I love Jesus! I love that Jesus is willing to meet any of us exactly where we are on any given day while promising that He won’t leave us where He finds us. I love that His grace knows no bounds, His power is limitless, and His love is all consuming! I love that while I have the honor and privilege of spending my days introducing people to Jesus that the responsibility of changing hearts and transforming lives falls solely on Him. I love that God helps us to understand the truth that God “so loved the world” (John 3:16) This takes all of the pressure of “changing people” off of us and places it on His very capable, omnipotent, omniscient, shoulders because as much as this scripture means He loves us it means He loves everyone else JUST as much. Why then am I so quick to forget this?
I cannot help but think that sometimes God whispers in our ears a subtle reminder that can easily go unnoticed in the hustle of life. That God redirects us back to a foundational truth that is at the heart of our own personal relationship with Him but that if you're like me you constantly forget on a daily basis…perhaps not so much in your heart as in your mind:
Ephesians 2:8-9 “8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” (NIV)
The humbling reminder that we have done absolutely nothing to achieve or deserve the limitless all powerful love God poured out for us through Jesus. What a great reminder! Why is it then that we forget this? Why is it then that we can know this to be true in our own lives and yet seem to forget it when interacting with others?
Through our well meaning but sometimes overzealous desire to share the love God has so generously put on display in our own lives, we forget who is actually in charge. We attempt to be the solution to people’s problems rather than directing them to the ultimate solution. It’s like we trust Jesus enough to change us…just not enough to change those around us…as if we think that He left that part up to us. So we quote scripture to people we hardly know and then take offense when they don’t react with some visible form of immediate repentance right there in line at Starbucks. We declare freedom from addiction in people’s lives and then attribute their lack of longevity in sobriety to their own lack of faith. How does that work?
Now, it is absolutely clear in scripture that the church is to be missional. I certainly believe that we as the church ought to live missional lives and that we carry the task of sharing the love of Jesus within our sphere of influence. Equipping people to do just that is a biblical function of the church (Ephesians 4:11-12) and as such is at he heart of what we aim to do though Journey Church Detroit. But, I also believe that apart from the power of the Holy Spirit at work IN our words and actions, we are ineffective at best and a stumbling block standing between people and Jesus at worst.
If you're like me…you need to be reminded that people don't always need us to pull the pin and throw scriptural grenades at the life circumstances that are bringing them pain or confusion. Now, before you freak out…I am not speaking against the authority of scripture. I believe in the perfect, powerful, inerrant, and unrivaled word of God! What I am saying is that sometimes people need us to just be there for them. To hold out a hand. To offer up a hug. To cry with them. To not say anything when you don't know what to say. Acting as the theology police in life where you feel the constant need to immediately explain why someone should or shouldn't have done something is painfully ineffective and more often than not a source of division rather than reconciliation.
I heard a pastor say one time: “God hasn’t called us to be rule enforcers. He has called us to be living outposts of grace to a hurting world”.
Someone who is grieving the death of a loved one probably doesn’t care if you learned the greek definition for “grief” at your last bible study or that you can perfectly exegete several bible texts explaining why God will work their current pain for their future good. They probably would do just as well if not better with a hug. God wants His word spoken into people’s pain and He probably is even positioning you to be His tool. But, taking the timing of God out of the work of God is to try and replace the authority of God with your own.
Relationships are effective. Trusting in God is effective. Trusting in God is to trust in His timing. Trusting in God is to trust in His irreplaceable, un-revocable, and all authoritative role in the ministry of reconciliation which He allows us to be a part of. Sometimes I think God wants to remind us as believers to know our role.
If you want to really have an impact on your community, go make friends and tell them about Jesus. Meet your neighbors. Talk to people in your classes. Take your headphones out from time to time at the gym (talking to myself). Look up from your phone while you’re at the grocery store (can I get an AMEN!?). Stop looking so mad at the world all of the time. Meet people. Love people. Get to know people. Learn about people and what is going on in their lives.
If you are allowing your life to be filled with God’s word and the love of Jesus then it will overflow out of you. And, God will use that overflow to impact someone’s life at the exact right moment that He intends to happen. It just might not always line up with when you THINK you need to speak into someone’s life. The periodic proverbial “brain-fart” and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit are not the same thing (I say that in love of course).
IN OTHER WORDS: Finding yourself in circumstances that YOU think warrant your input is not the same as God ordained meetings in which He intends to use you as His mouthpiece. And, sensitivity to the Holy Spirit is the only way for you to discern the difference. It’s our responsibility to be prepared for those opportunities, it’s God’s responsibility to arrange them. One of the fastest ways to be ineffective in reaching people for Jesus is to take the timing of God out of the work of God.
Sometimes God reminds me to “know my role”! And, as a word of encouragement to you from my own experience: God is good at being on the throne. He doesn't need our help.
-Pastor Bill C.