How have we, the American Church, managed to make the Sunday experience so complicated while simultaneously stripping it of the presence of God? Perhaps it’s because we suspect that God is insufficient—that His sweet, savage presence is not enough—and so we’ve overwhelmed and burdened ourselves with props. We tell ourselves we’re promoting God with our endless list of beloved props (though many are, in fact, designed to promote ourselves). We pour our money and energy into grand buildings, artistic bulletins, endless theatrics, elaborate graphics, computer effects, light shows, and cutting-edge programs until we’re too exhausted and preoccupied to invite Jesus into the mix.
At the same time, we perpetuate the spectacle/spectator mindset with our stages and theater seats as the select few carry out their duties while everyone else, including Jesus, is expected to sit there and behave. And all the while, we remain unchanged.
Don’t misunderstand me: I am not anti-technology, nor am I saying that building funds are unbiblical. But who can deny that we’ve become so rehearsed and polished that we’ve wrung ourselves dry of all spontaneity, leaving no room for the Holy Spirit and forgetting that, if left to Himself (deprived of all our props), He would be what He’s always been: absolutely everything we need.
Have you ever experienced that stripping moment when you realized God had assigned you to pour yourself into someone who had nothing to give you in return … or who wasn’t particularly nice to you … or who was bad-tempered much of the time? Maybe you’re there right now. When the call comes, we dread saying yes—but we will say yes if we realize that, more often than not, “doing great things for God” means carrying out the most menial and thankless tasks of all.
Jesus taught us this truth by example: He served those who hated Him, even washing Judas’ dusty feet just hours before Judas turned on Him. And think about it: “While we were wasting our lives in sin, God revealed His powerful love to us in a tangible display—the Anointed One died for us” (Rom. 5:8, Voice). Your thankless task might involve seemingly endless days of sitting bedside. It might involve adult diapers, the immediate needs of someone in crisis, or the rants of an addict.
Tasks like these can drain us until we wonder how we’ll have anything left to give tomorrow, but we must resist becoming lethargic or despondent—or assuming that God has abandoned us in our suffering and sacrifice. Selfless service is not just a nice thing to do, it’s beautiful to the Father. And it’s impossible to do well without the Holy Spirit. That’s why He’ll teach you how to exist in this new reality if you’ll allow Him to ground you in the even greater reality of His presence. He might even show you that it’s an honor to be among those appointed to love and care for the broken.
My prayer for you is that you’ll “be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy giving thanks to the Father” (Col. 1:11-12). Surrender to His will and ask Him to teach you to endure in grace (and yes, even joy) rather than by “white-knuckling” your way through this season.
Do you already feel defeated in your resolution to pursue God in 2016 like never before? Let’s talk about that.
(Forgive the video editing glitches, I’m still learning!)
We think of the spiritual “mountaintop experience” as pleasant and joyful, when in reality it’s often stark, lonely, and brutal. But if God has assigned us to that place, then it’s right where we want to be. Watch the 4-minute video for more…