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There are 94 steps from the driveway up to our apartment in Kathmandu. I only know because a visiting friend of ours made the out-of-breath proclamation when he reached the top and I opened the door to greet him. We have since welcomed many visitors and sat together while they recollect themselves at the end of the steep climb.
Our time on the field has been an exhausting endeavor from the beginning. Though there have been moments of great joy, and we have certainly found a way of life that suits us, putting in the work every day to fashion a life and ministry there has been a challenge of all sorts. There is no finish line to be seen. There are only more steps.
As we return to our host country in a few months after a time of respite Stateside, we will resume the climb. We will invest in people and ministries, trusting it all into the Lord’s hands. We can only aim at faithfulness, the ultimate goal of our foreign life of service. We can take the next step, breathless though we may be, in faith that the Lord will give us strength and courage to take the next one. We know with absolute certainty, He will carry us to the top where we commune with him with no shortage of joy. As we rest in His arms, we will find there is joy here in the climb too.
In what area of life or ministry are you determined to be faithful?
I have a friend who has always said, “The mission field brings the scum to the surface.” It is true that sress brings out whatever lies inside of the cross-cultural worker. What is ugly and hidden comes into plain view as life and ministry become more challenging. When I got to the field, I found out she was right! I had been confident in God and in the role He had given me to play in His kingdom prior to our big move. but not one thing went as planned. Facing lies I long held and sin I harbored was painful, but God meant it for my good.
The scum scares us because we know its potential for disaster. It can spread, touching every corner of your life. It can spill its poison on all our relationships. At the will of our Enemy, the scum can demolish our testimony and take down our ministries, but we are not helpless! We have a choice to rip it from the devil’s grip and thrust it into the hands of our Savior who does all things well.
Scum becomes a tool in our lives to make us more like Him — more pure and more fit for His service. The Lord can transform the scum into a cleansing scrub digging deep into our pores pulling all the toxins out. The rubbing is rough, and we walk away sore and scathing but healthier for it. What is dirty, rough and scrapes you till we are bloody is the best thing for us. There is no risk/benefit assessment with God. All His work in our lives is for our good. Do we believe it enough to surrender to the work — even when it stinks? Even when it hurts?
We can do a few things to aid God in His scum-sanctifying work:
Fill Up on God’s Word
First, we can be diligent to fill ourselves with the truth of God’s word. When we face the horror of our sin erupting from within, we anchor ourselves with what we know to be true, good and holy. We remind ourselves that the scum is not who we are but evidence of our brokenness. The scum shows our need for God and the areas in our lives that have been weakened by the world’s lies. We can arm ourselves against the enemy who threatens to bring death from our diseased state. What is intended to harm brings healing through the knowledge of God and submission of the scum into His hands. If we are not intentional now to seek and study Scriptural truth, we won’t have anything to grasp at when our sin steps up to take us down.
Repent of Your Sin
I love this quote from Rosaria Butterfield, “Repentance is bittersweet business; Repentance is not just a conversion exercise, it is the posture of the Christian, much like ‘tree’ or ‘full lotus’ is the posture of the Yogi. Repentance is our daily fruit, our hourly washing…” Every day as we sense the scum rising, we must repent of every ounce of it and then ask the Lord to reveal everything we’ve missed. By His grace, we rebound from repentance, ready to do the work before us with diligence. Minutes later, when the scum begins to bubble up again, we can stop its poisonous spread by the power of the knowledge of God.
Be Filled by the Holy Spirit
We fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit so that our weakness is upheld by the power of God. I have not borrowed a phrase here from our idolatrous culture encouraging you to wield some innate power residing inside of you. If you are a follower of Christ and have called out to Him for salvation you have the power of God working working His will within you. When the pressures of life and ministry blow up a scum-storm, the Holy Spirit is able and willing to stir the whole of it into a healing potion for God’s purposes. We receive this command to do nothing but open our hands and hearts to to the Giver of good gifts as we obey the statutes of Scriptures. He does not fear the scum so we don’t have to run away from it either.
