 ESV)
Let us, as the church, check our motivations at the door and leave our selfishness at the foot of the cross. Think of what we could accomplish together, if we truly acted as one, with a heart of love and thankfulness:
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” (Colossians 3:23 ESV)
Satan wants a lazy church. We fail when we work for people and not for the Lord. But if we, as different members of the same body, rely on love—if we root ourselves in the foundation of God’s love—we can bring real change and light to the world.
One of the biggest challenges we’ll ever face as a Christian comes when God says, “Stay.”
We’ve all been there. And I don’t know about you, but that command only gets harder to hear the older I get.
It can be one of the most difficult things we have to do, especially when we see people all around us actively doing amazing things for the Kingdom. You probably know many people changing jobs, starting movements, and uprooting their lives across states, or even countries, to follow where God is leading them. Maybe that’s you right now. Whether you are in a season of action or not, you will undoubtedly come to a time in life when God says, “Stay.”
It makes you feel small. It makes you feel weak. It makes you feel unneeded. We get uncomfortable because we know that in order for big things to happen, people have to actually be doing things. And sitting on the sidelines feels wrong.
However, just because it feels wrong, doesn’t mean we are being punished for being bad servants or that it is wrong at all. Everyone needs rest sometimes.
Our job in these moments is to listen to what God is telling us. Why is he asking us to stay still? What are we supposed to do in the quiet? The answer is going to be different for everyone, so if you want to know what God is asking of you, you have to grapple with it yourself.
The biblical King David dealt with many moments of waiting on God. In his darkest turmoil and loneliness, he came to a deep understanding of stillness and quiet, and what God wanted him to learn from it.
Throughout the Psalms, he cried out to God continually because he felt alone, forsaken, and scared. One psalm (while not ascribed to David) is a reminder that it is alright for God's people to not constantly be taking action.
“Be still and know that I am God. / I will be exalted among the nations, / I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10 ESV).
The silence does not mean God is telling us to be lazy or apathetic to his plans. Sometimes it means that he is doing something big and we just need to wait. David encouraged God’s people to find peace in the waiting. He says,
“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, / all you who wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 31:24 ESV).
But it’s not always easy for us to be at peace with the silence. And it wasn’t easy for David, either. At a time when he was facing intense depression and exhaustion, he says,
“I am weary with my crying out; / my throat is parched. / My eyes grow dim / with waiting for my God” (Psalm 69:3 ESV).
Yet in all his suffering, he learned that God’s timing would always be better than his own. In the same Psalm, when his throat is aching and his eyes are puffy with tears, he declares,
“But as for me, my prayer is to you, / O Lord. / At an acceptable time, O God, / in the abundance of your steadfast love / answer me in your saving faithfulness” (Psalm 69:13 ESV).
David, a man after God’s own heart, had to learn how to rest in God’s silence and find peace in his timing. And it wasn’t easy for him. While he valiantly waited about 15 years until his time to become king, at other times he made big mistakes.
David often despaired, as we all do. He cried out hundreds—probably thousands—of times for God to listen to him. The silence tore him up. But he waited on God, and he grew in faith because of it.
“But I am like a green olive tree / in the house of God. / I trust in the steadfast love of God / forever and ever. / I will thank you forever, / because you have done it. / I will wait for your name, for it is good, / in the presence of the godly” (Psalm 52:8-9 ESV).
Being grounded often seems like a punishment to us. It creates a crisis within us and we begin to question who we are and who God is. And that’s OK. Cry out. Struggle with it. Fall on your knees and really listen to God. Listen to the silence.