Be Active Christians

Josh recently did an article on prayer, which was well received. This article follows on from this. Josh correctly noted that prayer is essential; I think any Christian can agree with this. However, not all of us are prayer warriors, and we all have a different role to play in the church (Acts 6:2-4). Secondly, praying is all well and good, but you need to be active. This is what this article is all about; being an active Christian, i.e. faith without works is dead!

Active

My church moto, or verse for the year comes from 1 Peter 4 verses 10-11. It reads:

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

I think these are such powerful verses that need to be in the heart of every believer. We can pray, yes, but then we need to follow it up with action. There is always a danger of praying, doing nothing, and then moaning why nothing has happened. We also should never leave service to others, because we are ALL called to serve — woman, man, adult, teenager — if you are a believer then you should be using the gifts GIVEN to you to give grace to others. It is such a vital thing to do, but the church, in general, fails at it so much. We are all caught up in the world, or we are too shy, or we are self-doubting.

The New Living Translation makes verse 10 more understandable when it says “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another”. God has given us these gifts that we have, and we all unique, no one Christian is better than another, each gift is from God and therefore is so valuable and precious. We are then to use these gifts to serve, to be active, whether that is in our church, leading a service, welcoming people, doing teas and coffees, or collecting hymn books after a service, the list goes on. I am sure your church has many needs, why not see if you can fill some of those needs.

I do feel that in many churches, it has become a one man band, that the role of pastor has been perverted and misused. A pastor is not the church leader, and he certainly shouldn’t be doing everything in the church. Rather a church is a community; it needs to rely on the people, on the congregation, on its members to function properly. A church is a community where believers come together to worship and serve Christ; it is more than a service, and it is more than a sermon, it is the people, so look to serve and help, do not leave it to one person!

By being active, by serving others as though it were Christ himself, by being active in our own community, we give glory to God, who has entrusted us with these gifts and responsibilities to be his stewards and servants here on earth. God has given all to us, He has given us his grace, surely we should give what we can to people around us. This also is not just about Christians, this is about the communities in which our churches are based. It is about those whom we come into contact daily. We may pray, but do we shine? Are we just saying prayers to show off? Are we being active Christians, or are we being academic Christians? It is great to know more of God, but that isn’t just limited to reading the Bible, by living out the Bible, so to we learn.

We often take evangelism as preaching, and that just isn’t the case. Just by living out our faith is a great testament, whether it’s the small things, helping your neighbours in your road, setting up a free drop-in café in your building, giving out water when the temperature rises or help families who are in crises, any of things are us serving our local community. It is us being hospitable; it is us living out the gospel. Preaching has its place, but we are certainly not all preachers, and have all our gifts that we can use in just helping our local community.

Divine balance

As everything with this blog, we always urge a balance. Just being ‘busy’ for the sake of it is pointless; just to make us feel like we’re doing something to dumb down our consciences, so to speak. It’s important to get this right. Mary and Martha — Martha was the one running around ‘active’, whereas Mary just sat under the word. When we are being active Christians, the main purpose is to Glorify God, and to follow what he says, and that is to serve.

We need to of course, always pray that God shows us his will and his path for us. But do not be afraid to step out in faith and become an active Christian. Stop leaving it all to other people stop putting other things before your service to the church. The Church is an amazing fellowship, and it is a community of believers, let us break down the old image of the church, of a building, of a sermon and make it what it is meant to be, a community of believers, meeting together, serving one another, and the Lord.

One little thing that we can use to remember this (although we shouldn’t have to be reminded!) is use the acrostic PAL. May we be praying Christians, may we be active Christians, may we be loving Christians and be proper PALs to the lost!

P — Pray

A – Act

L – Love

Youthful Wisdom

So you have probably seen this title and maybe freaked out a little. Here we go again, the youth thinking they know it all.   Hopefully by reading on, you will find that I think nothing of the sort, however, I also don’t think we are plain dumb either.

Youth Arise!

Let’s consider the Methodist revival really quickly. George Whitfield was twenty-six when he became a preacher and John Wesley was just eighteen. These two men, along with many others were young adults when they started in ministry, and these two arguably saw one of the greatest revivals ever! Later, Charles Spurgeon became the pastor of the biggest Baptist church in London aged nineteen, the prophet Jeremiah was a little squirt when he became God’s mouthpiece, and David was a shepherd boy when he fought Goliath. Yet God used the youth to help people see the light! Now hopefully you will see where I am going with this article.

