Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Week:
3 He said to me, “You’re my dear servant, Israel, through whom I’ll shine.” 4 But I said, “I’ve worked for nothing. I’ve nothing to show for a life of hard work. Nevertheless, I’ll let GOD have the last word. I’ll let him pronounce his verdict.” Isaiah 49:3-4 (MSG)
657 Sometimes the immediate future is full of worries, if we stop seeing things in a supernatural way. So, faith, my child, faith… and more deeds. In that way it is certain that our Father God will continue to solve your problems.
658 God’s ordinary providence is a continual miracle; but He will use extraordinary means when they are required. (1)
One of the better professors I had in my Master’s program taught young pastors to be to never change anything in their churches, until they could mourn the loss the change caused.
His idea was two-fold, the first that we need to work in ministry patiently, not just changing things, whether to make them more tranditional or more missional (which I don’t think are contrary – though I admit many do). Things will not become more successful just because you change how you go about things. Far too often we have the attitude, the view of the servant in Isaiah, we look around and do not see any results for our labors, for our sacrifice. So we get desparate to see results, and we react by changing eerything to produce the results we want. We may try to become “holier” to do things in a more regiemented, disciplined way that seems to have worked at some point in the past. Or we may try to throw off the past, and do tings that get back to the “core” of the early church, far more missional/apostolic.
In both cases, we are not trusting in the providence of God, but rather in the direction we feel should be set, often without looking to see where we are at, what we are doing. We want results now, great, glorious results, results that are undeniably miraculous, and to which we can point to a place in time and say, it was at this point, when we discovered, revealed, made this change… that it all happened.
I would contend that our desire to change things – either to restore the practices of the past (romantically viewing them as the solution because the church was so perfect or to make them cutting edge to see better results) can be driven by despair, by frustration, by the feeling that we are simply spinning our wheels in ministry. I am not saying we shouldn’t evaluate what we are doing, or that there shouldn’t be a standard that includes both scriptural integrity and pragmatic effectiveness (does our preaching Christ crucified communicate) but that spinning our wheels may only be in our perpspective.
So the first question we should ask – are we trusting in God in doing what we are doing now? Are we working form the assumption that God is already working within us, within our lives, within in our ministries? Do we see His hand in our present situation, providing for us, caring for each of us? Or are we seeing the “spinning of wheels” as evidence to the contrary? Do we see the supernatural miraculous, the sacred that is already occuring in our midst?
You see, its easy to see the lack of our effect easily, it is almost our default – our impatience, our self-determination taking over, but faith demands seeing God at work, even when we don’t see it in our own lives. To know He is there, listening comforting, strengthening. He is at work through HIs word, which never returns void, and in the sacrament, the word combined by God with water, with bread and wine, through the hands and voices of the people of God. THat His work is always beneficial, that it always provides results, including the greatest of results, calling us into His presence.
From that position, we perceive our work differently, we trust in His judgment more, we rely on HIm, more, and ours plans are synthesised into His will.
Breathe, be still and know that He is God…. then having heard, realize His glory will be seen in your life, in your work. AMEN!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2419-2423). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.