There is much to be learned from animals, and I often find myself humbled by the lessons they inadvertently teach me. Growing up with pets and living most of my life around animals, I've learned much about innocence, dependency, responsibility, love and friendship. Today I want to share several things that my dogs have taught me about God and my relationship with Him.
First, let's have an introduction.
Together these two make quite the duo and are one of my very favorite things in the world. They absolutely love peanut butter and have a knack for always knowing when my mom is cutting up chicken in the kitchen. They are fun to be around and, as I've discovered through the years, full of love and lessons about my relationship with God.
I. Where You go I'll go, where You stay I'll stay.
'Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.'
There are two specific interactions that happen between me and my dogs that remind me of the desire we should have to be close to the Lord:
Scooter: Whenever I leave the room for too long, Scooter goes on a house-wide search to find me, checking through every open door to discover where I might be. He is relentless in his search and doesn't give up until he finds me. He loves to be with me and can't stand to not be in the room together.
Walker: When it's time to go to sleep, Walker always curls up pressed against my stomach. Every single night. It absolutely melts my heart. If I move and create empty space between us, Walker will get up and move to wherever I have gone, once again nuzzling up against me in order to go to sleep.
These actions by my dogs convicted me: I should have the same — if not greater — desire to be near God as my dogs have to be near me. To be super honest, I don't currently have that desire, but Scooter and Walker have shown me what it looks like. There is absolutely no shame in praying, "God, help me want to want You more." On the contrary, it's actually one of my favorite prayers.
So what does it look like to have that sort of desire for closeness with the Lord?
As my pups have taught me, it's looking for God when you can't find Him or when you feel like He's not present (because He always is present — He'll never leave us). Ask Him to show you where He is in your current situation. Or it's going where He goes and moving when He moves for the sake of staying close to Him.
II. Trusting that God Will Do What He says He will Do.
Sometimes the three of us are hanging out downstairs and I have to grab something from upstairs. In light of the previous anecdotes, one might expect my dogs to follow me up the stairs and then back down again, which is exactly what they do unless I tell them to stay put and that I'll come back. Even then, I usually have to hurry on my errand because if I take too long they'll come searching for me. That means that I will have to do exactly what I said I would do — return — and they have to trust that I will.
I consider what Scooter might be thinking in those moments, and this is what I imagine:
She's leaving the room…but she put her hand up. I think that means that I need to stay here. But she's leaving but she also told me to stay here but I just want to be near her.
When I come back into the room, all of the seemingly contradicting things going on in Scooter's conflicted mind are suddenly true: I did leave the room, I did tell him to stay and I did come back. He gets to be near me once again. I did all that for his sake, to spare him the use of his arthritis-prone hips and to prevent unnecessary energy expenditure.
But he doesn't know that. If I could explain it to him I would. He just can't understand.
Maybe God is like that with us sometimes because, in the same way, I have to trust that the Lord is exactly who He says He is and doing exactly what He said He would do, even if it doesn’t make sense in the moment, even if it seems to contradict other things that He has said, even if I don't understand why. I also have to trust, though, that in an instant it will all come to fruition when He says so.
Maybe I’ll never understand why things happen the way they do, but that’s not the point. Once I come back into the room, Scooter is no longer conflicted or wondering why I left in the first place; he’s just excited that I’ve returned.
III. I am Loved Just because I Exist.
And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.' Matthew 3:17
I love my dogs so much just for being the way they are. Before they have done anything — before they've done something cute or silly or sweet — I love them. I feel like there are no words to adequately represent just how much I love them, and I know there is no way to communicate that to them (I've also heard this is what parenthood is like, ha). I can only do the best I can: talking to them, giving them food and toys, letting them sleep in my bed, showering them with affection and so on.
This is only a glimpse of how much our Father loves us: so much that we cannot fully understand, so much that He adorns us — His beloved children — with gifts, intimate moments and reminders of His love in an attempt to demonstrate the love He has for us. The other side of this, too, is that He loves us just for who we are, before we've done any faithful (or unfaithful) thing, before we've told anybody about Him, before we've read our Bible. He loves us exactly the way He created us. In Matthew 3:17 God said about Jesus, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." This was BEFORE Jesus's ministry had started, before he began preaching in temple courts and revealing the Kingdom of Heaven to the earth. This is SO important to internalize, too, because it will quite literally change the way we live, the outlook we have on God, the way we love others and the way we love ourselves. Ask God to show you what He loves about you. Ask God to help you remember that He loves you just for being.
God loved Jesus just as He was. I love my dogs just as they are. God loves us just as we are.
IV. Trusting that God is a Good Father.
Whenever I head towards the kitchen there's a pretty high chance that I'll hear the sound of paws following suit. Like many dogs, mine hang around the kitchen in hopes of a morsel of food falling to the ground that they can quickly consume. Or maybe, if they're lucky, they'll receive a bite of human food just for being around and being cute (like I said above…showering them with affection and treats and such).
