”But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
As I have finished my first year in Guatemala, I have been continually praying over this passage. The “foreign mission field” is no longer “foreign” to me, but my home. Antigua has become my Jerusalem, the villages of Guatemala my Judea and Samaria. In some ways, the US is now the “ends of the earth” in my life.
I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that it is all too easy for me to fall into routine and serve on auto-pilot. Don’t get me wrong. I still serve daily. I still love what I am doing. But I’m sorry to say, that I’m not always conscious of being His witness. I may be witnessing “unconsciously,” but I don’t think that’s quite what God has called me to do.
When I reflect on this, I realize that I am facing what many of us struggle with as Christians: to be His witness. . .deliberately, intentionally, and joyfully. When we look at the early church, and the challenges and dangers the early Christians faced, they never had the luxury of “unconscious” service. They boldly shared the name of Jesus wherever they went, whatever they were doing. Proclaiming Christ was not incidental to their ministry, it was their ministry.
So what’s happened to us? Why is it so easy to forget why we are doing what we are doing? For me, at least, I think it’s because I like to be comfortable. I do what I am comfortable doing, and seldom let myself take up God-sized challenges. I am comfortable working in my own power. Not that that’s all bad. God has equipped me with gifts, talents and abilities that I believe He wants me to us under His direction. I think that’s what the parable of the talents is about.
But I think He also wants me to go beyond myself and my own power. To take up tasks that I don’t know I can do “on my own.” To take prudent risks, stepping out in faith when He asks me to. I reflect on Peter’s bold statement in Acts 3:6:
Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” [underlining is my emphasis]
Do I give what I do I have? When I serve only in my power, I am cheating those I serve. For what I most have is the truth that, with Him all things are possible, and the hope that this truth brings. Do I give what I do have? The security of a personal relationship with a Living God Who loves me as I am; the knowledge of a Father Who loves those I serve as they are?
I’ve never felt prompted to command a cripple to walk (though I know God could command me to do so, and heal if it served His greater plan). Wheelchairs and communication systems are not nearly as dramatic—yet they are what I am called to do. But it’s not about the wheelchairs, or the communication systems, or even the friendships we form in the course of ministry. It’s about the God who calls us to this ministry. I know I am called, in each interaction, to lift up the Name of Jesus. How I do this can vary, but I am more and more convicted that if I am to be His witness, I must lift up the Name.
It’s so easy to “forget” to do this while I am busy doing the “work” of ministry. It’s so easy to shy away from doing this when I am talking with those in my neighborhood who may have different “theologies” than I do, but usually some type of faith in the Jesus we both love. It’s so easy to do what is convenient rather than what is commanded. It’s so easy to fail to do this, just because I’m lazy and it seems too hard. . .
So, what I’ve really come to realize after a year here is that my challenge here is the same as it was at home. I am called to witness to the fact, each day, in each interaction, in all that I do, that “Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” No more, no less. . .
It is the same “mission” I share with each of you who is a Christ-follower, whether in the US, Guatemala, or another “foreign” country. No more, no less. . .Our every day task (not nearly as romantic as it seemed before I moved here)—to lift high the Name of Jesus in all we say and do and are. I pray He finds us faithful. . .