Sometimes in the maelstrom of life, we have to push pause and wait. Waiting for me always includes spending time in the word, and from that, in prayer.
I am ordinarily filled with all kinds of ideas or thoughts, but as I get older, I realize more and more that I am dependent on God and interdependent on others. So that I need input and correction along the way, with encouragement.
And so that is what i want to be doing right now and today. I find that this is not just something I need to do during special times, but every day. But all the more, during those more difficult times. And sometimes to simply be quiet, be still, so as to hear that still small voice (or, gentle whisper).
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
It is easy to simply dismiss what one does as not mattering. Perhaps anyone can do it, yes. What is lost in this is how everything we do matters, and how the touch of each one doing it is both a gift and stewardship from God. We fill our place with the touch of God through creation and new creation in Jesus, even with the contribution of all we are, including our brokenness. Not that we excuse ourselves so that what we do or don’t do doesn’t matter.
In light of the resurrection we are to realize that our lives have eternal impact somehow on this world and on others. Our labor in the Lord can make all the difference in the world. We must not lose sight of that.
I work in a factory setting. Many details are laid out for us and some of it is rather routine. Many if not everyone could do the job I do. But as each of us does the work given to us, we can do it in such a way that brings glory to God as we work at it with all of our hearts. In my case I’m doubly blessed in that I work for a solid, excellent Christian ministry: RBC Ministries, home of Our Daily Bread and much more. And so I realize that our work impacts people directly with the goodness of God in and through Jesus. As we participate in the mission to “make the life-changing wisdom of the Bible understandable and accessible to all.”
Not just at work, but everywhere our lives can make a difference that lasts forever. We are a resurrection people in Jesus so that our lives, our deeds and our words can make that difference by the Spirit in and through Jesus. We’re not automatons by the way. We’re somehow part of this life changing work, regardless of how mundane it may seem and we may feel at times. And so we do not lose heart, but keep on keeping on. To the glory and eternal praise of God.
There are some who either want to deny the existence of God or who doubt God’s existence. Others see God as not only existing, but the basis in source and purpose for all existence. Even as important for us spiritually as the air we breathe physically. Existence for them is certainly material, but along with that, and not opposed to it at all in terms of creation, spiritual. With all reverence to God we might call these people the God-intoxicated ones. Everything is not only with reference to God in their heads, but for all of life. No matter what they do nothing excepted, they want to do all to the glory and praise of God in and through Jesus by the Spirit.
We humans we’re made for this existence. Not only life in this world and the new creation of it to come, but in the communion of the love of the Trinity, the Triune God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
But even the God-intoxicated ones can sometimes feel the absence of God. Which for them is troubling. But because of this orientation to God they press on, even in the darkness. And into the light.
This is about living in God, not about ourselves. God is like the air we breathe, the song we sing, the life we live in and through Jesus.
Whatever God calls us to do we simply need to do and keep doing it regardless of what the effect seems to be. And certainly including whether or not any one expresses appreciation for what we have done.
There is the need for those in the church to both recognize and affirm the gifting one does have, no doubt. And it is an encouragement to know if someone is helped by what we do, or more accurately what God does through us. So there is that balance.
But the last thing we should be looking for or expecting is praise from people. In fact when God is at work the most there may be the least possibility of that. God’s working does not always bring comfort with it. Oftentimes quite the opposite to be sure.
In the end we want to be praised by the Lord as those who were good and faithful servants, doing his will, using what gifts he had given us. We realize that anything short of that is high and dry, indeed empty.
It is freedom to let go of the desire to receive any praise from anyone, in my case for teaching or preaching well, or whatever. We want to do well and be a blessing in the Lord to others. But the focus should never be on the servant but on the one that is served. Any good is all from God who alone deserves all praise.
May the Lord continue to free us from being moved either by praise or criticism from people, as long as we are faithful in Jesus by the Spirit to God’s calling to us.
The poet and a pathetic Job know that inspiration survives among the cliffs of despair. It may be, in fact, that truth means the most in the heart of darkness rather than in spiritual spurts of mountaintop enthusiasm. It may be that praise means the most in the valley of the shadow of death, where grief stomps on our chest and makes it barely possible to breathe—and yet we breathe nonetheless.
Jack Levison, Fresh Air: The Holy Spirit for an Inspired Life, 25.
I like the possibility of chanting the psalms, which I believe provide for us a spirituality which helps us through the rugged terrain of life. This is done in monasteries, and I think we would do well to do the same, as well as chanting other scripture. Chanting as in singing in a simple way. Though left to myself, simply reading them in a prayerful way will have to suffice.
In the psalms in my view, not everything the psalmists say is sanctified. But what is sanctified or holy is the point that the psalmist does bare soul and all to God, does not hold back, but lets loose the tirade. And laments. Yes, even complains. At the same time doing so as one committed to God. Of course along with that is praise to God because of his goodness and blessings to us.
I think simply being in scripture, and saying the words out loud is potentially powerful. Of course we need to see all of this as done before God, in his presence, seeking to draw near to God in and through Christ. As well as doing something of the sort by one’s self, it is good to do it with others. The fellowship we are caught up into with God includes others in that same fellowship.
Have you done this? Is it an ongoing practice with you? Should it be? Does it help us to see something of why the psalms were given to us in the first place?
One aspect of this Advent season that we do well to dwell on: being lost in wonder. In the words of Charles Wesley: “lost in wonder, love and praise.”
What God did in Jesus is beyond words, though we need every word of the Book to begin to get it. So it would begin to dawn on us what God in his great love has done for us in Jesus.
To be captured in that. To live in that. That is what I want. Heart broken and life changed. Deeper and further, indeed more faithfulness together to this beautiful will of God in Jesus in and for the world.
What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
from The Cyber Hymnal
Brother Lawrence in The Practice of the Presence of God shares about the importance of talking to God, as in conversing. In Jesus we live in God’s Presence all the time, no matter what we are doing. We should take all we are doing and turn it back to God in prayer, thanksgiving and praise, as well as petitions.
Yesterday, including much of the weekend minus Sunday morning church and the nursing home later, I seemed not only dry and rather downcast, but even toward a kind of despair. But by and by I remembered the words of Brother Lawrence and began to turn the day over to God through prayers.
What a difference that made! Like night and day. I should say what a difference that came to make, because it did take some time. But it was like the sun breaking through the clouds after a most cloudy and rather dark and dreary day. The sky clearing and a sense that all is well, after all. Even in the midst of all the brokenness and difficulty life brings.
Of course the clouds and even darkness will come and go. Good times and bad, as well as all the seemingly mundane. But we can continue to talk to God through Jesus. To seek to listen to God, to pour out our hearts to him.
As we do so, we learn through the Spirit that while we want and need to come just as we are to God, we also want to please him. Through this, God will teach us in his grace how to please him in what we think, desire and pray for. As well as bringing all of our true needs to him.
Hopefully I’ll grow in this grace. And if you haven’t read The Practice of the Presence of God, join me in reading it. It is long remembered and a Christian classic for good reason.