For The Sake of the Mission - Part 2
In Matthew 24 the disciples ask Jesus about the signs of His coming and the end of the age.
“Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3b NKJV)
Matthew 24-25 records Jesus’ answer. Jesus describes a few signs but mostly focuses on how His followers ought to watch because no one knows the day or the hour of His second coming.
“Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.” (Matthew 24:42 NKJV)
One of the key aspects of keeping watch is how we ought to live and the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) portrays this well.
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.”
-Matthew 25:14 NKJV
I have a whole post on the parable of the talents entitled “Talented” and also a mini-series on this parable (first episode here). Personally, I really enjoyed reading Christ’s Object Lessons chapter 25 which is all about the parable of the talents. The main point I wish to make about this parable is that the Master delivered His goods to His servants. The master here represents God and we are His servants. He entrusts us with, talents (resources), which should not be buried, but rather should be invested. That is we are to use what Jesus gives us and He will give us more, but if we bury/neglect/fail to invest what He has given us we will miss out on the rewards.
What are my resources?
What has God given me?
First and foremost God has given me life. I am alive today and that is a gift from God. One way to measure life is time. God has given you life and if you think of life as time you will have a clearer awareness of how you’re investing or wasting your life.
Here is an example that comes to mind. I have two small children, a 7-year-old and a 5-year-old. They are very much interested in my time. I clearly see my children as a great priority in my life. So do I invest time into my children? Do I schedule time to spend with them, looking them in the eye, listening to them, talking to them, doing something together with them? Or do I spend the bulk of my time, when I am around them, telling them to be quiet, to find something to do, to go somewhere else, etc? If I am not investing that time into my children what am I doing during that time? Am I in front of a screen? Are the contents of that screen more valuable than my children? 5 years from now, when I look back, 10 years from now, will I fondly remember the contents of that screen or the memories I made with my children? Which activity is a better investment of my time?
You schedule appointments, work, etc. Do you schedule time to play with your kids? Do you guard that time and give them your full attention?
But this is not a post on parenting, nor is this a post against screens, after all, you’re reading this on a screen. What I mean is that you, and I, can be more aware of how we are investing our time. Schedule a time for screens and schedule a time for relationships, and keep the two separate so that you can get the most out of both. That way your screen time will be more productive/enjoyable (guilt-free), and your relationship time will be more meaningful.
Now, how can you apply this to your mission?
Don’t wait to have free time to dedicate it to God, schedule time to spend with God. Schedule your daily devotions, and be intentional about creating opportunities to share with others. This can take many forms, it can be volunteering for an existing ministry, creating a new ministry, or simply making yourself available to those around you. Can your friends and family members count on you to be there for them then they need to talk? Are you willing to listen and to offer to pray with them? All this takes time. Your time is a gift from God, make sure you are investing your time not only in activities that will help you grow (personal prayer, Bible study) but also sharing opportunities where you share with others what God has taught you.
Time is something we all have and we relate to it differently depending on where we are in life. All other points, the use of all other resources/gifts are related to time.
I do not believe that it is by mere chance that we are all different. We each have strengths and weaknesses, we all have scars, we all have different life experiences, we have different backgrounds, we look and sound and think differently. This means we are each fine-tuned to do something for God. He can use us, He can use you, the way you are and where you are right now to bless someone. You are better equipped to reach certain people than anyone else. This can be because of your age, your scars (mistakes you made in the past but overcame by the power of God), your gender, your ethnicity. All your attributes that shut certain doors also open other doors. You can reach people who would not be willing to talk to someone like me. Just like I can reach some people who would not be willing to talk to someone like you.
So stop wishing you were different or had a different set of skills, and begin using the skill set you have. Instead of being discouraged because of the resources, or qualities, or training you lack, look at what you have and how you can use it to disciple someone else.
So what are your resources?
To find out make a list. List your life experiences, education, talents, gifts, abilities. Then make a list of things you’re good at, things you enjoy, things you care about. Then look at the list and think about how you can use these things to help someone else. How can you bless someone, how can you draw them closer to Jesus? Pray over your list. If you’re not good at listing what you’re good at, ask those around you, they can tell you what you’re good at.
Other resources include money, possessions, and even influence. Who are the people you have influence over? Your kids, siblings, little cousins, big cousins, your grand-kids, your followers on social media, your students, co-workers, classmates, friends, neighbors, etc. Do you own an instrument, do you play it? Are you a graphic designer, do you enjoy photography? Do you have a camera, a microphone, a hobby, how can you use it for the glory of God? Do you cook, bake, have a garden, enjoy exercise, are you a good listener, a storyteller, do you write, do you want to start a blog a podcast? Use your creativity, dedicate this to prayer. What is God calling you to do?
