Practicing the fruit of patience in evangelism
Patience is considered a virtue but acts like a leaky bucket.
No matter how hard you try to keep it full, the water is always running out.
My problem is not an empty bucket but trying to find it.
Like wallets, car keys, glasses, and iPhones, patience is a virtue that I keep losing.
I can’t drive my car without keys, and I can’t be a good husband without patience.
I can’t purchase an item without my wallet, and I can’t be a good father without patience.
I can’t seem to do anything without my iPhone, and I struggle to proclaim the gospel without patience.
A beginning point
Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Fruit is not able grow unless it remains attached to the branch. If it constantly connects and re-connects to the branch, the fruit will wither and die.
Jesus says in the gospel of John, “Remain in me and I will remain in you.” A believer who remains in Christ will bear good fruit. (John 15)
God created us to be fruit trees. By connecting to the source [Christ] who provides the nourishment necessary to grow fruit, a fruit tree gives evidence of Christ through the production of fruit. Its effortless. It’s by design.
Believers who remain connected to the Vine through constantly remaining in his Word produce patience.
Impatience is evidence of bitter or over-ripe fruit. It is good fruit gone bad.
Repentance acknowledges bad fruit. In his grace and mercy, God picks the bad fruit and sometimes prunes dead branches that no longer bear fruit.
Forgiveness will re-connect or re-graft us to the Vine.
We are forgiven, therefore…
- we can forgive ourselves.
- we can forgive others.
- we can seek and ask for forgiveness from those we have hurt.
By remaining connected to Christ, the fruit of patience begins to blossom. Like a flowering tree in the spring, it smells nice and looks nice, but it’s only the beginning. The blossoms eventually turn into fruit.
Fruit is not meant to be preserved on the tree or it will die.
Fruit is meant to be shared. It’s supposed to be picked to provide nourishment for others.
Evangelism is often referred to as “sharing” the gospel. It is the connotation that we provide something that we possess and give to others. A healthy fruit tree will have an abundance of fruit and will want to share it with others.
Believers who remain in Christ will have an orchard of patience trees. They will also have orchards of delicious joy trees, gentleness trees, and peace trees. They invite all people to pick the fruit to “taste and see” that the Lord is good because his presence is in the fruit.
Applying the fruit of patience in evangelism
Faith is often a long, painful process for those who have yet to trust in Christ. Receiving faith usually involves peeling off many layers of emotional pain and distrust. This takes an investment of time and patience. It requires hard work that our sinful nature does not want to do.
Evangelism and patience become essential partners.
They both can feel awkward at first. Like dribbling a basketball for the first time, if you don’t practice, there is a good chance the ball will bounce of your foot and into the bushes. And that can get frustrating. You are tempted to give up and call it a useless activity.
If you haven’t practiced evangelism, it’s going to feel awkward. After giving a reason for the hope you have in Christ, it may feel like we have dribbled a basketball off your foot and into the bushes. We may be tempted to give up and call it a useless activity because we feel that were so terrible at it.
And that is why patience is important. It is meant to be practiced as an exercise of faith.
Evangelists regularly practice proclaiming the gospel. Over time, they get better. They develop the habit of evangelism and it becomes a part of their daily life. They have understood how important it is to have the fruit of patience with themselves and with others.
Here are six descriptions of how the fruit of patience can be exercised in evangelism:
I. The fruit of patience remains in the present. A lack of patience tends to play the “what-if” games that usually conjures up disastrous outcomes. Patience remembers God’s promises that helps keep us in the present rather than past or future failures.
II. The fruit of patience gives us grit. It perseveres. By practicing patience, evangelists learn that outward appearances doesn’t often portray a receptive heart. People may appear as a great prospect, but don’t often pan out. Instead, we are often surprised how God works in hearts that may outwardly appear as stony and hard-packed.
III. The fruit of patience consistently responds well. It keeps emotions in check when we see a lack of progress despite our best efforts. Patience allows a calm understanding and insight to set realistic expectations that are based on God’s timing and purpose.
IV. The fruit of patience learns to tolerate the ebbs and flows of life. It expects obstacles and tolerates the quirks of others and their unpredictable behavior.
