Friday, August 1, 2014

On Waiting and Working

Do you ever feel like you're just waiting for God to show up, wondering if He ever will? Do you ever long to see God at work in a mighty way, like He did in the Bible? If you grew up in church, like I did, surely you know the stories. God sending plagues on the Egyptians, parting the Red Sea, providing manna in the wilderness, letting Moses see His glory as He passed by, wetting the fleece for Gideon and then keeping it dry, Jesus feeding 5,000 men with a little boy's lunch, turning water into wine, raising the dead, Peter and the apostles preaching and people hearing in their own languages 3,000 and coming to Christ in a single day. This is big stuff. Life-changing, earth-shattering, history-altering stuff. Do you ever read about that and wonder, what's the deal today? Here in 2014 in America, are we getting the shaft? What is God doing now? Is He doing anything? And if He is, do we get to be a part of it?

I've heard these questions in many forms. I've asked them myself. I remember specifically one time reading in Acts about the thousands of people who were being added to the church on a daily basis, and right in that moment I asked in prayer, "God, why don't we see things like this now? Why aren't You working like this today?" And in that moment, an answer came to my heart. God is at work just like that today. Across the world, thousands of people believe in Him and follow Him every day. Just because I don't see the Kingdom growing by leaps and bounds in my own life, in my own church, doesn't mean it isn't happening. God is active. God is always working. So what is our role in this work?

There is this idea that when we don't understand something we read in God's Word, or when we have questions about who God is or what He is doing, we need to just wait on God to show up and reveal Himself or deliver a plan for what we should do next. This is a concept that is fairly common and sounds very spiritual, but I wonder if it is truth. A friend of mine suggested that it might be just an excuse for people who don't want to work, or who have given up hope of ever seeing God at work. That may be true in many cases. Maybe they don't see Him at work because they're not looking for Him, and maybe they're not seeing it because they are refusing to do the work God has called them to do. 

This is what I know: God works through people. He always has. I don't know why He chooses to do that, He doesn't have to, but He does. If you want to see God, look closely at the people around you. I see Him everywhere. I see Him in my husband. I see Him in my friends who come over on Thursday nights to eat pancakes and ask questions about God and the Bible. I see Him in the endless questions my daughter asks. I even see Him working in surprising places, that maybe shouldn't be so surprising. I see Him in the faithful servants in our church, who might look old and gruff but who still have hearts that are tender toward God and are learning from His Word. A troll might tell a princess in a movie that "People don't really change," and in most cases, that's true. But God can change a human heart, mind, and soul. I've seen Him do it many times, in other people and in me, and each time He does it, I know I've seen a miracle. Oh sure, I'd like to see Him do the "big stuff," the earth-shaking, mountain-moving, mighty acts of wonder and healing and provision. I'd like to see Him heal my son's heart condition. But sometimes I think we overlook the great, eternal, constant work of God because we're looking for something that we think is bigger. What if we're looking for the wrong thing? 

Jesus told the people in John 6 that their fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and died, but He was offering eternal life. In order to get it, all they had to do was believe in Him, accept His offer of His flesh and His blood to cover their sins, and take hold of eternal life. Most didn't understand. What Jesus was talking about was too radical. A few stayed with Him because they caught a glimpse of who He truly was, and they knew they could never be satisfied with anything else. Those few, filled the with Holy Spirit, went on to start an organization known as the church. That church changed the world, and it grew and continues to grow and is still changing the world today by impacting people, one life at a time, for eternity. This is the work of God. This is what He calls us to do. How is this too "small" for us?

I think we went through this phase in the church (I mean the Church as a whole, as a culture, not one specific body of believers) where we settled for less than what God offers. And then we got used to less. And then we expected less. Now the false flimsy faith we were fed doesn't satisfy, and we want more. We want the real thing. We want all of God, here and now. And that's a good thing. But when we set aside God in all His fullness for the culture of the church, we also forgot about the cost of knowing Him. He demands everything. Every hope, dream, desire, possession, and relationship you have must be laid at the feet of Christ. When we come to Him we give up our old, dead, sinful lives, and He gives us His life. We cannot imagine what that looks like, but He gives us clues in the Bible. For one, when our lives are no longer our own, we are wasting time when we focus on ourselves. Our ultimate purpose is to give our lives to serve Christ, serve others, and grow His Kingdom for His glory.

If you have this idea that serving God, trying to be good and then be extra good to make up for times when you're bad, then God will eventually make your life better, that's a nice idea based on a false view of God. There is no scale you have to balance out before He can bless you. There is no punishment left to serve. There's a line in an old song, "Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe." All of God's promises are fulfilled in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20). If you do a bunch of good things and avoid a bunch of bad things and call that the Christian life, then you can claim some of the credit for what you've done. If you look for where God is working, engage in what He has called and uniquely gifted you to do, and allow Him to do His work through you by the power of His Spirit, He gets the glory. Being in Christ, that is the blessing. That is the abundant life. To all outward appearances, your life might suck as long as you're alive. It might not. That's just part of living in this fallen world. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart: I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). So what is our hope? Christ. Forever. 

When I write a post like this, it's always tempting to make it sound like I really know what I'm talking about, like somehow I've figured out this Christian life thing and how it works. Really, I feel pretty clueless most of the time. I struggle with things I thought I'd figured out, lessons I thought I'd already learned, temptations and failures that I never imagined I'd deal with. In the middle of all that, here's what I've got: Jesus. He is enough. Even on days when I question whether or not He's enough for me, He is. 

Is he enough for you?

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Hey, please comment! When no one comments I feel like no one is reading this, and then I have to do really annoying things like nag my friends to read it so that I feel like there is some purpose in what I do. Yeah, I am that pathetic sometimes. (By the way, you might want to copy your comment before you try to post it, because sometimes people have trouble with the page eating their comments)