I was talking to a very close friend this week who was sharing about how we tend to internalize scripture. We turn our Bible reading into a pursuit of moral righteousness or piety, and never really live out the instructions in a way that is impactful to the community around us. Sure, we might not drink, and we might live our lives a little different than some, but is that what really makes us a Christ follower? We’re okay with setting ourselves apart as long as it is something that makes us feel like we have earned our way into some kind of spiritual rite of passage. If that is the case, are we really living out faith in Christ, or are we just seeking another way to glory in ourselves?
I have to confess the same sin. The idea can easily be that since we have moved to Uganda, surely everything we do is holy and righteous. It actually becomes easier to write-off those areas of my life that are sin, and buy into the idea that since we have been obedient in what some might view as a major leap of faith, we must be centered in God’s will. The reality is that I am still a man, doing my job, and seeking glory in the wrong places. My tendency is still to gain the approval of men. At times, I am still guilty of running my own agenda. My job is administrative, so I am sometimes guilty of abandoning my quiet time with God in order to accomplish the tasks of another day.
I had a close friend and pastor once tell me that his greatest challenge, and where he really needed prayer was in his personal walk with Christ. This was absolutely mind blowing to me. How can this man that I respect so much, the pastor of a huge and growing mega-church, struggle with something like that?? He put it very plainly. “I am so busy ministering to others. I am preparing a sermon for Sunday, counseling the married couple who is very near divorce, leading the pastoral staff, and planning the next mission trip. I get exhausted and run out of that special, quiet time with my God. I miss that time that I can spend with my father in heaven, all for the sake of leading the people of my congregation into the very thing I am missing.”
Here I am, guilty again. I am trying my very best to be all things to all people. The problem is that I’m not usually doing that for the same motive that the apostle Paul listed, “that I might save some”. Instead, I try to be all things to all people so that I might receive some kind of honor or praise. I can prepare a Sunday sermon, work out the 2018 budget, address some kind of personal conflict in the camp, perform employee reviews, send out well-written requests for support in our clinic ministry, and wake every morning to pray and read with my wife. Do I really seek to glorify God in all of those things and honor Him, living my life as an act of worship? Am I really growing in my relationship with Him? I’d confess that it is some of both, and I am still battling against my flesh. Galatians 1:10 is my life verse and personal challenge, “For do I now persuade men, or God, or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.”
Fortunately for me, I serve a God who is so much bigger than all my worry and internal struggle. My God has asked me to follow Him, and I am blessed to be a part of what He is doing in this place called Musana Camps. He provided me with an opportunity to teach on the fundamental basics of baptism and then participate in the baptism of 16 men and women from our congregation in a single day. Somehow he was able to use me, along with the other excellent teachers of our church, to lay the foundational principles of the Lord’s supper so that we could have our first communion service of 2017. Just this Sunday, I watched as God used the people of our local church to bring salvation to a husband and wife. In December of 2016, this man had been terminated from his job at Musana Camps. Now he is seeking repentance and has accepted salvation. This very month God was able to use the servants of Musana Camps to come along and support a mentally handicapped woman of the neighboring village who had been taken advantage of and was about to deliver a child. God allowed for me to watch hearts of compassion establish a line of communication and bring about assistance that we know has saved the life of the mother, and provided hope for the grandmother who must also dig in her garden to support her daughter and new grand-daughter. Why God would choose to have me play a role in all of this, I don’t know.
The one thing I know is that God did not request my wife and I to sit back and study harder until we finally got our spiritual lives right. God asked us to let go of our insecurity and internal strife. He asked us to get over our weakness and figure out once and for all that there was never any hope that we would reach some level of spiritual maturity and holiness on our own. He showed us that He could use us, just the way we were. He doesn’t use us because of us, but in spite of us, in order to show His majesty. For every step that I’m willing to allow Him to use me, He also brings about the change inside of me that I was seeking all along. It’s only by relinquishing my own control and authority that He can receive the glory. I have an old favorite song by a group called Caedmon’s Call, where the lead singer joyfully exclaims, “I’m so thankful that I’m incapable of doing any good on my own.” That’s where I am also at rest.
The pressure is off. Just relinquish control, be in constant prayer, and God will provide the increase in both your spiritual walk and in the fruit that it bears.