V. The fruit of patience dares to hope. Hope gives us resilience and willingness to hang in there because we trust that God’s Word works despite the perceived lack of results. Patience trusts in the possibility of a glorious outcome and understands that a delay does not necessarily mean denial.
VI. The fruit of patience desires to be better. To be great at anything you must learn how to be good at something. And that takes time. Evangelism is difficult. If anything is deemed worthwhile, then it usually requires effort to be realized.
I still feel like I lose patience, but I have stopped using this as an excuse not to exercise it. I have come to realize that the fruit of patience is never something that I can generate on my own. It means accepting that I possess fruit of the Spirit because Jesus promises that he lives in me. It is not based on how I feel about the quality of fruit in me.
Faith receives the fruit of patience that is designed to be actively shared with others. It is meant to be practiced. And now is a perfect time to start.[Need some help? Click here to learn how to provide a gospel witness in thirty seconds or less.]
Church branding is not about its logo
Businesses use logos to help identify themselves.
Like cattle ranchers, they separate themselves from the herd with an identifying mark.
A swoosh on the side of show means quality and fashion.
Golden arches let you know what you are going to get every time.
The word “Disney” usually ensures quality family-friendly content.
Church branding is not about its logo.
It can serve an important purpose by transmitting a message to help identify yourself.
The early Christians used the image of a fish.
The cross is an identifiable symbol used by the universal Christian church.
A logo can be an illustration of a church’s mission statement to help remind members and project a vision to the community.
There is a dangerous flip side.
What communicates effectively on the inside can communicate an entirely different message to the outside.
People are savvy consumers. They can spot a logo that is dated and immediately jump to the conclusion that a church is out of touch and not worth their time.
A church logo can unwittingly deliver a conflicting message. Like a mission statement that is unfamiliar with members and needs dusting, a logo could use the same treatment by updating its design.
Church branding is more about your name
People in your community will far more readily identify with the name of your church than your logo.
For small businesses, word-of-mouth advertising means everything. They can have a beautiful logo, invest in advertising, but if they don’t deliver an outstanding product or service they are not going to last.
When people hear the name of your church, what words will come to their mind? Will the words be positive, negative, or indifferent? Will they even know you exist?
A negative or indifferent reputation will close minds and plug ears from unchurched people in your community. It’s true that the power of God’s Word can penetrate any hardened soul, but do we allow ourselves or our church to get in the way of the message. Or worse, do we refrain from delivering any message at all?
A church’s name is a powerful brand. Like any foundation, it often requires the laying of bricks one at a time. One word, one misdeed, one careless act can wipe out a wall of bricks that have painstaking built over time.
A church’s reputation is a brand that can help win an audience to proclaim the gospel. It is built brick-by-brick in the words you say, the visuals you show, and the experiences people have with you over time.
The most powerful brand for your church is your people.
We must remember that the primary objective with every church brand is transmitting a gospel message. They are not just reminders for members of who you are but can serve as starting points with your community to communicate why you exist. They are conversation starters. Brands can be baseless if there is little connection with the community.
The human brand is the most powerful brand of a church.
They can have five distinct characteristics:
1. Human brands believe in the power of great questions.
They are interested in getting to know people. They ask questions to help arrive at answers – instead of preaching at them.
Churches connect with their community by asking good questions.
- They listen more then they talk about themselves.
- They act, talk, and function like real people – unafraid to make mistakes and unashamed to own them when they do.
- They are people who don’t have all the answers but point to the One who has already provided an answer to the one question that really matters…. will you be in heaven?
2. Human brands understand the power of authenticity.
They humbly accept every person that walks through the doors of a church on Sunday morning as a work in progress. They understand that unchurched people in their community arrive with different starting points – not a finished product. Visitors do not arrive on Sunday morning to win a contest or be judged by outer appearances. They are arriving at church because God has sent them. They are usually looking for answers or connection during a difficult time. Their presence alone speaks louder than words.
3. Human brands understand the power of heritage.
They know and appreciate where they have come from is as important as where they are going.
They recognize that they are standing on the shoulders of faithful giants before them who have faithfully preserved the Word and persevered during tough times.
