#4: Thankful for Our Calling
When that wry smirk showed in the corners of his mouth, I knew I was about to hear something special. G-daddy (my grandfather) said simply, "Well Phil, if you lived through the Great Depression like I did, you know that the good ol' days weren't!" Then he did his Scooby Doo raspy chuckle and smiled, pretty proud of himself for the wisdom he had uttered. While I've heard that pithy truth many times in the nearly four decades since my teenage years when G-daddy first said it, none of those times stands out like this first time.
"The good ol' days, weren't!" I've had to remind myself of that several times before I parked at the corner of Whiners Lane and Complainers Court.
While I understand the frustration of believers who are worried about our culture, our country, our churches, and our communities, I want to quote my G-daddy: "The good ol' days, weren't." All too often we want to return to those days and use those same solutions, forgetting that those "solutions" are exactly what led us to the mess we are in now! Rather than pointing fingers, moaning and groaning, nostalgically relabeling reality, or blaming the lost world for "going to hell in a hand basket," I'd rather go a different direction. I'd like to give thanks for our calling!
Jesus prayed the following on the night he was betrayed: "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one" (John 17:15). From that moment on, those of us who are disciples of Jesus were directed to give up our return to "Nostalgiaville" and focus on the task at hand. Jesus had seeded the idea into the hearts of his disciples with this powerful piece of missional calling:
[Jesus taught his disciples:] "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:13-16).
Did you catch that?
The world is in decay and what it thinks of as good is really tasteless. The world needs us to be salt! It needs us to be different from what it is. It needs us to be involved — to enter into what is decaying and to be involved in the world of what is tasteless and to be changed ourselves as we bring transformation to it!
The world is caught in darkness. It needs us to be light... light that shines not just in places where there is already a lot of light, but enter into the darkness and shine there... to be placed in the darkness to bless and give light, not be hidden under the cloak of holy bowls (church buildings and church meetings and church isolation).
Let's give thanks for our calling instead of whining about the darkness. Let's give thanks for our calling instead of moaning about the decay and tastelessness we see around us. Let's realize it is not the world's job to be like us, but our job is to enter the world to help it learn to love Jesus. As we do, we will be reminded of three ways we can help our world be transformed.
The first way to help our world in darkness and decay is through intercession!
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful (Colossians 4:2 emphasis in bold).Well look at what follows:
And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (Colossians 4:3-6).
Paul reminded folks to be thankful, then talked about mission — intercession on behalf of his mission and a reminder to them that they are on mission right where they live in their hometown of Colossae. Paul had a lot more to whine about than most of us — stuff like being in chains and detained from his mission travel — but he didn't whine. Instead, he leveraged his bad circumstances to challenge the Colossians toward intercession and mission.
So let's be thankful and involved ourselves in intercession for missionaries and missions while we recognize that we need to be on mission right where we are!
A second way to help our world in trapped darkness and caught in the process of decay is incarnation!
Many of us overlook the first hint at the Great Commission given after Jesus' resurrection. John tells us:
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit" (John 19:19-22 emphasis in bold).
Jesus didn't take us out of the world, but sent us into it to redeem it just as the Father had sent him to save the world (John 3:16) — that means being the incarnation of the Father's love. Rather than hiding in our churches and bemoaning culture, let's do what Jesus did: enter the world and give our lives to making it better... to living as well as praying, "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). That means feeling the world's hurts, knowing the world's struggles, and living in the world to redeem the world and point it toward the love that sent Jesus to save it.
A third way to help our world find its way out of darkness and escape the inevitable reality of mortality and decay, is through illumination. We are called to be light. That light doesn't emanate from inside of us, but as a reflection of Jesus who has our hearts, minds, and strength to do his work in the world.
Paul picked up this theme in a beautiful way:
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, "children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation." Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life (Philippians 2:14-16).How's that for a missional perspective on life — it's like Paul is saying, "Quit the arguing and grumbling and be thankful for your calling!" There's no need for light if there is no darkness. Darkness is what makes the stars shine all the more brightly in the sky. Our job is to reflect the light that comes from the Light of the world while we are living in a world of darkness!
So remember, "The good ol' days weren't!" These are good ol' days if we will wake up and recognize the world is a mess like it's always been; the real question is whether we are going to be thankful for our calling and get onto being a people on mission!