Yesterday I attended a local clergy group meeting. This particular clergy group is heavily involved in civic affairs, social justice issues and preaching. I like it. Today was an unusually powerful session. We heard a very thought provoking lecture on the need for the “Church” to evolve – to reach the people who are not the typical, “church people,” we had a visit from the Mayor who is running for re-election, we heard from various other leaders in the community and then we heard a sermon.
The pastor said a lot of things in the message that evoked soul searching, but one segment, in particular spoke to my spirit. Quoting Eugene Peterson’s The Message paraphrase of the Bible, I Corinthians 4: 9a, he stated,
“It seems to me that God has put us who bear his Message on stage in a theater in which no one wants to buy a ticket.”
He then went on to talk about Jesus’ prayer in John 17 where he says to the Father in prayer, “I have finished the assignment, the work you have given me to do…” John 17: 4 in the Message Bible states,
“I glorified you on earth by completing down to the last detail what you assigned me to do.”
The pastor then went on to share an experience he had in seminary with a professor known for being tough on grading papers. The pastor talked about his research, careful wording, long hours and hard work he put into the assignment. He shared how good he felt upon turning it in because he’d worked so hard. However, to his surprise and dismay, when he received the paper, in the professor’s own handwriting the comments read…
“Great research, creative thinking, hard work. However, you did not do the assignment that was given – F (encircled with red ink!)”The sanctuary erupted because every preacher in the house could see where he was going! No matter how well you do what you do, no matter how many applause you get, no matter how hard you work, no matter how many think (including yourself!) that you are doing a great job, the question remains: are you doing what God assigned you to do?
So often we get caught up in what others think, what the world defines as success, what we perceive to be greatness. In the final analysis, none of those things matter. What matters is did we finish the assignment we were given. It’s so easy to veer off the course of what God has spoken for us to do or not to do in order to grow membership, gain notoriety, or just simply to get folks to “buy tickets.” When we do that, we are most likely comparing ourselves to others.
Avoid trying to do someone else’s assignment. Did the Lord assign you to 500 members? Praise the Lord. Serve them with gladness and faithfulness. Did the Lord assign you to 10,000 members? Praise the Lord. Serve them with gladness and faithfulness. Did the Lord assign you to 25 members? Amen. Serve them with gladness and faithfulness! Don’t allow what the world (and even those well meaning “saints”) says to cause you to neglect your assignment, trying to mimic someone else, duplicate someone else, envy someone else, compare yourself to someone else. Know that God’s grading techniques are very different from that of human forms of scrutiny.
No matter what the Lord has assigned us to do, may we be found faithful, diligently serving, determined to complete our assignments with excellence!
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Until next Wednesday
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,