Who are your friends and acquaintances, what does your church have to offer, who can you partner up with, what ministry do you believe in that you can help support financially and in other ways.
Highest Point of Contribution
Greg McKeown, the author of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review in which he mentions the benefits of asking ourselves three questions.
“What am I deeply passionate about?”
“What taps my talent?”
“What meets a significant need in the world?”
The idea is that the point(s) where the answers to all these three questions intersect would be our “absolute highest point of contribution.” (source)
I believe these three questions can be very helpful regarding our personal mission. Jesus calls all His followers to make disciples, as I explained in my previous post. These three questions help clarify how I can most effectively make disciples. We are each called to make disciples, but we can accomplish this differently according to the equipping and enabling of the Holy Spirit. The three questions help us see what God is calling and equipping us to do for His mission.
Breaking it down
What can I do?
Just like Jesus’ disciples were to begin their work where they were. So every one of Christ's followers is to begin where she is. Where you are may feel like the hardest and most unpromising field, it probably felt like that to the disciples too, but that does not mean that the hard and unpromising field is to be passed by.
We ought to begin in our own families may. Is there anyone in your family who might be hungry for sympathy, starving for the bread of life. Are there children in your family who can be trained for Christ. Are there unbelievers around us? Next door? “Let us do faithfully the work that is nearest. Then let our efforts be extended as far as God's hand may lead the way.” (The Desire of Ages p822) Sharing the gospel is not always easy and may appear to be restricted by circumstances at times; but, wherever you are, if you go about it with faith and diligence it will be felt to the uttermost parts of the earth.
Think about the work of Jesus while He was here on earth. His ministry appeared to be confined to a narrow field, but multitudes from all lands heard His message. “God often uses the simplest means to accomplish the greatest results.” (ibid.) Isn’t it amazing how every part of God’s work depends on every other part, like a wheel within a wheel, all acting in harmony? It’s amazing to consider how “the humblest worker, moved by the Holy Spirit, will touch invisible chords, whose vibrations will ring to the ends of the earth, and make melody through eternal ages.” (ibid)
How do I begin?
Always begin with prayer. You need to turn to God for wisdom, guidance, and strength/power.
Reaching strangers can be intimidating, start with those closest to you, people you are already in contact with. Ask God and think of creative ways to bless those you already know.
As you gain experience, begin to consider who else you can reach and how you can expand your personal mission field.
Look at how you can partner with others to do more for the gospel. What ministries can you support or join? Be creative, do some research, pray and ask God for guidance in this.
What is my goal?
My goal is to be faithful to what God has called me to do. Your goal is to be faithful to God today. Ministry is a journey taken one step at a time, one day at a time. Don’t push it for tomorrow, don’t get overwhelmed by thinking about a lifetime of ministry, rather focus on being faithful to what God is calling you to do today. When you are following God you will be growing daily. ministry brings growth, not for yourself, but rather for the sake of the mission.
Ministry is very simple, just don’t quit. If you know God is calling you, stick with it. The success comes from God, not from you, your part is to not quit and to continually lean on Him to supply all your needs, for the sake of His mission. To quit is to doubt God and His love for those who do not know Him. You may be tired, you may be burned out, you may need to switch gears and re-evaluate your approach. You may need to spend some time fasting and praying and listening to God to find out His will. But one thing is for certain, God wants you in ministry, in one way or another. You may be called to different ministries at different points in your life but you are always called to ministry.
Don’t assume that just because you’re involved that you’re doing what God calls you to do. It is worthwhile pausing and reevaluating your calling, your ministry, and what God is calling you to do. Sometimes God will transition you to a different ministry. Sometimes you will fail but in the process learn things that will lead to the success of your next endeavor. Make sure to set aside time to listen to God and to evaluate your calling and your mission.
What are you waiting for?
Christ's followers have been redeemed for service. Our Lord teaches that the true object of life is ministry. Christ Himself was a worker, and to all His followers He gives the law of service—service to God and to their fellow men. Here Christ has presented to the world a higher conception of life than they had ever known. By living to minister for others, man is brought into connection with Christ. The law of service becomes the connecting link which binds us to God and to our fellow men.
Christ’s Object Lessons p326