Of all the components of everyday faith that I am sharing, this one is the greatest stumbling block as we apply to our daily process. In fact, I feel a strong level of apprehension even bringing it up, because I know that there are some readers that are going to find it personally challenging...I do.
So I will approach this with all the gentleness and love that I can.
Simply put, many of us, including myself regularly, have one of two problems: want of confidence or want for credit.
Before we jump into the explanation of those two issues, which are critical to resolve if we are to live all for His glory, I want to share something with you.
Yesterday, after church services and some time spent with my Jehovah’s Witness friends (our regular weekly bible study/theology discussion), I experienced one of the extreme joys of parenting.
I sat on my back porch and watched as my daughter mowed the back lawn. Any parent with a lawn probably experiences this joy once or twice in their life, it is truly one of the unsung rewards of parenting. There is just something special about knowing that for the next couple of years (depending on the age of your children), you will get the sublime entertainment of watching as your children does chores that your abhor and yet are still necessary. What’s more, it’s all wrapped up in a package of encouragement and wisdom, in which you get to try out sayings like “Just remember honey, any job worth doing is worth doing well” and “You missed a spot”. Ah, the blessings of children…
Believe it or not, we will get back to that later in the post.
So, onto the Advancing of God's Kingdom as part of our WALK to everyday faith all for His glory.
In too many cases, as believers, we attempt to compartmentalize the exercise of our faith to different areas. We put the items that we are comfortable with in one area (those becomes our routine and tradition) and those items which we are uncomfortable with we put in another area. Then every time we make a foray into the uncomfortable arena, we congratulate ourselves for stretching. More often than not we stick to the comfortable and rationalize neglect of the other area by saying, "I would, but I have so much to do already. I really don't have time to go there." It's a cop out, but you are not alone, we all do it.
However, the "we all do it" mentality doesn't get us any closer to everyday faith. Why? Well, because we are trying to do something very different, we are making a run at living all for His glory. So, let's glorify God by getting uncomfortable. And the first place that we can start is adding the advancement of His Kingdom into our daily life.
Yes, everyday we are going to take just a little more territory for God. The best part is that He already owns it all anyway, we're just making sure that the inhabitants are notified.
See there is plenty of church speak available out there for advancing the Kingdom, but maybe we need to look at a definition that is a little simpler: God is sovereign over all creation, we are just actively notifying the inhabitants.
I think the term "evangelism" gets a little convoluted at times, which probably contributes a great deal to some of our discomfort with it. "Winning souls for Christ" and "sharing the Gospel" and "reaching the lost" are some pretty heady instructions if you are someone that finds interrupting a telephone solicitor mid-spiel or striking up a conversation with a new visitor to church challenging.
Some well-meaning evangelists make it sound like our great commission in Matthew 28:19 is actually some kind of game of capture the flag or Risk, when the actual idea behind claiming new territory for God is ridiculous. It's already all His. Always has been, always will be…nobody lives outside His authority, His laws are universal…our mission is to notify the inhabitants clearly, honestly and in such a way that they can make an informed choice as to whether they believe it. Finally, regardless of whether they believe it, it is the truth.
So what is stopping us?
Want of Confidence
I'll write a little more about some of God's revelations for me when I read the Bible last year when we get to "Know God", but for now I want to point out two of the central themes which run through every one of the 66 books which comprise the written Word.
1) Every single book, every one, could have been accurately titled "Courage to Stand". Throughout the Bible you will read in chapter after chapter, passage after passage, verse after verse, the same basic and powerful message from God: "Be strong and courageous. I made it all. I claim it all. I control it all. I have always been. I will always be. Stand for Me."
In our efforts to live all for His glory, it is necessary to realize that what we may perceive as a failure (perhaps we say what we think to be the wrong thing or stumble over our words) will still be credited to us by God as a success because we were willing to stand for Him, to glorify Him…it is not eloquence or charisma that is most effective at advancing God's Kingdom, it is the humble servant, who, regardless of the circumstance or their comfort level, stands for Him when He calls.
2) God is faithful. Sometimes we confine that statement to "God answers prayers", which is true but is only a part of the wholeness of the fact that God, and only God, is worthy of our faith. By that I mean that, even when we don't specifically pray for something, God knows what we truly need and will provide it. We "need" to have opportunities to advance His Kingdom. It is through those opportunities that we grow in Him. So, God does not wait for us to ask, and, my hope is that the next statement will alter your view of your opportunities for advancing His Kingdom: Regardless of whether you request it, God will provide you with at least one opportunity, every single day of your life, to advance His Kingdom.
To put that even more simply, your divine appointment calendar is already filled.
Often I hear that people are praying that God will provide opportunities to share the Gospel, or that He will set people in our path. I think those are wonderful prayers, but they may miss the point. Our challenge is not that God doesn't provide enough opportunity, it is that we often fail to recognize them, or, worse, we recognize them and choose not to respond. Perhaps our prayers should be more along the lines of: "Thank you Lord for all of the appointments you made for me today, please make me alert enough to know when they are occurring."
I will share some opportunities that are likely presented to you every day, but you may not recognize, a little later. For now I need to share another stumbling block to living all for His glory by Advancing His Kingdom:
Want for credit
There is a quote by former President Harry S. Truman that I absolutely love: "It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." I personally made a few changes to better articulate the point in relationship to living all for His glory.
God will accomplish the impossible through you, if you’re willing to let Him have ALL the credit.
