When You Work for God but Don’t Know Him

 

I’ve spent the majority of my life “doing things” for God—volunteering at a church, internships at a church, working at a church, and so on. These are all great, wonderful things and amazing experiences, and I absolutely love my current job and the people I get to do ministry with.

However, somewhere along the way, I’ve managed to work for God without really spending much time with Him. I’ve taken marching orders from Him, like a good Christian soldier on mission to save the world, but I haven’t allowed myself the space to just be still and be loved by Him.

“Many of us who have found ourselves to be useful in Christian service have found ourselves unable, if we’re honest, to connect with God any other way. We do for Him, instead of being with Him. We become soldiers, instead of brothers and sisters and daughters and sons.” — Shauna Niequist

I’ll call it what it is: I’ve allowed doing work for God to be more important than God doing work in me. But no more of that. That’s simply unhealthy, and quite frankly, unholy.

When you were a kid, you probably had some chores. You may or may not have gotten paid to do them, but they were your responsibility nonetheless. You didn’t have chores because you were an employee—you had responsibilities because you were a part of a family. So I’m turning in my employee badge. I’m going home. Home to Him, home to the family He invites me to be a part of. And yes, that comes with some responsibility, but it’s the responsibility I have as His child, not as His soldier.

I’m learning that for God to do great, big, amazing things through you He first has to do great, big, amazing things in you. So I’m prioritizing my spiritual health over my accomplishments. I’ve going to prioritize my relationships—with my wife, with my church family, with my co-workers—over pretending to have my life all together. I’m going to start saying “no” to things that I’ve only said “yes” to in the past because they’ve looked good for outside appearances.

It’s not going to be easy and it’s not going to be quick. But slowly, over time, I’m going to make my way back to living like His son and not His solider. I’m going to live more like His child, who He bought and already paid a high price for, and not a worker acting like I need to earn my way to salvation.

On Being Present

 

As I’m writing this, I’m four days away from getting married to my best friend. For the past few months, I’ve literally been counting down the days until this incredibly, amazingly exciting day that’s approaching very quickly.

One thing I’ve learned during the anticipation of our wedding day is how much weight we tend to put on certain “big” days—graduating, starting a new job, getting married, having kids, retiring, and so on. This isn’t inherently a bad thing—it’s good to anticipate those things, and we should absolutely be excited for them. Unfortunately, in our longing and expectation for the “big” moments we tend to miss out on our actual life happening in the small, everyday moments.

The beauty of life is not in how big our highlights are, but in how purposeful our everyday is. 

You can wish for a different yesterday and be regretful, or worry about what will happen tomorrow and be anxious, but I believe God calls us to live in the present—today, right here.

I’m so excited to get married this weekend, but I’m also equally as excited for the ordinary days that follow where I get to spend them with my best friend. I want to wake up every single day knowing how extraordinary the ordinary things in life really are. I want to live life every day in such a way that might make God smile and be thankful He gave me a gift I enjoyed so well.

Time does fly by quickly, and life is short, but I think when we begin live presently and purposefully we’re able to slow it down just a bit.

Let’s be present today, friends.

“God must be a pretty big fan of today, because you keep waking up to it. You have made known your request for a hundred different yesterdays, but the sun keeps rising on this thing that has never been known.” ― Jamie Tworkowski

Calling Over Convenience

Recently, I read a quote by a fantastic author named Jennie Allen. She that said we should thank God for both the seemingly good things and the seemingly bad things in life, because sometimes you don’t really know the difference until you get to heaven. 

In my life, I’ve had many experiences where something I felt was horrible in the moment turned out to be something that provided healing. There have been times where things have been so bad I’ve wanted to quit and then breakthrough was coming just around the corner. In contrast, there have been many times when I’ve pursued something—or almost pursed something—that wasn’t a bad thing, but wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing. 

A few years ago, I was planning on going to college like most other bright-eyed 18-year-olds in America. Going to college is not at all a bad thing. In fact, it’s a great thing that a lot of people benefit from and should do. But for me, it would have be a convenient path that I knew in my heart God didn’t want me to take. Around that same time, I applied for a job across the country at a church I loved and admired but never thought I was qualified to be a part of in a staff role. But a few months later, I packed up everything and moved to Oklahoma from Ohio; over a day’s worth of driving from my hometown. 