Submit to God’s Healing Work
The scum is both the breaking down and the building up. The scum is not the enemy, though it can be a tool for the Enemy. We must give God our scum and allow Him use for our sanctification as He works His perfect will out of the mess we bring Him. He never scoffs at the unfit components because He is the master of all mediums. Give Him all of you today. Don’t hold anything the back. He will use all of it for His ultimate glory. Submit yourself to the healing, cleansing work today. We have no power in ourselves to scrub away the scum, but we can surrender it into the Lord’s hands. He has never failed to do good to those that love Him, and He won’t start with you or me.
What is God using in your life to bring the scum to the surface?
What steps can you take to surrender it to Him today?
Our family has started pulling away from social media over the last year as we have seen its constant influence become toxic to our thinking patterns. Perhaps the filters are falling off as sellers push harder and our guards have been let down by idleness and pent up frustration with current events. The pendulum swings from nauseatingly fake to “too real” and I have whiplash from scrolling sessions. At one time, I reached a point where I had to delete all my apps. I knew that my discontentment and influence-ability was off the charts, and I was not in a good place to be browsing around the web where the Enemy lurks behind the grid seeking vulnerable prey.
Discontentment is one of his most utilized weapons. Sadly, discontentment sells. It sells in America. It sells in my host-country and all over the world. Our hearts are unknowable, both deceptive and easy to be deceived. Discontentment is a lever on our backs effortlessly manipulated, forcing our hands to reach for more. A well-targeted ad, a craftily worded blog post, pro-level photography of happy families in matching pajamas. We are being sold dissatisfaction over and over again, and we don’t think anything about it until we are sick with buyer’s remorse.
“Get a better body in 8 weeks,” or “Transform your home with 1 can of paint” — no matter the tagline, the message is the same: your life and the person behind your feed is not acceptable as is. We don’t want who you are so you better change. I’m not immune to this message living overseas because it’s everywhere and it’s effective.
Biblical Progress Gives
Progress is the key word of this DIY culture. Every purchase decision and lifestyle change is inching us closer to an illusive perfection. Discontentment fuels economies and fills bank accounts, but it does nothing for the soul. The Scripture is anti-discontentment, but it is pro-progress. Biblical progress is vastly different than what the world teaches us it is. Knowing we are fully accepted as we are frees us to live the counter-cultural life — a higher and better life to Him, through Him, and for Him.
Biblical progress is growing in grace and brotherly love as we are truly satisfied in Christ. It is completely the opposite message than the one we gulp down like Gatorade with the rest of the thirsty world. The Biblical message seems harder to swallow, but it is life-giving rather than soul-starving. We are challenged not to DIY our way to an enviable life but to surrender to being unseen by the world but intimately known by God. We are to commit ourselves to live in contentment the calling to pursue Jesus and love others well.
“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.And having food and raiment (clothing) let us be therewith content”
1 Timothy 6:6-10
“…but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more; And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.”).
1 Thessalonians 4:9-11
The word study here tells us that this endeavor does not happen without concentrated effort. It is a discipline that must be cultivated, and we are to work at it every day. Social media, streaming channels, or inspirational bloggers may be enemies to Biblical progress. We may need to do the difficult task of rooting these influences out of our lives because the stakes are higher than we realize. Discontentment pulls our hearts away from the giver of all good gifts and bows our hearts to things and to people so sadly undeserving of our worship. Discontentment breeds idolatry.
The rewards of our diligent efforts to live a counter-cultural life of contentment are many. Beyond the joy of growing in communion with God, Biblical progress provides a testimony of godliness to unbelievers giving us more influence for the cause of Christ. Biblical progress stirs up good works among the people of God. As we delight in the Lord and live peaceably with one another, our fellowship brings glory to Him. Finally, Biblical progress holds promise for the peace we pursue in each one of our failed DIY efforts.
Content in Christ, we can see that we lack nothing. Only then, will we abound in all we truly need. Only then, will we not have much use for influencers. We finally won’t be buying what they’re selling.
Have you been sold discontentment? What steps can you take toward Biblical progress? Talk to me in the comment section below!
I’ve mentioned earlier in this series that God has not granted us a ministry full of women for me to work with. In fact, this past Saturday we had a great attendance, but of the 45 people that showed up for service 2 were little girls and 3 were women. I guess I had these expectations because we had been told so many times that most often in overseas ministry, women are the ones who are faithful to church. In our little church plant, we have not found that to be true. I praise God for all the men God has brought into our ministry and for the young guys my husband is able to train — but where are all the women at?!?