When I grab chocolate, grapes, raisins or something else that could harm a dog, they still beg for a bite. They don't know that these foods are incredibly toxic to them and could potentially lead to death. They don't know that I love them too much to give them something that's bad from them. From their perspective, I'm just withholding something from them that they want. The reality is, though, that I'm being a good dog owner: I'm keeping them safe and healthy. I'm not allowing them to consume something that is harmful to them.
God does the same thing with us. Things that we desire may be withheld from us simply because they would not be good for us, and the Lord loves us too much to allow us to have something that's bad for us. It's one of the things that make Him such a good Father. Now, we have the freedom to go crazy and do whatever we want whenever we'd like, but it would be wholly counterproductive for us to do so and could potentially end up causing more damage than good. There are real, practical implications to our actions, after all.
Here's an example. At the start of my last week in Botswana I grew incredibly nervous and anxious. I knew that I would soon be on a flight home, and I knew that I was far from ready to say goodbye to the bush. I was greatly tempted to stay, to miss my flight and to not go home. What I would do after, I had no idea. Part of me was hoping that God would show up and tell me to stay (then I could blame that bad decision on Him instead of taking responsibility for it, yikes). I also knew, however, that the decision to stay would practically alter the trajectory of my life: it would mean flaking on an internship at the Georgia Aquarium, not fulfilling academic requirements for my full-ride at UNC Charlotte and driving a wedge of distrust between myself and those who were closest to me. All in all, it wouldn't have been great. Even though that's what I thought I wanted in the moment, lack of support from God actually helped keep me faithful and grounded.
If you ever find yourself in a place in which you don't understand why you're not receiving something from the Lord, try considering the possibility that it wouldn't be healthy for you. Go as far as asking the Lord to bring up ways that it wouldn't be healthy for you and for your growth in discipleship.
V. Treasuring Time with God.
If it's not evident by now, I love my dogs. Just as much as they love being around me, I love being around them. Even as I type, I'm warmed knowing that they are lying on the floor behind me. Though this is a very daily interaction, I don't treasure it any less. I actually look forward to the times that we all just sit in the same room just because we like being around each other. There are times, however, when I have more intimate moments with each of my dogs. Though he usually sprawls out on his side of the bed, Scooter occasionally snuggles as close as he can to me. In that moment I usually stop whatever I'm doing for the sake of soaking up and cherishing every moment with him.
Though these intimate encounters happen less frequently, they don't mean any more to me than the daily interactions I have with my dogs. I simply appreciate them differently. In the same way, we should stray from sitting around waiting for big life-changing encounters with the Lord and grow more in an appreciation of our everyday interactions with Him. Intimate encounters are necessary and good and essential to our growth in relationship with Him, but they don't happen all the time. We shouldn't try to expect them or force them or chase a feeling. The daily moments we spend with God are just as important and just as necessary and good and essential.
Daily moments with God take more intentionality on our part. It allows us to be more aware of His presence in every moment of every day. It helps us grow with Him. I'm trying to grow in this, myself. It's so easy for me to get caught up in school work, research projects, working out and so many other things that I miss opportunities to spend little moments with God. If you don't know what little moments with God look like for you, take some time to ask Him now. I just did, and I felt like something that could be helpful in increasing my awareness of His presence on a daily basis in the midst of everything I'm doing is to dedicate all that I do to Him with a quick prayer: "God, I dedicate this to you." Before school work, applications, research, writing, photography, work, whatever, I am going to try to start it with "God, I dedicate this to you."
I am so humbled by the things that my dogs have taught me about being a follower of Jesus and a child of God. They have made relevant topics that had yet to click with me. I'm in awe of God's desire to speak through us in so many different ways, including loved ones and our passions. This is also a reminder to not put God and the ways He speaks to us in a box. Writing this presented such conviction for me about ways that I've not been trusting the Lord fully and not treasuring daily time spent with Him and so many other things. I hope it has spoken to you in a similar way.
As always, feel free to share your thoughts and questions below. :)
But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.
This is by far my favorite passage in Scripture. It not only suggests an innate awareness of God in the essences of every living creature but also incentivizes us as believers to make a greater priority the issue of conservation. The church, at least in my experience, has not demonstrated much support as it pertains to the preservation of the natural world and to wildlife conservation (somebody PLEASE correct me if I'm wrong — it would be quite encouraging). For whatever reason that may be, my hope is that followers of Christ can grow to love and appreciate nature, especially in light of Job 12:7-10. Perhaps if we approached the issue with an understanding that we can learn things about God through nature we would cherish our earth more.
So I beg the question: how can we know God better through the natural world?
