Ironically, it’s easy to get discouraged in a country that doesn’t persecute its citizens because of their faith. It’s so hard to feel that you are making a difference when you live in a culture where anything goes. Sometimes you feel so guilty that you want to jump on a plane and go to some remote jungle, dying a martyr’s death after you share your faith with the natives (It seems so much simpler over there, easier to deal with black and white issues of salvation than break through our own culture’s stereotype of Christianity). The foreign mission field is necessary, of course, but not everyone is called to go to a different country. So how exactly do we go about making a difference in the world?
The frustration is apparent. We all want to start revolutions, so we form bands, churches, webzines (like this one) and more. The ideas are great; the desire to change things is positive. The danger lies in the philosophy that we have no value unless we are doing something crazy and radical. And this is oftentimes something the church emphasizes—how many of us have sat in a church and heard the pastor strongly encouraging people to consider missions? Again, there is nothing wrong with missions, but it would be nice to see people encouraged to be missionaries in the fields they are already in.
I went to a friend’s church where about 90 percent of the girls said that God had revealed to them that they were going to be a pastor’s wife. This revelation was highly praised and seen as a special calling. Not only is the likelihood of all those girls growing up and marrying pastors slim, but I also fear that their self-esteem has been damaged by the idea that their worth lies in the role they hold. This belief, and the belief that only one role in the church should be valued and coveted, is a dangerous one.
[THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING TO GOD’S CALL]
In the area of evangelism, it is hard to not feel inadequate. Especially when we see other Christians who are standing on the street corner, taking risks for Christ, telling other people about Him. Even when I think that some of these people have the wrong approach, I still think, “But at least they’re doing something. What am I doing?”
Of course, we should all attempt it in some way. But we have to remember that the reason some people are so good at it is because it’s their spiritual gift. There are other gifts as well—gifts that are equally important—and it’s essential that we recognize our spiritual gifts and talents so we can use them to further the kingdom in our own way. And don’t forget that our gifts are meant to complement one another. A gift of hospitality can help someone feel at home at a Bible study so that they keep coming back. A gift of mercy can help get someone off the street so that he can concentrate on other needs, spiritual needs. Whether you preach, take surveys, build relationships with people and then share with them or lead your life by quiet example, God can use you in mighty ways. It’s important to remember that He is in control. All you have to do is make sure you’re in a place of obedience.
It’s also easy to feel like God can’t use our lives unless we’re doing something that is directly ministry-related. So many young people feel that their college years are wasted. We somehow don’t feel that we please God unless we go preach on the street every day. I have a friend who is skipping college and going straight into ministry, and I must admit that I’m jealous. He is out there doing stuff that really matters, and I feel like I’m in a stuffy institution wasting my time.
But the real issue is not where we are or what we’re doing, but how much we are seeking God and His will for our lives. For instance, I have no reason to feel insecure about my time in college. I know without a doubt that God has led me there. What’s important is not where I am, but what I do with my time there. And for us to know what to do with our lives, we must maintain a consistent relationship with God. Beware—the call may not be loud and radical. Make sure you are still enough to hear it.
[ONE LIFE AT A TIME]
It’s sad that other countries see the need to come to America and evangelize. There are so many Christians here! Some of us forget that working in our own countries is just as important as foreign missions. There are still hurting people here to help. If you feel guilty for not getting involved on a global scale, plug into something local or focus on befriending the people around you. They may be spoiled and selfish (as most people in Western culture are), but they are just as important to God as everyone else.
It’s easy to talk about revolution, about going out into the world and living radically. But it’s much harder to apply. And somewhere along the way, practicals do have to be involved. You can’t just hop a plane to Singapore. Although there is something to be said for “going where the Spirit leads,” and stepping out in faith, there is also something to be said for being a good steward of your time and money and really listening to God’s call. Make sure you’re where He wants you.
You’re likely to feel overwhelmed unless you have a specific game plan (That’s why it’s so important to spend time with God seeking His will). There is so much pain in the world—there’s starvation, homelessness, disease, abuse. It’s hard to look at it without your heart breaking. But it’s just so big, and we feel so small. This may be Satan’s way of getting us to ignore these things—we are amazed at and afraid of the evil that blankets the world, instead of shining light into it. But if we focus on the power of Christ and on making a difference in the specific things God has called us to, the change we make might affect more people down the line than we ever dreamed. It’s cliché, but you really can change the world one person at a time.
“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).
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