What a wild ride this fall continues to be! Wild, a little crazy, but an adventure I wouldn’t miss for anything. I’m sticking with my word, steadfast, like I promised earlier this year here. Although I’ve remained steadfast in my weekly drawing, my blog entries have been rather abbreviated of late. I won’t let that be the case today.
We’re in the middle of a series called “This is My Church” at North Ridge. In this series, we’ve discussed the design and attributes of the church and our place inside the body as a member. In today’s installment, we focused on the individual as a catalyst for God’s grace. We studied the example of Paul and Silas in Acts 16:6-18:22. A critical attribute to any kind of successful ministry is flexibility. This was also true for Paul and Silas. They start out headed in one direction and are blocked, plan B is coming together nicely when they are re-directed once again. Finally, when they are feeling good about their third attempt at following God’s call in a tangible way, they wind up in prison.
Many would have thrown in the towel at this point, either succumbing to doubt or depression, their ministry rendered ineffective; but Paul and Silas did not relent. They persisted to operate like their situation was planned, ministering to their fellow inmates and the prison guards. As a result of their flexibility and opportunistic attitudes, their jailer met Christ.
One of the single-most ministry-stifling and life-stagnating mantras promoted by the modern-day church is encompassed around the idea of “God’s will” being an elusive revelation each individual must capture before they can begin serving God in their designed capacity. Ask any college student or recent grad with a Christian world view what they spend most of their time and energy stressing over and the majority will answer with the Christianese phrase, “discerning God’s will for my life”. Here’s a thought that will send those 20-somethings’ blood pressures through the roof, what if “God’s will” is laid out as plain as the nose on your face and you’re wasting your life looking for it?
Jeremiah 29:11 is the most quoted verse at baccalaureate and graduate services. The problem is, that verse was not directed toward an individual; it’s not about you, it is about a nation. The pressure this verse puts on a young person is almost unbearable. When we lay this passage on our young graduates, fresh fish in the career and ministry world, this is what they may actually hear:
“For I know the plans I have for you (but you don’t know them), declares the Lord, plans for welfare (so if you’re not making tons of money, you’re doing the wrong thing) and not for evil (if you’re not enjoying it, it’s not My will), to give you a future and a hope.(promotions and raises, IF you can figure out what I’m thinking!)”
I prefer a different verse to encourage diving into life and discovering God and oneself, 1 Peter 4:10. My favorite version reads this way:
Each one should use the gifts they have been given to serve as good stewards, administering God’s grace to each other.
I love this arrangement of that passage because of the word “administer”. It makes me think of a nurse “administering” a shot. We each possess gifts, talents God has blessed us with the ability of performing well and aspects of life He has lit a deep passion in us to engage. By using the gifts that fill us, we administer God’s grace like a nurse injects health-saving pharmaceuticals. On the other hand, by NOT using our gifts (i.e. wasting our life doing nothing while we “search for God’s will”) we are effectively withholding God’s grace from those around us.
We are accepted before God through His grace. Salvation is by grace alone, so why bother using our gifts? We are totally abandoned to God for His glory. We don’t use our gifts for our sake, we use them to become a catalyst for grace reaching further into our world.
I drew the image of a leaky bucket being filled to show how this cycle of grace works. The water in the drawing represents grace, you are the bucket. God fills us with grace, but our capacity is limited. If the bucket, filled with water, is set aside as if its purpose is complete, the water becomes a stagnant pool breeding mosquitoes and festering with bacteria. If the bucket is emptied, the water poured out to fill one of the countless uses of water, the bucket is available for filling once again and another thirst is quenched. The cycle repeats until the bucket is retired.
Be emptied so you can be filled so you can be emptied so you can be filled so you can be….be known for your disruption through administering grace.
This is my place in my church.