Traditions come and go… and that’s okay. New programs, ideas, and methodologies will arrive and fade away. But heritages remain rooted and steadfast. They define who you are.
4. Human brands rely on the power of community
They know their strengths and weaknesses. They would rather not go at it alone and willing to work with others for the sake of the gospel. Their mission is bigger than themselves.
They preserve their identity and their heritage that may disqualify themselves from partnerships that might blur what they teach. They are willing to work with the community and its leaders to help support their work. By doing so, bridges are built and networks are expanded that leads to greater opportunities to spread the gospel.
5. Human brands know the power of empathy
They exhibit genuine interest in others. They want to know people’s stories. They think about the challenges we are facing and the fears that everybody is experiencing.
Quick to listen, the power of empathy refrains from Christian jargon or pat answers that may come across as uncaring. Instead, an emphatic hearts discover felt needs and provides specific answers from the Bible to address them.
Great brands are great people.
Your church is a name that people call you. You are a fixed anchor – a beacon of light – salt that preserves – in a community that may seem adrift in difficult times.
Now is a great time to build your brand. People are watching and observing how your congregation will respond in this crisis.
Now is not the time to be Noah’s ark and close the hatches. I don’t think it’s raining yet. The Lord has set believer apart right now to help get the Word out.
Church brands are not about logos, but about people.
Establishing a church identity in a COVID-19 world
Life changed after 9/11 and it seems that COVID-19 may leave an even greater footprint on our world.
As the dust continues to swirl on what the future may bring, people are responding in a variety of different ways. Some are struggling, others are taking time to re-evaluate their purpose and priorities. They are making life adjustments regarding:
- The importance of family.
- The importance of being in the present with people who matter to them.
- The realization that serving others is more purposeful than serving themselves.
- Self-isolation and loneliness are worth combating because connection matters.
- How we view the future has a far more powerful affect on how we live in the present.
This is a defining moment. Our world is going to change. There are too many variables to quantify an answer of how that may look socially, economically, and politically. Like an incoming force of nature, we can only wait and see and protect ourselves as much as possible.
Christian churches are not immune to this health crisis. They are being forced to close its doors and provide online messages, worship services, Bible studies, and even Sunday school.
If churches are deciding not to enter the digital world, they will be left in the swirling dust and more than likely close sooner than anticipated.
And this is just the beginning.
Before the pandemic arrived, Christian congregations were struggling to create an identity in their community. The secular world had increasingly deemed Christian churches to be irrelevant and out-of-touch. People were choosing to stay home on Sunday mornings rather than come to hear God’s Word. But that has suddenly shifted. People are now willing to be engaged to hear messages of hope that can be found in Christ.
The Covid-19 health crisis is providing churches with an opportunity to re-establish or create an identity. This will require adapting how they interact, engage, and communicate with their community to clarify who they are and why they exist.
How can congregations be proactive right now to take full advantage of providing an identity in a new Covid-19 world?
- Clarify your mission.
If you had to look up your church’s mission statement right now, then it probably needs to be changed.
If you are a congregational leader and you don’t know your mission statement, then it probably needs to be re-addressed.
Mission statements are course-setters. They help establish identities. They become the plum line for future decisions and ideas. They help drive and sustain activity.
If evangelism is an integral part of a congregation’s mission statement and carries with it the responsibility of member participation, then now is the time to go and do it. It means taking the next step outside of planning, teaching, and preaching about the importance of evangelism. If there is not a willingness on part of the members to verbally proclaim the gospel, then I humbly suggest not to include personal evangelism in your mission statement.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received when I first started out as a full-time evangelist twenty years ago was given by Rev. Loren Steele – a man the Lord mightily used to spread the gospel.
“Loren, what do I do?”, I asked.
He simply replied, “Just do it.”
And he was right.
- Master the fundamentals
Every professional regularly practices the basics. They understand that to become great at anything, they must master the fundamentals.
Gathering around the Word and sacraments will always be a fundamental part of a Christian congregation.
Corporate worship has been suspended and faithful members are missing it. Like good health or employment, we tend to take something for granted until it is taken away. This health crisis has given believers a greater appreciation of gathering with others for worship. When the doors of our churches open again, we can master the fundamentals and continue to regularly practice the basics. Only by the power of his Word and love for our Savior, can believers seek to graciously serve him and actively communicate the gospel.