I see other ladies in ministry who don’t have to look too far to find young women to work with in ministry. Selfies of coffee and open Bibles as they study together make me self-conscious of my lack-luster ladies’ ministry. I am about to finish discipleship lessons with the young lady I have been working with, and we are looking for someone else to study with. One girl we talked to said she has no interest in studying the Bible. The other mysteriously stopped answering my calls. I plan to continue working with this girl. She has grown so much, but I still long to see our influence grow as we grow together in the word of God. I know it will happen some day, but while I’m waiting it is hard to “stay in my lane” and not doubt what God will do.
Rather than envy my sisters in ministry that have at hand what I long for, I can rejoice with them in what God is doing and encourage them in faithfulness. The Bible teaches that we are one body in Christ (Romans 12:4). We all have our specific service to do and our parts to play in the great work of God. While my piece of the puzzle may feel small when held up against what another holds, the truth is it really is all in His hands.
God calls me to faithfulness with what I’ve been given right now — no matter whether it fits my idea of all it should be. As I remain faithful with what I’m given and cheer on my sisters in their respective ministries, we can all rejoice together in the mysterious work of God. What a wonder that He uses each one of us in our little corners of the world and our small spheres of influence to accomplish His mission in the world!
God gives different gifts. He grants unique graces to each one of us. He gives some thriving ministries and others fledgling flocks that need constant tending. But He gives all of us Himself, and in Him we have relationship with one another. May I always be found faithful in my little work while encouraging my fellow kingdom workers in their own service to Him.
We can rejoice together right now in what we see God doing. but just think of all we can praise God for when we reach our eternal home. We will see all the pieces of the puzzle perfectly pieced together and praise Him together forevermore.
I “make” God big in my life when I remain faithful in the work He he has given me to do while also supporting and encouraging my brothers and sisters in Christ in their service to the Lord.
How can you encouraging a brother or sister in their ministry today?
I tend to see my life in fractured segments — one part mommy, one part wife, one part Sunday school teacher, church-planter’s wife, etc. All these roles come with different tasks and I am defined by those tasks at the time I am doing them. It’s tough for me to see my life in Christ as one whole offering to God, but that’s the way He sees it. The truth is, He already owns every part of me and gives me each work I get to do for Him.
I want my whole life to be a song of worship to Jesus. Whether I am reading the 12th book in a row to my toddler or teaching Bible truths to a roomful of rowdy kids, I want my heart to be completely in tune to the will of God in my life. I desire for my marriage to be sweet and loving — the kind that shows the love of Christ to a world suffering from the consequences of selfish sins. I long for my testimony as a mother to be that of one gently leading her family and teaching Christ’s ways from a patient and pure heart (long way to go on this one, I know!). I want my efforts in ministry to be characterized by single-minded devotion to Christ and a true heart to make him known.
There aren’t just bits and pieces of my life that are sacred and the other inconsequential. God is with me in every moment and calls me to honor Him in each seemingly insignificant segment of my life. This is why He tells me in His word how to live as a wife, mother, friend, and child of God. I am instructed to both care for my home and for the widows and orphans. I’m taught how to handle my money and treat people ranging from my enemies to my authority in the workplace. There are few issues of life the Bible does not address, and the general wisdom we find in its pages can be applied to those. Moreover, God gives His followers guidance and discretion through the Holy Spirit. He does not leave us guessing how to live.
1 Corinthians 10:31-33 gives instruction about eating and drinking but also gives further instruction on how to live our whole lives.
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.
My whole life should be an offering to God. Whatever I find to do, I should do it like I’m doing it directly to the Lord — because I am according to Colossians 3:23. I don’t seek first to please men, but I seek to honor God by blessing others and not giving cause to blaspheme the name of Christ. I resist the urge to serve myself in all that I do because a follower of Jesus is set apart for something better. Serving Christ and serving others with my whole life. I don’t have to wonder what God wants from me. This is it.
I’m so pleased I can honor God while drinking my coffee and eating a donut on Sunday morning while my kids buzz around me. Loving Him and dwelling on His goodness is something I can do in my pajamas. That’s something I can get on board with!
I “make” God big in my life when I choose to see my entire life as an offering to Him. I trust Him to use even the smallest bits of my life to bring glory to His great name.
In what ways can you serve Christ with your WHOLE life?