Why did I do this? Because my calling was more important than my convenience. That decision has and will continue to change the trajectory of my life for the better, but at the time it was not the easiest, safest, and certainly not the most convenient option. 

But enough about me.

What is that God is calling you to do that doesn’t make sense but you know in your heart is the right thing? Is it a story similar to mine, taking a risk and moving somewhere or changing careers? Is it adopting or fostering a child when you’ve always only wanted biological children? Is it giving up your dream of starting a business to pursue ministry elsewhere? I can’t answer that for you, but I believe you already know the answer. 

Here’s the point: sometimes we avoid really hard and difficult things in life because it’s simply not convenient. But I don’t think God works in the easy things, to be honest. I think he grows and stretches us through difficulty and struggle that leads to greater joy on the other side. 

God has a unique, amazing, and adventurous calling on your life. Sadly, however, we often settle for mediocre lives out of fear of discomfort. I don’t want to be that way, though. I want to pursue God’s calling over my convenience, and I hope you’ll choose to do the same. 

You Don’t Have to Fake It Anymore

A few weeks ago, I had lunch with a friend and told him about something I was struggling with and doubts that I had. It’s something that, for years, I had been afraid to tell anyone. It wasn’t even a big deal, but there was an underlying fear that I would be found out; I would be a fraud.

For a long time, “I don’t know” was an answer I was afraid of. Whether it was about faith, work, or anything else, I felt that I was expected to know the answer. And the older I get, the more “I don’t know” seems to be the appropriate response for a lot of things. Right now I’m reading through the Bible in a year, and sometimes there are things I struggle with and things I don’t understand. Faith is far more complicated as an adult when you are surrounded with the reality of brokenness in the world. Somewhere along the way, however, I realized that God is still good no matter what and I didn’t have to defend Him—He never expected me to have all the answers all along. 

I used to (and still do, sometimes) feel like I have to have it all together, and that I have all the right answers. I work for a church, and sometimes I feel guilty when I have doubts to wrestle with—not because anyone else makes me feel that way, but because there’s a voice inside me sometimes that whispers, “You’re not good enough for this. You’re just faking it.” 

Today is Good Friday, where we celebrate Jesus’ sacrifice and death. I think about how all of Jesus’ disciples doubted Him at some point; some more than others. Some even abandoned him completely, and He still took them back and let them lead the whole thing. I think I’m a lot like Jesus’ disciples most times—broken, doubting, fearful, but still chosen by Him. 

I don’t know all the right answers. There’s a lot of things about Jesus and Bible and faith I don’t understand, but I do know one thing: I was dead, and Jesus made me alive. I believe Jesus was resurrected because He’s resurrected me.  

Hillsong Worship has a new song called “Grace to Grace”, and I’ve been playing it over and over again the past few days. There’s a particular line that love:

When I see that Cross, I see freedom. 

I hope that’s true for you today, like it is for me. No matter how unworthy you feel and what you’ve been carrying, you’ll see the freedom in the Cross. 

Freedom from faking it. 

Freedom from our secrets.

Freedom from our sins.

Freedom from death.

There’s freedom for you in the Cross of Jesus today, friend. You don’t have to fake it anymore. 

When God Takes You Through the Desert

During one of my drives home from the gym this week, I was listening to a podcast where an author on the show mentioned how sometimes we can feel like we’re in dry, desert seasons of life and we feel like we’re wandering spiritually. She gave the example of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, how even though God had brought Israel out of Egypt, He still needed to take Egypt out of them. He needed for them to be refined in His ways and break away from the ways they picked up from the Egyptians. 

As I began to think about that, I’ve realized that’s what God has always done in my life. There have been times where it appears as though I’ve reached the top of a mountain, but it feels a lot like wandering in the desert, dying of thirst. 

It’s easy for me, and perhaps you as well, to immediately blame ourselves for these times. If only we prayed more, read our Bible more, served more, or had just been “better” Christians, we wouldn’t be feeling like this—right?

