Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
I know I’ve written about these passages before. However, as I’ve been praying today, they’ve come to my mind again. I find that I’m still moved inwardly by the compulsion to do something big and dramatic for God. When people ask about the faith-community I’m involved with, I feel I need to be apologetic. I feel I need to offer explanations about our size or our practices. And I feel like I still need to validate our group’s existence in others’ eyes.
I use the word “feel” because as I examine my inward life, I realize how much of this is built around feelings, especially the ones that stroke my ego. I’m cognitively aware of and at peace with our group’s intentions and our strengths and weaknesses. Yet, deep inside of me, something has been formed over the years of professional ministry that is still easily tugged by feelings.
The passages from 1Thessalonians and Titus provide a much-needed buffer from these feelings. God’s will for me as a struggling apprentice of Christ and for our group as a bunch of struggling apprentices of Christ is to learn how to continue Jesus’ incarnation by embodying God’s presence in practical, simple and doable ways in our lives.
Learning to be joyful, prayerful, thankful, self-controlled, upright and godly in my normal life is the primary task before us. And learning to do this in the midst of loss. Or in chronic pain. Or in broken dreams. Or in sickness. Or in confusion. Or in health. Or in peace. Or in abundance. That’s being the New Creation in daily life. Simple. Sure it will take years, perhaps a lifetime to reach. But that’s God’s will for my life. And imagine what could happen if my kids start learning this before they hit their 30-somethings like me.
I’m not saying projects and large activities for God are unimportant or unnecessary. However, I have to come to grips with the inner compulsions that determine my worth or my faith-community’s worth by these activities. Rather, the kingdom of God is like that tiny mustard seed. It has to start with the “smallness” of the inward life, whether I’m engaged in being a good husband and father and friend or out there trying to “save the world.”