- Talk with people
The entrance to the digital age has forced many congregations to recognize that they are reaching a new audience. Granted, the pandemic crisis is arousing interest in spiritual matters that is helping spike the views of recorded messages. A digital audience will not be going away and it will become a more pronounced front entrance to your church on Sunday morning.
If your primary vehicle to proclaim Gods Word is having people come to church on Sunday morning, then I would ask you to reconsider your evangelism strategy for a COVID-19 world.
Digital access will be one important way to communicate the gospel, but only ought to serve as a supplement to help equip and inspire members to go out into the community. Talking with people will still be the primary and most effective way to give reasons for the hope we have in Christ.
The pandemic crisis is providing opportunities and awareness for our members to engage and connect. In the midst of self-quarantine and stay at home restrictions, we no longer have to isolate ourselves once the restrictions have been lifted. And the same ought to be with our life as a Christian. We no longer have to isolate or self-quarantine ourselves from providing reasons for the hope we have in Christ.
Proclaiming the gospel doesn’t necessarily mean inviting their presence to hear God’s Word on Sunday mornings. It can start by talking to people, connecting with them, and empathize with people’s pains and fears.
- Take advantage of technology
The digital age has fully arrived.
Any reluctance and feet dragging that prompted congregations to refrain from expanding its digital presence have been quickly dissolved.
Based on the number of views, it may appear that your church is shattering worship attendance records. That’s terrific, but numbers can be misleading. Another important number is the length of stay. How many people watched the entire message? What is the average length of time per person? These statistics can be a key component to determining how to reach your community.
Engage your unchurched audience who are watching your messages by allowing them an opportunity to click an online guest card. Ask how your congregation can serve them. Ask if your congregation can pray for them. Ask them to subscribe to a weekly on-line newsletter that could provide devotional thoughts, announcements, and a schedule.
Provide short videos online that matches the average length of viewing time. These videos can be a 5-10 minute synopsis of the sermon message or a series of encouraging words for unchurched people in your community during this pandemic crisis. Members can learn how to link these messages on their social media platforms.
Invest in your on-line presence. Now is not the time to be cheap. Hire professionals to help provide you with a powerful on-line presence and assist you in learning how to best communicate with your growing online presence with non-members. Members are excellent at learning how to operate a digital platform, but they are typically not very good at building a platform. That’s why churches ought to hire professionals with this important task.
The life of your congregation and future gospel activity is depending upon decisions being made today. Time can be invested to build a powerful identity for the unchurched families in your community who are observing, listening, and sometimes reaching out to hear some Good News.
Reaching a new audience
During uncertain times, people are looking for spiritual answers. They are willing to hear reasons for the hope Christian believers have in Christ. And when they feel comfortable with a trusted source, they are willing to ask.
They are even willing to go to your church website and watch a recorded message.
The Corona virus has forced congregations to provide online messages for its members as a temporary replacement for corporate worship. Whether live or on-demand, members are watching and listening by themselves or with family members. Every congregation is reporting an impressive number of viewers. If each view represents two and a half people, then average worship attendance is receiving a major boost.
It is safe to assume that pastors are currently reaching a new audience with every on-line message.
Though we eagerly look forward to the day when we can all gather as God’s people to worship, the Lord may be providing us with unique opportunities during this time to connect with our online visitors.
Here are some suggestions on how to do that.
Get to know the audience
An important first step is to carefully and thoroughly investigate your online audience through Google Analytics. The total number of views is a part of the story. There is a bigger picture that can be drawn by looking closely at the data. Here are just a few questions to consider
What percent of people came from my county or within a fifty-mile radius of my church?
What percent of people watched the entire message online?
What is the average length of time people are watching the message?
When people are clicking to watch the message online, are they visiting other pages on your website?
Data gleaned from your Google Analytics can provide valuable information on how to effectively reach your online audience and your non-member visitors.
Offer a next step
It is good to welcome and acknowledge online visitors within your video message as you would normally do on a Sunday morning. I encourage you to consider providing a next step.