I often hear the argument that young people need to listen to their elders and listen to their wisdom. Now I do not dispute that the more mature of Christians have wisdom that they must share and we as youth must listen. However, at the same time, I think that it’s dangerous to just go along with something because ‘so-and-so’ says to.

If the Wesley’s and the Whitfield’s’ had done the same then it could be argued that the revival may never have happened. Of course God is in control and He may have used someone else to accomplish the same aim. Young people have ideas, we can be enthusiastic, we can be passionate and we can be energetic. This is great and should be encouraged, not frowned upon!

The Wesley’s challenged the old views from the Church of England. They were enthusiastic, they travelled the country, they wrote hymns, they preached the word, and they cared for the poor. In many ways, they went away from what was expected and did what youthful wisdom does, they followed their hearts and were led to places God wanted them.

Let’s look at Jeremiah again, what did God say to him? It’s worth quoting in full:

“The word of the Lord came to me, saying,

 ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    before you were born I set you apart;
    I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’

‘Alas, Sovereign Lord,’ I said, ‘I do not know how to speak; I am too young.’

But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, “I am too young.” You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.’” (Jeremiah 1:4-10).

The point of this short article is this: Do not let your youthful energy and vigour go to waste, do not let your ideas go unheard! Share them, act on them, be passionate about them. Being young does not make you stupid, in fact you bring a fresh approach to things that haven’t been discussed for years. Challenge the older people in your congregations, don’t cower away. We are like Lions if we are in Christ.

My favourite biblical verse on this is 1 Timothy 4:12:

“Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.”

‘Health warning’

Now, so far it sounds as though I am saying youth beats everything else. That would be foolish to say the least. Saints before us have been through the same experiences of youthful eagerness. It is up to them to guide us, to help us; and down to us to go to them. Older folk, I urge you to encourage young Christians in their ideas and talents; guide them like Christ guides all of us through life, be there and who knows what God can do?

Remember, do not shy away from listening to people, and taking their advice, but remember to pray and seek guidance from God. Before acting on any idea, pray, ask that God shows you if it is the right thing to do, and then pray that he uses it for his Glory. Worship him before you start anything, and never think you are alone. God is with us, and he will use us if he wants. Do not let people say that you are young deter you from doing God’s will. Time and time again, God has proved He will use the youth to shame the older generations, ‘out of the lips of babes, you have ordained praise.’ Time and Time again, God has used the young to shine his light.

Always remember Paul’s words, on our relationships with our brothers and sisters, to the young pastor Timothy:

“Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” (1 Timothy 5:1-2).

So brothers and sisters, be encouraged, and may God use every single one of us. Now if you don’t mind I’m going to write some more songs, and think and pray on how we handle Church unity.

Discerning God’s Will: When decisions need to be made…

Before you read the rest of this, let me just tell you a bit about myself. I am a final year student studying to be teacher. I have approximately 5 weeks left before I have finished uni for good (not that I am counting of course!) I currently do not have a job lined up or a house organised for next year. With the end of uni looking, things are getting pretty serious, particularly on the job front.

Unsurprisingly, I have recently been thinking a lot about what God’s will is for my life and how I can find guidance. Something to do with the fact that within the next couple of months, I need to have got myself a job, figured out where I am going to be living, and basically have figured out what I want to do with my life! Or at least that is how it feels at the moment. Like I need to sort out the rest of my life right now, because if I don’t, I’m not really sure I’ll ever get it sorted. There just seem to be a lot of major life decisions that need to be made at the moment, and I really want to know what God’s will is for me in all of this. Where does he want me to work? Where does he want me to live? Is teaching really what he wants me to be doing for the rest of my life? What should I do over the summer?  As you can see, loads of huge decisions to be made!

The aim of this post, then, is to try and figure out how, as Christians, we should make these important decisions.

Overwhelmed?!

When I look at all of the things that I need to do, it can get quite overwhelming. There is just so much to sort out, but the truth is that I don’t need a comprehensive life plan figured out right now. I don’t actually need to know whether teaching is going to be a permanent thing for me or not. I don’t need to have my life all mapped out, and the chances are that, if I did, it would all get turned upside down anyway! God is the one who has a plan for my life. We are told in Proverbs to ‘trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.’ (Proverbs 3 v 5-6) Basically it means that I don’t need to have it all figured out. My life is in God’s hands and he will guide me every step of the way. That is definitely an encouraging note to start on.

