This week’s Friends Only Friday post is a gift, given to us through a remarkable young woman (as I am sure you’ll gather from the quality of what you’ll read in a moment). I met her during a rough season of her life that was marked by a series of difficult decisions. Having watched her grow into a respectable young adult woman living her life as a ministry, I am honored to have filled the role of mentor and friend for her in many ways since then.
Warning: What you are about to read will challenge you. I hope you accept the challenge.
Love and Peace…
Lately I have been reading the book of John, and I stumbled (not so accidentally) upon Jesus’ conversation with the Jewish authorities in John 5. Here, the religious leaders are criticized for knowing the words of the scriptures but failing to recognize and follow Jesus, the Word made flesh! Give it a read and see if you find yourself humbled by Jesus’ words:
“You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” – John 5.39-40 NRSV
Here we have a group of Jewish authorities—religious leaders who have given their lives to follow God’s call and serve God’s people. Sound familiar? These are busy people, people who study, serve, teach, preach, worship, and occasionally sleep. Sound familiar? These are disciplined people who take their work seriously, because their work is about faithfulness, not just efficiency. Sound familiar? I’m not sure about you, but I can relate to these Jewish leaders. Because they are busy “searching the scriptures,” they miss out on Jesus. They miss out on the one for whom they have been waiting.
How often are we so busy serving God that we fail to spend time with God?
How often are we so preoccupied with the words on our to-do list that we fail to embrace God’s living Word standing right in front of us?
What keeps you so frantically busy that you miss out on Christ’s gift of life?
I have a feeling that if Jesus were to have this conversation today, he might say something like this:
You go to meetings, write sermons, plan potlucks, lead small groups, take classes, attend services, and mentor countless young people…these things are all important, but can’t you see that I am right here? Don’t be so blinded by the tasks of following me that you fail to see that I am right here, waiting while you are too busy to stop and receive my gift of love.
In this season of my life, God has called me to be a full-time student in biblical studies. This is an exciting, life-giving, and joyful experience for me, but I do find that I often “search the scriptures” and fail to see Jesus right in front of me. Sometimes we lead others in worship but fail to worship God. Sometimes we lead Bible studies but fail to read the Bible for our own transformation. Sometimes we find ourselves so busy following God’s call that we forget to take time to prayerfully discern God’s call. Sometimes, like the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day, we settle for knowing about God and miss out on truly knowing this One who has come to give us life.
So, in the midst of our many responsibilities as we follow God’s call and serve God’s people, what are some ways that we can be intentional about recognizing and embracing Christ’s presence in our lives? I have found these three habits to be particularly life-giving:
1. Spend time with God
We hear this (and say this) constantly, but it’s time to implement it! It is especially important for those of us in ministry to make time for God outside of our other ministry obligations. There is something different (and powerful!) about time spent reading the Bible devotionally rather than sermon, small group, or class preparation. This is one way we can act on Christ’s call to come to him to rest and receive the gift of life!
2. Talk about your journey with trusted friends
Find friends, mentors, and accountability partners with whom to share the journey. Be open about your struggles, give and receive encouragement, and uphold one another in prayer. In many ways, these people are Christ’s tangible presence in our lives.
3. Use the gifts God has given you to seek God
I love writing, so journaling and blogging have been powerful tools for me to seek God. Think about the gifts God has given you and be creative! Do you love to cook? Paint? Bike? Allow God to transform your passions and gifts into prayerful practices.
As we follow God’s call, may we faithfully complete the tasks before us and be ever open to the God whom we serve. May we never settle for simply knowing about God, but strive to truly know God and embrace God’s gift of life.