As I neared college graduation, I was ready to do something crazy and big for the Lord. I was prepared to raise support to go overseas, or work in college ministry in the States, or go to seminary in preparation for a lifetime of serving God. I was even ready to be single for several years, willing for that to be my “platform” from which to speak and connect with college students and young women (since by my junior year I had yet to ever even go on a date).
Then I met a boy, and as much as I kind of fought against him pursuing me, I fell in love. Though I was still prepared to do all of those big things for God, a month before graduation I sensed God was telling me to let it go – to turn down the internship with a college ministry and not pursue seminary. I asked Him what else I was supposed to do instead, and He didn’t give me an answer except to trust him–as if I was swinging from a rope and was being asked to let go without having another one to grab onto.
So I graduated and got a job working at a local start-up company doing marketing. My role with the company changed as the company itself began to grow, and six months after graduation I found myself working in customer service, answering phone calls and e-mails. I was receiving updates from friends who were now missionaries overseas or in the States. I began to wonder what I was doing with my life.
I struggled with why I had this desire to do something big for God, something extraordinary, something that required sacrifice, yet here I was about to be married and settled into an 8-5 routine. This path was all too easy to be something that glorified God, or so I thought.
We all want to do something “big” for God. But what if surrendering to God’s plan for your life involves you doing something big, right where you are? What if your “big” is living what you might now consider a normal life, residing in suburbia and working an 8-5 job and having kids and raising them in a local church?
Oh, that’s fine for other people, you might say. But I want to do something significant for God! I am “willing to go anywhere, at any time, to do anything for the Lord!” – Luther Wishard
Is there something somehow “lesser” about that lifestyle? What if God calls you to that? What if that actually takes more faith for you, to surrender to a life of what you might now call mediocre?
I think the idea of a “significant purpose” drives many of us in our expectations of how our lives will play out, and I have seen it lead to a stumbling block of pride in my own life. By saying that I want to do something big for God, I begin to believe that I am more qualified than the next person, that I am more surrendered than others my age, that I am more in-tune with the Holy Spirit and what it means to live out my faith.
As well-meaning as my motivations have been at times, God has had to humble my heart, both in what I consider to be a “worthy” investment of my time and in how I view other people and the choices they have made in their lives.
God has called each believer to an extraordinary life. He has called each of us to live out the Great Commission, and for many people that does mean moving overseas or turning down the high-paying job or starting a ministry to the homeless in a metropolitan area. However, for many others, that extraordinary life happens in the rhythms of the day-to-day in a normal town and a normal job.
As I have personally wrestled with what it means to live a surrendered life for Christ and to make an impact for him, here are three things God has taught me.
- Nothing on this earth ever fully satisfies us except Christ–no matter where you are, no matter what your bank account looks like, no matter your brick house or mud hut, no matter how you spend your waking hours, nothing you do will cause you to feel fulfilled if you aren’t being filled by Christ. And, for that matter, none of those things will cause God to love you more than someone else. The currencies of this world and the things it says gives value and meaning are not the currencies that God uses.
“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Philippians 4:12-13 (ESV)
- You are in full-time ministry no matter your job title or your field of industry. If more Christians went into their days with this attitude, I think we would all feel more purposeful no matter the tasks in front of us!
While I was working in customer service, this ministry meant developing an intentional attitude in how I listened and responded to angry customers. Furthermore, it also meant that I held my tongue when I got off the phone and chatted with the person next to me about their day. I worked with many nonbelievers who could see me either rant and rave and complain, or they could see me with an unshakeable joy, despite a ridiculously upset customer whose cowboy boots didn’t arrive in time for her 40th birthday. I wasn’t sharing the Gospel in the slums, but I was encouraging others who were miserable in their jobs. I was living intentionally in an office of desks and phones and computer screens–which often opened the door for spiritual conversation.
“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”
Romans 10:14 (ESV)
“And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.’”
Mark 16:15 (ESV)
- Sometimes, living a life of faith means being willing to stay when we really want to go. When something is uncomfortable or boring or menial, we tend to look for ways to make a change, but in these places I have often sensed God asking me if I can trust him with his plans, letting go of my control. In these places, Jim Elliot’s words comes to mind: “Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”
Ephesians 5:15-16 (ESV)
In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul is addressing some misconceptions in the Corinthian church which had led to believers glorifying singleness, even considering a divorce, so that they can be closer to God. Many of them had stopped engaging in sexual intimacy with their spouses because they had over-spiritualized the changed life believers are called to. Paul addresses this issue by also addressing other life circumstances that they might be tempted to change, giving the statement that “each one should remain in the condition in which he was called” (verse 20). He instructs them, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him” (verse 17).
God has called each of us to be part of his grand plan in different ways so instead of comparing our situation to someone else’s to determine who is more “sold out” for the Lord, we should look at our current situation and determine how we can serve the Lord exactly where He has us, knowing that He could move us at any time to something totally different.
Our desire should be to live our life as a “steward,” taking care of what belongs to Someone Else and has been entrusted to their keeping. Only by being faithful with what might seem insignificant or little will we be matured to be able to be trusted with more. “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” –Luke 16:10-12 (ESV)