- Point people to your contact page on your website. Encourage them to send you an email.
- Let visitors know that you care about them. Ask them how they are doing during this time of uncertainty. Let them know that your church family is willing to pray for them. They can use your contact page to submit prayer requests.
- Offer a free resource. There may be a book that helps people with anxiety or parenting.
- Offer to subscribe to an email newsletter that is not the official church newsletter that is designed for members. There are non-members who would be interested to receive an email newsletter. They are interested in receiving regular devotions from the pastor. If you have a K-8 school or an early childhood program, school-age parents would welcome tips right now from your teachers to help with their child’s home learning or deal with parental stresses of having kids at home all the time. Your church can further position itself to be an excellent and trusted resource.
- Provide an on-line survey (e.g. survey monkey) link next to your video message. This is an opportunity to ask non-members their opinion and let them know that they are valued. Some of the questions could include type of events or programs they would be interested in attending at church.
A new normal
This world-wide pandemic is forcing us to enter a new normal. This is a time for gospel ministries to be proactive by carefully examining our activities to deliver the Word. When it is eventually deemed safe by our governing authorities to gather and worship together, the potential online audience will not be going away. I believe we are discovering and implementing new entry points to reach the lost, de-churched, or people who are looking for a good church home with solid biblical teaching. Instead of encouraging members to invite friends and neighbors to walk through threatening church doors on Sunday morning, this can be an opportunity to teach them to send online invitations to hear God’s Word on your church website by providing specific links.
Let’s continue to grasp this fascinating time the Lord has placed us in to spread the Good News of what he has already done for the world.
God’s Pursuing Love in Times of Crisis
Christ never stops pursuing unbelieving hearts.
Difficult times can cause people to pull back the drapes of their life to seek comfort, security, and spiritual truth. They become opportunities to allow the Light of Christ to stream through the window of their soul.
When viewed through the lens of divine mercy and grace, difficult times can be embraced. Trust in God’s promises deepens through adversity. Perseverance, character, and hope are produced through suffering (Romans 5:3-4). Fruits of the Spirit ripen from within redeemed souls who are firmly rooted in Christ. Those who are spiritually hunger and thirst for Truth will notice the fruits of peace, patience, and kindness and inquire of its source.
As a believer in Christ, moments of adversity can be embraced. Are you ready to provide an answer for the hope you have in Christ when anybody asks?
Christ’s pursuing love is perfect and unrelenting. He often demonstrates his power and glory to let us know that he is the Lord and Redeemer instead of ourselves.
Earthquakes are a good example.
Last week, the epicenter of a 6.5 earthquake occurred 73 miles north of my house in southwest Idaho. Some people described its arrival like a large truck barreling down the road. A jolt lasting a few seconds was followed by a gentle rolling that caused chandeliers to sway back and forth. It felt like your house was sitting on top of a large bowl of Jello.
We were at the mercy of a powerful force of nature. It was scary, slightly fun, and something you would rather not experience again.
The Lord can provide snapshots of his power and glory today to re-enforce portraits of the future.
There are probably no greater portraits than the descriptive and prophetic words found in the book of Revelation.
“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”
[Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.]
Then the angel said to me, “Write this: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
The prophetic portraits of Christ’s second coming will be more powerful and stunning than an earthquake.
It will be more impactful than any pandemic.
The day of our Lord is coming. We have been properly forewarned.
How we embrace the future helps us with the present.
Like a potential groom that seduces with riches, glamour, and beauty, the world courts unsuspecting brides with lies and false hope.
Those who turn to the world for answers, trust in kings for security and provision, or rely on their intelligence and good works will be disappointed.
Those who believe in Christ and trust in his promises wait expectantly for his return.
Faith focuses on the future joys of heaven.
When difficult times seem overwhelming or doubts prompt us to question if Christ can deliver on his promises, Jesus could reply, “If I can? Everything is possible for one who believes.” (Mark 9:23)
And like the father whose son was delivered from evil spirits, we can reply, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)
And Jesus delivers.
It’s natural to panic and struggle with faith during times of crisis.
How are we going to respond?