For those of us that don't have the "want of confidence" stumbling block arise very often, "want for credit" can sometimes spring up to replace it in a hurry. It's the mindset of "Most all for His glory, with a little on the side for me." and it is pride. Ouch, I know, that hurts, but that's what it is.
See, we all seek recognition for our works. It's not always boasting, instead it may just be a desire for someone, once in awhile, to say, "Hey, great job!".
The obstacle is when it becomes the motivation for our efforts at advancing God's Kingdom.
I fall into this all the time personally, and I have to catch myself and say "Hey! Whose recognition is important?" Or even more convicting "Who am I trying to please, God or man?"
For a lesson in humility sometimes we need to look at whom we are trying to emulate (other than Jesus). For example, every once in awhile I hear about some great traveling evangelist that put on a “revival” or some other such extravaganza of speakers and bands and t-shirts, and often I hear about extraordinary numbers of decisions for Christ, several hundred at this show, a thousand at that show.
“Fabulous,” I think, “Now that is advancing the Kingdom! Boy oh boy, if I could have half the talent of that evangelist or speaker, then I would really make a difference! And then, and then, I could write a book!!!!! Yes, an author and a world famous speaker that converts hundreds of the lost just with my eloquent words!”
And BAM I am suddenly another “want for credit” preacher…
Okay, maybe that’s a little (or a lot) over the top, but it may not be too far off base in some cases. The point, of course, is that the evangelist, regardless of their eloquence and charisma, has very little to do with life-saving decisions. It’s all God, and if any humans are to receive any credit for the success it will be the army of prayer warriors that have been praying in tears that the listener would hear the Word and open their hearts to receive that Word.
And that is where we come in. While moving toward everyday faith and living all for His glory, we must be prayer warriors. All of heaven rejoices over every single heart surrendered to Christ, and we must be spending time in earnest prayer for those that we have never met, that their hearts of stone may be turned to hearts of flesh and that God will bless them with the courage to make the choice to stand for Him.
My first suggestion for advancing the Kingdom of God every day is this: Find out who the missionaries and community outreach ministers are in your church (their actual names and where they are serving) and spend a solid ten minutes of every single day praying for them by name and also praying for whoever God leads them to that day, that they will receive the Word and surrender their heart. God is faithful, he will hear the prayers of the saints, and every single day Heaven will have to reorder party favors for the multitudes that surrender to the only One who deserves the all the glory.
Back to my lawn for a minute…just in case you thought I forgot…I was thinking about how I can exercise everyday faith while watching the wonderful lawn mowing that was taking place. I noted that my daughter started by taking special care that no effort was wasted, long straight lines of cut grass, one row after another. It was beautiful to behold, but after awhile she obviously started getting bored and she began making figure eight rotations and cutting lines in hard to reach places only as far as she could get away with so that it could technically have been defined as mowed.
Before long, she had turned off the mower and was hustling it back to the shed, and what started out to be picturesque now was kind of mottle and haphazard. There was short grass for stretches with patches of long grass here and there. I told her that she missed some spots and she grunted that she was tired. So she took a break and had some iced tea. After much cajoling, she went back out and started to whack down what seemed the worst but never quite getting all of it.
And I thought, isn’t that the way we can all sometimes get about our faith. We start out with consistent effort and God is glorified. It’s not fast, but it is getting completed. Then we get bored or start getting tired, and rather than refresh, rest and continue consistently, we try to rush through in a whack-a-mole fashion.
I hope you are all familiar with “Whack-A-Mole”, if not, the short and sweet is that it is a game in which a little plastic mole pops out of a random hole, and you try and hit it on the head with a plastic hammer. It’s fun, but not very efficient. You never know where the mole might pop-up, and if you do not see it and respond fast enough, the opportunity is gone.
That is “Whack-A-Mole” faith and piety in a nutshell, you never know when the opportunity is going to present itself to glorify God, so it surprises you. You react as quickly as you can and you sometimes take advantage and sometimes don’t. But you wear yourself out doing it, and in the mean time you start getting selective about which opportunities to take.
On the flip side of that is everyday faith, where you consistently expect God to provide opportunities to glorify Him and share His Word. You are not surprised by the divine appointment on the calendar, instead you are ready. Additionally, since you consistently seek to live all for His glory, you aren’t trying to rush the process by running ahead of Him and missing the opportunities He presents. It’s slow going sometimes, but it is about one foot in front of the other and steady progress in your WALK.
Suggestion one - Pray for your missionaries and community outreach ministers and the individuals they will minister to that day.
Suggestion two – Do a prayer walk in your neighborhood. Walk past at least five houses each day and for each house spend one minute of prayer for the inhabitants of the house, that they might open their heart to the Gospel and surrender their hearts to God.
Suggestion three – Rather than practice random acts of kindness (the classic whack-a-mole strategy), try and spend an entire day being kind. Try to model the kindness of Jesus for one whole day, and see how God uses that to open hearts.
Suggestion four – Tell a non-Christian co-worker or friend that you are aware of needing prayer (or not) that you are praying for them. And then do it, spend at least two or three minutes in earnest prayer every day for a week for them, and then see what amazing things God will do in their hearts.
As a parting word, my lawn is cut now, and looks glorious, but the lawn will need to be cut again in a week or two. And it will be more challenging; the grass will have grown taller, and I will need to prep the yard by picking the limbs and dog toys out of all the long grass. It will take seven or eight times as long to mow as it would have if I would have just done it daily.