This is for any of you who happen to be reading this and would identify yourselves as “Christian”. Do any of you ever wonder why it seems that your faith in Christ doesn’t bring joy to your day to day lives? Are you ever wondering why it feels that this life is a series of events you experience, good and bad, that are a bunch of lessons to learn before you get to go to heaven and enjoy your eternal retirement in Paradise?
For many of us, that has been our perspective of this world. This is a temporary stop until we get to the destination we want to spend the rest of our days. Golden streets, reunions with loved ones, no sickness or despair. That beautiful place where we can finally live the life we have always wanted. It is our reward for doing what God asked of us while we were alive on Earth.
Do you want to know what the problem with that is though? We have misconstrued what God asked of us and we have failed to see we were wrong. Let me try and explain…….
When Jesus directed the disciples how to pray, part of the prayer was that, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” This was direction given to our hearts that we should desire that we would see God’s will done here on earth, right now, just as it is done in heaven.
But the problem is that we have become selfish in our heart’s desires. We don’t genuinely desire above everything to see God’s will done. We would much rather make sure we’ve got our retirement plan together and then coast through until we reach the end. Case in point, we “share our faith” in the most selfish ways possible. We leave tracts on a table at a restaurant (too often in place of a tip), clean out our closets of our old, unwanted clothes to donate to the “less fortunate”, or we post lots of inspirational spiritual things on social media. It’s the heart behind our actions that is revealing just how wayward we are.
Haven’t you ever wondered why it is so easy to get a bus load of people to go to a Christian concert but you can barely get 3 to show up for a work day at the home of one of the church’s widows? Why is it people have no problem signing up to go conferences but won’t show up for church-wide prayer?
It’s because we are more concerned with ourselves and making this temporary stop as comfortable and convenient as possible before we get to God’s great retirement village in the sky!
I have many vivid examples of this but let me share 2 of them……
1) If you remember the great Chick-Fil-A controversy from a couple years ago, you remember when “Support Chick-Fil-A” Day happened. It was the great revival of Christian hearts and minds where we stood in line or sat in the drive thru for hours just to buy some chicken sandwiches. Christians went crazy on social media, posting selfies and Instagram photos of their commitment and dedication to show that they would not be bullied for their beliefs on the “sanctity of marriage”.
One of our friends made a remark at the time of how “it was amazing how many people were boasting about spending hours in line at Chick-Fil-A, but wouldn’t give one hour on Sunday to serve in the Children’s ministry.”
This statement was so profound because, at the time, I was an associate pastor at a church where our Children’s ministry was struggling to find enough people to staff the classrooms properly. (I have learned this is a common theme throughout the church world. All of you Children Ministry leaders, I am praying for you!) Where was the disconnect at?
I also wondered what kind of difference could have been made for the kingdom if Christians en masse decided, instead of spending 3 hours in line for chicken, they went and spent those hours with our brothers and sisters who were on the other side of the issue?
2) Many of you may be familiar with the “God Belongs in My City” movement. Well, we had this event in our hometown of Sanford, NC. During this event, people will all gather together in one location, walk a mile through town to another location, hear a speaker and pray for our town.
One of my friends, who was a fellow student pastor, and I were having a conversation. I had found out about it late and was unable to get our students to be a part of it. As I asked him about it, he told me that they didn’t participate. Struck by that, I asked him why they didn’t and he replied in this way…..
“Everybody gathers and walks that mile, they get to the depot and they pray and leave. All the while, they walk silently by hundreds of people who do not know Jesus at all. What if those hundreds of people gathered, prayed, and then spent the next few hours going door to door on that walk, engaging the community in the hopes of sharing God’s love with them?”
This was another point in my life where God really did work in my heart. Why is it so easy to do the one but not the other? Why are we so willing to walk and pray as a group, but hesitant to engage people where they actually are? Why is everything the church spends its time and energy designed to attract people to us instead of getting us to where the people are?
As I asked myself these questions and sought answers from the Lord, He showed me quite clearly that it was because my desire was to see my will done on earth, not His.
He asked me, “How well are you reaching your literal neighbors, the ones who live right next door to you, with my message that they are loved beyond measure and that I desire joy for them? Do they even know you are an actual minister of this Gospel message?”
I am grieved to say my answer was I wasn’t. Other than members of my church, and my best friends across the street, no one else probably knew that I was a follower of Christ.
I realized that if I truly desire to see the will of the Lord be on earth, then it is going to cost me. It is going to cost me time that I must invest in building relationships with those around me and the time that I must spend going into my community to meet people where they are.
It is going to be messy because I am going to come into contact with people who don’t believe the same things I do. They are going to be hostile to me as soon as they hear the word “Christian” and they are going to form instant judgments about what that means about me as a person. They are going to feel like they aren’t good enough because the church has railed at them because of their past mistakes and present condition.
To truly see His will done, I am going to have to get uncomfortable. It means inviting people into my life, my home, and sharing everything I have with them in an effort to show them just how much God loves them.
And that’s when it hits me every time…….isn’t that what He has already done for us? Wasn’t that the whole point of the cross?
It was God Himself, through His son, spending time investing and building a relationship with us.
It was God getting messy and uncomfortable by meeting us where we were. He sought us out and found us when we were hostile to Him and feeling unworthy because of all that we have done.
He then stepped out of a grave, displaying to us that we no longer had to be powerless against the things that had separated us from Him, and invited us into His life, His home, and shared everything that He had in an effort to demonstrate just how much He loves us.
You see, that is heaven.
Not some fancy, gold-plated vacation spot, but an eternity spent in the presence of God Himself. It is where we see the completion and perfection of what we have spent all of our days on earth trying to make happen.
It is the never-ending joy of total reconciliation with our Father. It is the joy of being in that moment, looking around and seeing just how big our family is(every tribe, nation, and tongue), and realizing we belong to a family who is loved more than we will ever be able to see….so much so that it will take an eternity for Him to show us!
This is part of the heart behind Reconcile Church that my family and others are planting. We desire to see the people of God be a group of brothers and sisters, dedicated to spending every waking moment to see His will done here on earth, just as it is in heaven.