We are entering Holy Week during a time of national crisis. We are feeling the effects of social distancing, constant bad news, and pronouncements that this will be a bad week as a result of the corona virus.
Embracing truth means holding on to something firm and solid to ride out the earthquake and not fear.
The cross reminds us of Truth.
Christ continues to pursue because his perfect love is relentless. His invitation to unbelievers come with the words, “Your sins are fully forgiven. Believe!” His words are not just a proposal or an invitation, but they have the power to create faith, provide assurance, and sustain hope.
In God’s wisdom and purpose for his church, he uses believers to help spread the Word in an unbelieving world – especially during difficult times.
A living faith is willing to engage people for the sake of the gospel.
An active faith is willing to invite people despite outward appearances.
A trusting faith delivers invitations. They are willing to say, “Everything is ready. Christ has done it all for you to be right with God. Trust his love. He has sacrificed himself for you. His has risen! Believe.”
Faith anticipates the future joys of heaven.
Secure in Christ’s righteousness, faith embrace the present despite its sorrows and concerns.
Faith stops looking in the mirror and frets but looks out the window with Christ’s pursuing love and sees the lost.
With a renewed sense of urgency, believers share the gospel message with others.
I think that’s what Christ would ask us to do right now.
Capturing Opportunities to Provide Messages of Hope
In an ongoing series by the Barna Group to try and capture the state of the church in America, half of the pastors cited “declining or inconsistent outreach and evangelism” as a major issue facing the church.
Sadly, this finding is not surprising. And, churches could be capturing opportunities in a time of uncertainly, discomfort – even panic. An incoming tide of receptivity to hear a message of hope is arriving at the doorsteps of professing Christians.
But, a lack of interest and preparedness is prompting many of us to remain quiet.
Our Lord and Savior who loves us beyond comprehension is already forgiving us. His grace and mercy already paid the price for our sins. And right now, with a clean slate and a heart full of love and thanksgiving, believers can be a bastion of hope and a proclaimer of Truth.
The Corona-virus pandemic is seizing the attention of the world as it should. People are looking to government leaders and science for solutions to help guide us back to a sense of normalcy.
A civilized society rests on their trust in its political institution. If people remain calm and not panic, it will be alright.
What about those who have been set apart by God to trust in his promises?
Justified by faith alone — fully redeemed through God’s grace alone — faith exemplifies itself through its confession and actions. It’s not that acts are motivated to be redeemed, but a spirit-generated response by being redeemed. Faith prompts a desire to spread the Word.
So, what’s the problem?
I believe the Barna report on the state of the church (“What’s on the mind of America’s Pastors”) is uncovering distinct patterns and clues for its problems and solutions.
For instance, a rise in the lack of interest to proclaim the gospel could be tied with a significant increase in the “low spiritual maturity among church goers” that pastors cite as a growing concern (27% in 2017 vs. 8% in 1992). U.S. pastors in the report also rank “watered down gospel teachings” (72%) as the largest issue facing the church during the America’s dramatic shift towards toward secularization.
These findings coincide with previous Barna reports which concluded that “evangelism has fallen out of favor even with young adults who are practicing Christians.” Coupled with “watered down gospel teachings” it’s not surprising that the next generation have a “distrust” of religious institutions.
When Christian churches appear more interested in aligning itself with political idealism and legislating morality, not willing to confront false teaching, and struggle with sanctified living among its leaders, then it’s going to be a struggle to reach those who distrust organized religion. A water-down gospel and spiritual immaturity sows the seeds of hypocrisy and a lack of interest to grow in God’s Word and proclaim it to others.
Like the Jewish people during the time of Christ, I wonder if professing Christians are far more interested in having a savior that promotes a return to a “moral” kingdom and prosperity rather than a Savior for our sins.
Like Jesus standing over Jerusalem, I wonder if he stands on a precipice today and weeps. How he may long to gather those he loves like a hen gather her checks under her wings through the power of his pure and unfettered Word.
When biblical truth is muddied by a watered-down understanding of God’s wrath and grace, people miss receiving the assurance and confidence of full redemption.
And this plays itself out by a lack of trust in God’s Word and a believer’s responsibility for spreading it.
