God’s Part, Our Part
by Linda Ruby
Happy Summer. We have finally completed one week of summer, something many of us have been anticipating for months. There are so many things to think about in our families with the completion of school schedules, graduations, some of us retire, others of us wish we could retire.
It feels good not to have to worry about getting the kids off to school, taking a break, planning summer vacations, whatever summer includes for our families. But I think all of us would admit, as we move into the summer months, the tendency is to slow down. Even the church calendar (liturgical) seems to slow down. We have moved in lightning speed, through Easter, the Ascension of Christ and Pentecost. And now we are in Ordinary time. But does this time have to be so “ordinary”? Perhaps now we have time to look at ourselves and evaluate our priorities. Have we completed the work Jesus has given us to do? Or are there things in our personal lives we have “put on the shelf” to handle at a later time, or are there situations or issues, which continue to be challenges for everyone?
When we take time to read the gospels, we see that Jesus worked hard. He could not get “away” for a summer break. Scripture says that even at night, after sunset, people were bringing others to him to be healed and set free. You know the stories of Jesus having to get on a boat so he would have room to minister. But Jesus always had time for people. He walked way out of his way to spend hours with the woman at the well or He would walk for hours to call his friend Lazarus from the tomb. His life was hectic but was balanced with purpose and a quiet peace of dealing with pain and disbelief of those he hung around with. But in three short years he had completed the work His Father had sent him to do. His last words on the cross were “it is finished.” What was the secret of Jesus’s ministry? What can we learn as we observe Jesus’s hectic life? Jesus had to decide the difference between the urgent things in his life and fulfilling the purpose for his coming in the first place. For God so loved, that He gave His only Son. God sent Jesus so that we would know how much God loves us. Most of us in this room have experienced God’s gift of love and new life.
There are so many people “out there” who need His love and freedom. There are so many people who believe their habits and addictions will bring happiness. There are many who believe their self-sufficiency is the way to live instead of understanding independence from the rule of God only brings heartache and pain. Jesus said He is the Way, the Truth and the Life and when we know the “Truth and the truth will set people free.” This is truly good news.
Jesus was born to die, to give his life for each person, to set the captives free, to display the acceptance of everyone, no matter where they live, or even what country they reside. Knowing this about Jesus is just too important, too crucial especially when we see the news every night. We just cannot keep Jesus to ourselves.
But does this mean we run in ten different directions at the same time, without plan or timing? Of course not. If we look at Jesus and his life, we see there was always perfect timing. He waited to hear from His Father before moving ahead. By waiting for instruction, Jesus was freed from the tyranny of the urgent. He had a sense of direction, he had a steady pace and at the end of his life, he had completed the work God had assigned him to do.
But how about us? If Jesus completed the work he was sent to do, what should our response be? There is so much work to do outside these walls, but how do we do our part?
1 Corinthians 3:9 says we are “co-workers in God’s Service.” Here in this building, it is easy for us to believe. But, for the rest of the world, in Starbucks, in Giant Eagle, at work, in the school next door, we, as Christ followers are a minority.
I realize some of us are uncomfortable sharing the gospel with others; some of us are fearful of what God may ask us to do. Some of us are young in our faith and think we do not know enough to share, while others of us are old enough to say, let the younger people do it, I have had my time of service. But I believe we can all become confident workers in his kingdom. Let me share a story.
Larry, my husband is a golfer. And every year, while we are at New Wilmington Mission Conference, there is a tournament. It is called a golf scramble. Four people on each team golf 18 holes, but for each hole, they take the best ball of all four and the winning team is the one who has the best score for each of the holes. In other words, 3 people can ride along and get the credit of someone else, simply by being on his team. And there is something else that happens during the game. All the people who are golfing are at different stages of learning golf. They do not have to be perfect golfers. Some of the people, who golf, are novices. They have only been out a few times, while others are “scratch golfers” (no handicap). So throughout the tournament, the novices are learning about golf as they play. I believe we can use this as a metaphor of what happens when we are on Jesus’s team. Jesus acknowledges, by the presence of His Spirit, that each one of us is on His team every day of the week. But the grace Jesus displays is that we as believers can all walk with Him at different speeds, with different gifting’s and different talents. We are all growing because of the work God has accomplished for each one of us. Hopefully our faith walk is different today than it was a week ago, a month ago or last year. Why? Because Jesus has made it possible for us to progress in our faith walk, we do not stay as babes on milk, but we grow to become a priesthood of believers.