Here’s what I’m learning: sometimes God takes you through the desert. And it sucks. At least at first. 

In Exodus 13, Pharaoh finally lets the people of Israel go, and this is what the text says: 

“…God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land … So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea.” (Exodus 13:17-18 NLT)

Did you catch that? God led them on a longer, more inconvenient, roundabout path that would have them barreling straight for the Red Sea—the setting where one of His greatest miracles was about to take place. 

For us, especially as Americans, we want the quickest, easiest path. But sometimes for God to use you greatly and do a miracle through you He has to do a miracle in you. He needs to take Egypt out of you, not just take you out of Egypt, so to speak. 

Maybe that’s where you’re at right now. It feels as if your life is taking the most inconvenient route, and you’re wondering if you’ll ever make it to the Promised Land. Here’s what I know: the settings for God’s greatest miracles often come from our greatest trials and disappointments. 

If life isn’t quite going your way right now and you feel stuck in the wilderness, perhaps God is about to do a miracle in you and through you that is far greater than you ever imagined. 

Why It’s Not Too Late for You

Last year, I was attending a conference in Nashville where one of the guest speakers taught us about stories—why we love them, how they’re structured, and how we could tell stories that inspire others. So, she told us her story. It was both heartbreaking and comforting; defeating and triumphant at the same time. On the outside, she had a very successful career at an affluent company in the United States. Behind the scenes, however, her husband was having an affair and ended up leaving her and her young child alone. At this point, any normal person would feel defeated, abandoned, and alone. Despite her pain, the woman told us something I will never forget: “…But you see, my story wasn’t done,” she explained, “because God is the plot twist. God loves to swoop in and rescue.” 

I think some of us are afraid of our life stories, possibly because we often believe our life’s story has been written in permanent ink. I don’t know what your story is like—I don’t know the hurt and pain and brokenness you’ve experienced. Maybe your story involves waiting for something you’re not sure will ever come and might seem pointless to hope for, like a dream career, a marriage, or a child. Or perhaps your story involves mistakes you’ve made that you wish you could take back—you know, those mistakes. Our stories—and the details we many times choose to leave out—are what often define us. So we live in shame, regret, and disappointment in how our stories are turning out. 

Here’s the great news: despite the current trajectory of your story, it can be rewritten. Your story has a big, shocking, amazing plot twist, and that’s the grace of Jesus. It’s not too late. You haven’t strayed too far. What felt like a would-be tragedy could turn into the greatest testimony of God’s faithfulness. Why? Because just like the speaker said, God loves to swoop in and rescue. 

No matter what you’ve done, it’s not too late for forgiveness.

No matter how much you’ve been hurt, there’s still time for healing. 

No matter your disappointments or crushed dreams, there’s still time for God to surprise you.

It’s not too late today, friend. 

There’s a plot twist in your story, and God is about to swoop in.

2016: Choosing to Be Present

For the past two years, I’ve picked a word that would define the year and that I believed God would want me to prioritize. In 2014, my word was grow. 2015 was focus. This year, there were a few I was trying to decide on. What was it that 2016 was supposed to be about? What did God desire for me to focus on this year?

As I reflect on the past year, it was such a great year. It was easily the best year of my life. The problem is that some of it felt a bit like a blur—as if it were rushed through. This isn’t hard for me to do—naturally, I’m both a futuristic planner and a bit anxiety-prone, so when you bottle those two up and shake them together the result often turns into emotional vertigo. 

So for 2016, I’ve decided to choose PRESENT as my word for the year. 

I want to live life as it’s happening and not be so concerned about the past or the future. I want to embrace the beauty in mundane, and pay attention to what God is doing every day. I want to live every ordinary day as if it were extraordinary, because it is. 

The other side to being present is spending less time on social media and more time engaged in my life and with my people. So, for the first three weeks of the year I’m going to take a break from it, which will certainly be difficult, but certainly rewarding as well.

Here’s to 2016, friends!

“What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” 
—Matthew 6:31-34 MSG