Fear drives panic when there is a loss of trust in the institution of government for which God has established.
Fear drives panic when there is a loss of trust in his Word and the institution of the Church for which God has established.
A church loses its saltiness.
We can go to the Lord in prayer,
“O Sovereign Lord, Almighty Creator and Sustainer of all things, the One who establishes the universe – “who determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name” (Ps. 147:4) – we humbly place our trust in your hands. We praise you, our Savior and friend. It is during serious times it can be the time to take your Word seriously. Grasp the collar of my soul and raise me up to boldly declare your name to my community. Forgive me for any timidity that could cause me to remain satisfied in being a light without a desire to give reasons for the hope I have in you. By the power of your Word, grant me to be salty when it seems the world around me is increasingly tasteless. With eyes fixated on you, Lord, grant me peace, confidence, and everlasting hope. In your name, Amen.”
A Life in Christ Never Panics
I used to work for the athletic marketing and promotions office at Fresno State University. One of my duties was to help coordinate the promotions and in-game marketing for football and basketball. During a game with thousands of people watching, things can go wrong. When bad things happen, one of the cardinal rules for event managers is to never panic. A calm mind makes better decisions. Most of the time, slight adjustments that nobody ever sees can avert major catastrophes that everybody sees.
I have applied this rule countless times throughout twenty years of outreach ministry.
And perhaps it could be applied for us today.
Never panic… especially for those who trust in Christ’s promises.
A recent trip to a grocery store is a good way to gauge public anxiety.
Selfish hoarding and overflowing grocery carts exhibit a lack of trust in our government system, our leaders, and each other.
Even though cracks may exist in our society and there is a warring divide in politics, a foundation still exists and there are good leaders to help us pull through this public health crisis.
It’s going to be okay if people don’t panic.
But I think we are all arriving at the same conclusion that life is going to be different now. In the same way lives were adjusted after 9/11, our daily lives will be transformed but probably on a grander scale. In place of intensifying security measures, changing travel habits, and concerns about domestic terrorism, we may have intensified efforts in viral screening, immunization, and changing our public habits.
And this is not including the effect this pandemic will have on our economy.
It is during the darkest times that lights shine the brightest.
A life in Christ never panics.
The object of a Christian faith rests in what Christ has already done and what he promises to do.
The storms of life – even viral hurricanes – cannot wash away a house that is built on the rock of Christ.
A redeemed life in Christ that is fully received by faith rests securely in Christ’s promise that heaven is secure. Their name is in the book of Life.
A redeemed life in Christ that is fully received by faith accepts the reality that God has placed them on this earth for a purpose. This day in history has been ordained for a believer in Christ to fulfill God’s purpose – to declare his glory – to make his Name known.
Therefore, a proper Christian response can mean exercising a dual citizenship in Christ.
A believer in Christ exercises their citizenship in this world that God created, dearly loves, and desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth. All people who trust in him have been set apart before the creation of the world (Eph. 1:4), to not be of this world, but be salt and light in this world to proclaim of his message of Good News.
With one foot in the world, those who trust in God’s promises, can courageously exhibit grace amid panic. They can visit grocery stories to get what they need but be willing to give away what they possess to help a person in need. They can boldly take advantage of every opportunity the Lord provides to give reasons for the hope, peace, and confidence they have in Christ.
A life in Christ never panics but embraces difficulties in life as a blessing from God. He often uses challenges to deepen our trust in him. Secure in Christ, confident that God’s hand is in all things, challenges dissipate into opportunities to share Truth to a more receptive audience.
With one foot in the world and one foot resting in God’s promises, believers can be casual observers by viewing life in the third person. They insert their own name in lieu of God’s promises by saying to themselves:[Insert name] is fully assured because Jesus tells me that he has overcome the world. [Insert name] is fully at peace because Jesus tells me he is the resurrection and the life. [Insert name] has sure hope because Jesus loves me, this I know, because the Bible tells me so.
