Maturity and Flourishing / Ordinary Life
Faithfulness, Not Results
“We are called to a selfless stewardship of all callings, cultures, and creation in a manner that is creative, life affirming, and God honoring,” David John Seel writes in “Building Wells in a Spiritual Desert.” “God’s real presence in our lives is to be translated into faithful presence within our given sphere of influence. The proof of doing it correctly is that nonbelievers see our public actions as an indispensable benefit to human and social flourishing.”
Our faithfulness as Christians as we live out our lives in some corner of reality becomes kingdom work that demonstrates the reality of grace and a reason for hope. No corner is too small, because God’s grace is meant to penetrate and transform all of life as the Christmas carol puts it, “far as the curse is found.” When Jesus used a boy’s small meal to feed a multitude he was living out a parable we must carry in our heart. Jesus was demonstrating that a small life, given freely was not merely acceptable to God but in his hands could do more than we could possibly imagine.
Christian faithfulness does not consist of elaborate programs but in ordinary lives. It does not require esoteric skills but a willingness to love in word and deed. Listening and asking honest questions, providing warm, simple hospitality, being willing to say, “I don’t know,” seeking justice even at cost, and treating every person with the dignity, care and respect they deserve as created in God’s likeness regardless of their lifestyle, values and ideas—such things speak love even to cynics.
As we pursue our calling in the work of our vocation Christians do have an added task that is not shared by our secular neighbors. They can if they want merely accept the standards of the world to measure how they pursue their work. We, however, believe that Christianity speaks intelligently and creatively into every aspect and sphere of life and reality, so we will want to nurture a distinctly biblical perspective on both our work and our rest. And though the process can involve some hard thinking and careful study, it is life giving because work in a broken world tends to slide into toil when not permeated with grace.
And here is what might be the best news of all: we don’t have to worry about results, just being faithful.
In our world there is tremendous pressure to accomplish something, to change the world, to make a difference. And I do believe that the gospel works to change lives and cultures, that grace in a broken world is redemptive and transformative. But the transformation is God’s work and responsibility, while his call to me is to be faithful in the ordinary of my life and calling. He may allow me to catch a glimpse of the transformation he is working, but then again he may not. He certainly is not obligated to do so, and it could feed my hubris that really should not be fed, ever, and it is not humility that causes me to say that. So, I may not see evidence of change but that is what is referred to as the walk of faith—living not because we can see the result but because we believe the promises of God in Christ.
I sometimes picture in my imagination a host of believers, each living in some small corner of reality. Nothing spectacular happens. There is little noise and no fanfare, fireworks or headlines. It’s believers following Christ into the world, refusing to remain isolated from non-Christians in a gated—virtual or real—Christian ghetto. Believers faithfully following the rhythms of work and rest embedded in creation, each living “a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified (1 Timothy 2:2). We may feel unnoticed at times, but that is an illusion spawned in hell. As Aretha Franklin sang on A Woman Falling Out of Love (2011), “His eye is on the sparrow / And I know He watches me.” And unseen by us but as real as the most mundane object in a kitchen drawer God is at work, extending here, deepening there, weaving together all that is done to his glory into a tapestry of grace that beats back the fall, redeems lives, and allows the light of God’s kingdom to shine in the darkness.