Today’s first scripture confirms this. Philippians 2: 12, 13 talks about this: 12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
God is working in us to fulfill his good purpose. And we find pleasure and significance in our lives, by aligning ourselves with the purposes of Jesus Christ. And when we go to work every day, have a lot of pressures and whatever else in our lives, or come here on Sundays, sometimes it is hard to see the forest for the trees. Sometimes we need to see above the trees to understand what God is already doing and how we fit in. Many of us think the great commission is only for missionaries. We do not have to go half way around the world, maybe just down the block. But we do not work alone. Scripture says we are temples of God and have within us the Holy Spirit. Let me explain one of the feasts the Jews celebrated yearly before I read the other scripture for the day:
There was a feast which took place every year that the Jews enjoyed celebrating. It was called the Feast of Tabernacles When the Jewish people were in the wilderness (OT) they began to complain about God’s provision, even though they had the presence of God represented by the cloud during the day and the fire at night. But God got tired of their complaints about the need for water. God told Moses to strike the rock. When he did, God provided water. The people were always provided protection and shelter by God. So God commanded the people to remember his provision yearly with the feast of tabernacles and by building temporary “shelters” to live in for a week. The priest at the temple would pour water out every day on the dry ground to symbolize the water given to the Israelites. But the last day, there would be pillars of light glowing in the temple and the priest would pour 7 times the water in front of the holy of holies, and it was enough to pour down the steps of the temple. This was the day in which Jesus came to the temple. John: 7:37-39 says:
37 On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38 and let the one who believes in me drink. Asthe scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Jesus was quoting Isaiah and the Psalms where it equates water with the Holy Spirit. Psalm 46:4 says the Spirit flows into us, the dwelling places of God. When we accept Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to reside in our hearts and as we reach out to others it is the Holy Spirit who works through us. The Holy Spirit is a promise, a guarantee, a down payment made by God that someday Jesus will return. But until then, the Holy Spirit desires to flows as living waters. He is our Comforter, our Advocate; He is our strength, our courage.
He is Immanuel to be with us every day and the Holy Spirit becomes our spiritual GPS. Many of us have a GPS on our smart phone or we may have a Garmin. But we have to turn it on in order for it to work. We have to connect the GPS with the satellite. God has given to each one of us a GPS, an inner voice to navigate through our lives. (The Holy Spirit) But we have to listen and set the right destination. We might have to replace our agenda for God’s agenda. God is our heavenly satellite Who sends His LOVE AND HOPE AND WHATEVER WE NEED, but in order to receive whatever we need, we need to connect by taking time to spend with Him. That’s the reason for spending time with our Lord in bible reading and prayer. Remember, the stronger the satellite connection, the stronger the signal. And when we receive directions, we cannot ignore what the GPS may be telling us. Even when we hear the words, “recalculating” from our spiritual GPS, we have the confidence that when we make the wrong turns, God is always a God of second chances.
God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit has already accomplished his work, His purpose and will always do His part in our lives. God has a dream and a purpose for each one of us as God works within us to accomplish our part for the kingdom of God. Each one of us has a role to play in His kingdom. But remember, we are not working alone. His Spirit is always available to guide us. When we are continuously in touch with Him, we learn to do “our part”. Nothing substitutes for knowing that on this day, this hour, in this place, we are doing the will of our Heavenly Father. There will be no greater joy than being certain we have completed the work God has given us to do.
So what have you planned for the summer? I am not suggesting every moment be filled with “working for the Lord.” But this time does not have to be just “ordinary”. It may become “extraordinary.” Because perhaps during the quiet moments of the summer, you may be asking our Lord, what’s next?