“Take good care of him,” Pastor Stephen told Yesenia. “He may look old, but he’s barely a toddler in his Christian life.” A couple of dozen hugs, handshakes and pats on the back later, I watched my church’s mission team disappear into the airport crowd. It was the official first day of my life in Guatemala.
When people learn how I work with missions and charity groups and that I write a Christian blog, they sometimes assume that I am some kind of minister, pastor or Biblical scholar. Of course nothing could be farther from the truth. (I take heart in 1 Corinthians 1:27: “But God used the foolish to shame the wise”)
The truth is that reading the Bible, sermons, Christian blogs and other articles constantly rewards me with “aha!” moments. When I reflect on a new train of thought, revelation or understanding, the words of my pastor often flow through my mind. I hope these moments keep coming, because if I ever think I know all I need to know, I can be assured I know nothing.Sometimes, the “aha!” moments are more like, “HOLY COW!!!” moments.
I spent some time this morning making a list of all the things I have to do this week. It involved errands and chores related to three different ministries. At some point, I stupidly thought to myself, “What a lucky Christian I am to be able to work so much in service like this!” Now it is true that I am blessed (not lucky) to be in this position where I have a lot of time on my hands for various missions. Life is good! But….
Later in the day, I was reading an excerpt from an Oswald Chambers sermon about satisfying Jesus. (So much for the errands!) Chambers preached that we should be living lives of pure, uncompromised, unrestrained devotion to Jesus, where ever He sends us. “Beware of anything that competes with our loyalty to Jesus,” he wrote. Then he added, “The greatest competitor of true devotion to Jesus is the service we do for Him.” HOLY COW!!!
Was I guilty of putting my love of service ahead of real devotion?
My history includes a lot of “type-A” behavior. Job burnout has been the result this character flaw a couple of times. Certainly, I put work ahead of God for a large part of my life. Could I actually do that again even while my “work” is a calling? Of course I can. We all can.
This particular sermon was written by Mr Chambers over a hundred years ago; but it was a well-timed reminder for me to regroup and reprioritize. I need to put God first and worship Him through my deeds and thoughts. I need to devote each thing, every action, and all my words to Him. I need to be patient and let God’s plan present itself to me. I don’t need to be anxious that I am doing enough to please Him; only that whatever it is I am doing pleases Him. I need to jealously protect my relationship with Jesus and not let anything- no matter how good or faithful it seems- get between us.
Our faith saves us. Faith lets us know His love and His love leads to acts and service. But if we let our acts become our focus, we can lose sight of Him. If we don’t keep God first and devote ourselves to Him above all, then I fear everything we do becomes just another chore. We all need to guard against that.
I’ve got so much left to learn.