It is also a challenge for me, because I am a planner. If I have an exam coming up, you can guarantee that I will have a colour coded revision schedule. If I have a placement coming up, there will be a meal plan, time plan, any other kind of plan you can imagine.  Basically, I like things to all be planned out. So I’m still learning to accept that life doesn’t work like that. Walking with God seems to be more about placing our trust in him each day and seeking his guidance. Trusting that whatever is going on around us, good or bad, is a part of God’s plan.

What I don’t think this all means, however, is that we should never make any plans, or never make any decisions! In Psalm 32 v 8 we read that God will ‘instruct you and teach you in the way you should go’ but I don’t think that means we never have to actually engage our mind and make decisions. One of the ways that God guides and teaches us is through his word, which means engaging with the Bible and trying to make sense of what it says to us. There are going to be times when we have to make decisions. So as much as I know that I don’t need to have it all figured out now, I shouldn’t just sit around waiting for a job to be handed to me on a plate! We do have a part to play.

What is God’s will for me?

So how do I, or any of us, work out what God’s will is for us? The more I read the Bible and see how God’s will was revealed in it, the more I wonder if we spend too much time trying to work this out. We imagine that there is only one specific path that we have to take. I’ve been tempted to think that there is only one right option, whether that is looking for a job, some sort of missionary opportunity or even a holiday! I admit that I’m pretty bad at making decisions anyway. I tend to feel the need to be absolutely certain about something before making a decision. When it comes to spiritual matters or bigger life issues, I worry that I might possibly ‘wreck’ God’s plans for my life. Even whilst writing this, I see how stupid it sounds! If we could ruin God’s plans by making the ‘wrong’ decision, then God wouldn’t be God. We need to be reminded that God will always work out his plans.

So maybe I should worry less about working out what the best decision would be and just get on and make a decision! Obviously we need to be careful but if we spend so much time worrying about what to do, we end up not doing anything. We are not on our own when trying to work these things out either. God has given us his word to guide us. Again, that doesn’t mean that if I open my Bible, I will find out exactly which school I should be working in and the address of my new flat!

The Bible gives us general principles to work with. In Micah 6 v 8, we read that ‘He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?’ 2 Corinthians 5 v 9 tells us that ‘we make it our aim, whether present or absent to be well pleasing to him.’ In Matthew 28 v 19 we are commanded to ‘go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.’ In those three verses, we get some idea of how we should live. Living for God and obeying him should be our priority in any decision making. So if any decision we make goes against God’s commandments, it is a wrong decision. If the decision seems to be in line with God’s will, as revealed in the Bible, then it can at least be considered a possible option. Then I think we are allowed to be practical. Take the example of looking for a job. Say I have three schools lined up that I am interested in. Teaching in any of these would not be going against the Bible, so I am OK there. Do I then wait for some divine revelation to make it clear which of the three is ‘right’? Not necessarily; God has given us the ability to think and to reason. So if I go into a school, like the ethos and feel supported there, then I can choose to apply there. Throughout the process there should be prayer that we would know which route is best for us, and God will guide us. Though sometimes it may seem to be an unconventional route.

I don’t think working out what God’s will should be some weird sort of mystical experience. We shouldn’t necessarily expect a flash of light, a vision or a spoken word but I do believe that sometimes we will be aware of God’s guiding- that might be something as simple as a sense of peace about a certain decision, or a constant nagging thought. I was definitely aware of God’s guidance during my Gap year. I knew that I wanted to spend some time serving the Lord in mission work of some sort before heading to university. An opportunity came up to go out to Peru. It wasn’t something I really felt I wanted to do at first, but I couldn’t get it out of my head. First one person would mention this team to Peru that they had heard about, then another! Once I had decided to go, I really did feel a sense of peace that this had been the right decision and it was truly a blessed time. Looking back, I don’t know why I took so long to figure this out!

Concluding thoughts

So there we are; just a few rambling thoughts about guidance. It is never going to be an easy issue I don’t think, because God’s will isn’t always clear to us. But we have to act as best as we can in accordance with what God has chosen to reveal to us in his word, rather than getting bogged down trying to discover the full plan that God has not chosen to reveal to us.

“Show me your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; on you I wait all the day.” (Psalm 25 v 4-5)