We can pray,
“O Lord, thank you for your mercy and grace. Fill me up with your presence and the fruits of your Spirit today. That I may live for you and not for myself. When doubt, fear, and concern rises up within me, may you flush them out with your good promises. Since I live, you live in me. Since I live, you direct me to live for you. May I seize upon every opportunity to exhibit peace and hope in my words and actions, but more importantly, verbally provide reasons why my hope is in you. During this time of turmoil and looming change, may I cling to you as the changeless One who has already secured my place in heaven. Thank you, Lord. Amen.”
Filling Your Jar of Awesomeness
A popular podcast host, Tim Ferriss, talked about his “jar of awesomeness”. Whenever anything good happened in his life or any small victories, he wrote it down on a slip of paper and placed in into a large glass jar. Since he had a strong tendency to dwell on the negative, he needed visible reminders that his work mattered.
Do you have a Jar of Awesomeness in your office or at your home?
Perhaps we all need one.
Positive comments, successes and compliments have a short shelf life. They are like perishable food items that quickly spoil.
Every win in life every time you nail it, we receive a few smiles, a few high-fives with co-workers and family members, then all too quickly say to ourselves, “yea, whatever” and move on to the next day, the next project, or some other problem that needs to be solved.
Negative comments, failures, and complaints have a longer shelf life. They stay in the cupboards of our mental pantry for years and never spoil.
Every time we mess-up tends to be treated like a doomsday event. Outwardly we tell ourselves that it will be okay. Co-workers and family members give pats of encouragement, but the devastation of messing up can be crippling. Our inner voice – if unfettered – can routinely and unexpectedly deliver sharp pangs of guilt and remorse.
I hate when that happens.
Owning a jar of awesomeness may not be a bad idea for personal evangelism.
Perhaps the greatest barrier for many Christians to overcome is not learning what to proclaim but having the courage to say something. Guilt, the fear of messing up again can rob faithful Christian believers from participating in one of the greatest exercises of our faith – proclaiming the Good News to others.
And pastors are not immune to this either.
A pastor may carefully prepare and deliver a message on Sunday morning and receive handshakes and a few complimentary remarks by wonderful faithful members. But what do they reflect upon on Monday morning?
A grumpy member who makes an unloving comment.
A prospect family who were not there… again.
Empty seats rather then ones who filled them.
Any golden moment of joy can quickly evaporate when Monday morning greets us with new challenges, old problems, and a guilty complex.
A jar of awesomeness may not be enough, but it may be a good start.
There are times when we feel stuck in life, when activities don’t seem to be gaining traction, when results don’t seem to match our perceived efforts.
Some experts talk about the importance of keeping a daily journal. There are books that help people record measurable goals and celebrating victories. I began to apply this in my life, and it has made a difference.
I record each positive comment and reflect upon each goal accomplished.
I have discovered that small victories matter in the big picture by helping sustain momentum to accomplish difficult and greater tasks.
Like personal evangelism.
Praise and Proclaim believes in celebrating small victories. This means trusting the power of God’s Word over our ability to share words with others. It means that God uses every gospel seed that is planted even though we may never see the results.
And sometimes, the greatest victory occurs when a faithful Christian shows up, steps way outside of their comfort zones, and provides a short reason for the hope they have in Christ whenever God provides opportunities.
Whenever Christian believers proclaim God’s Word – and do so with love and respect – its impossible to mess up! And that is something we ought to record and put in a glass jar. Because that is awesome!
Keeping our cup full
Now, I don’t have a “jar of awesomeness” on display in my office, but I ought to have something else that is far more important.
A Styrofoam cup.
A pastor once gave a visible reminder of God’s grace for the young men and women who sat before him on their confirmation.
He held out a Styrofoam cup full of water. He told them that on our baptism day, our cups overflow with the water of God’s grace. However, sin pokes tiny holes into our cup and the water that once overflowed begins to leak out. But God in his wisdom has provided us with his means of grace that freely and generously pours the water into our cup to keep it overflowing. Not good works or happy feelings – nice compliments or projects completed – but the waters of God’s grace that gives us peace and purpose, patience and perseverance, and the will to remain in his embrace.
I like recording victories, compliments, and remembrances that God is working in me, through me, and for me each day of my life. But I can’t plug all the leaks in my flimsy cup no matter how hard I try. When guilt is overwhelming, I remind myself of the awesome victory that Christ won for me – and that promise is enough.