1. Authors of the Bible often use elements of nature to depict and describe God.
Many attributes of God are described in Scripture using references to nature:
These examples are just a handful of the passages in Scripture that utilize our understanding of nature to help us understand God. There are plenty more examples. If you've ever heard the roaring of a violent wind or experienced the intimidating presence of a lion or seen the strength of deeply rooted trees, you have had a taste of what God is like. Nature sheds light on unfathomable traits of God.
2. Learning about the natural world helps us love God with all our minds.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’"
According to John Ortberg in his book Who Is This Man?, "To love God with your mind begins with being curious about God." He goes on to say, operating from the understanding that God created everything, "Therefore, anytime we learn something that's true, anytime we learned about how creation works or even about math or logic, we are actually thinking God's thoughts." He even suggests that the opposition to science is one of the most visible sins of the church. My jaw dropped when I read this. As someone who has been deeply passionate about animals and wildlife conservation since I was a kid, I have longed to see the convergence of science and faith in the church. Granted, I rarely do, and this was the first time that I felt someone had spoken out in this way about the church and its relationship with science. I was both amazed and comforted.
To know that the pursuit of science — of understanding the world around us — can be seen as a method of discipleship was overjoying and encouraging to me. Learning how ecosystems function, discovering the intricacy of every interconnected biotic and abiotic factor in the world, understanding the behavior of animals in their proper contexts — all of these things help us love God with all our minds. The deeper we press in our relationship with God as individuals, the more He will reveal to us about Himself. And just like our universe, there is no end to what can be known and learned about God.
3. We come to know a creator by their creation.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Hey, Paul said it, not me. Here's the bottom line: nature is a reality by which we know everything around us, and there are invisible qualities of God that are clearly reflected in it. This idea makes logical sense: nature was created by God and thus is a way by which we can know and understand Him, His character and His thoughts. In what ways are His eternal power and divine nature revealed, though? I'll give you a few examples.
In the same way that nature can be both relentlessly unforgiving and serenely enlivening can God be characterized by righteous wrath and unrelenting love. Or consider light, which is both a wave and a particle. This oxymoronic quality of God can be better understood by looking at nature, and that is only one of the things that we come to learn about God.
As another example, take natural disasters like hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, etc. They have oft been considered with negative connotations, which is understandable. They have very disastrous, real consequences that deeply affect people's lives. I have always been enamored by and drawn to them (I KNOW I'm not the only person who can say this). My friend pressed me to think about why I was so drawn to them, and this is what I concluded: they are pure power. Not arbitrary power that people are convinced they have because they hold "such and such" title. There is nothing we can do to stop natural disasters; we can only respond to their arrival with preparation. Take Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans in August 2005, causing unimaginable damage along the Gulf Coast. There was nothing that could be done except prepare and respond. Natural disasters have the power to level cities and redefine our perception of normal.
And yet even these are just a glimpse of the power of God: unstoppable, fierce, unpreventable, dangerous.
4. People encounter God in the wilderness.
There are countless biblical accounts of people encountering God in the wilderness. Here are a few:
There are SO many more examples. This kind of encounter with God in the wilderness happens today, too. There are plenty of people who go into the wilderness and encounter God, either intentionally or unintentionally. In nature we experience a kind of freedom, an unattachment from the world by which we often find ourselves constrained. Through our relationships with Him, God wants us to be able to experience that same amount of freedom and liberation from the world, from fear, from unwarranted expectations and from so much else. The physical freedom we experience in nature is reminiscent of the spiritual freedom we encounter in the presence of God.
As is evidenced throughout the Bible, nature and animals are things of importance to God. Rocks and mountains worship Him, animals trust Him to provide, the wind and the waves obey Him and the unending galaxy reflects His infinite essence. God utilizes that which He has created to help us know Him better, so I pray that we can grow in our appreciation and understanding of nature and wild animals.
I encourage you to take some time for personal reflection. Maybe take a walk or spend a few minutes outside. Look at the natural world around you: the bugs, the leaves, the flowers, the clouds, the birds. Ask the Lord to reveal Himself to you in a new way through nature or through animals. Please let me know what comes up — I'd love to hear about it. :)
Today my spirit has been heavy, harrowed with sorrow. Over the last couple weeks I have experienced the steadily increasing weight of the world’s burdens, but today it reached its tipping point. This morning as I distractedly completed my last final of the semester, I was overwhelmed with emotion and sadness for the family of Ahmaud Arbery, who, as I’m sure many of you know by now, was followed and fatally shot as he was jogging through a neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia. I could hardly react, hardly process what happened (over two months ago, I might add). And yet, I experienced an irrepressible ache not only for the racial injustices and corrupt systems that plague the world but also for the injustices committed against the innocent on a daily basis. The part that saddens me the most is that WE are inflicting this pain upon each other and upon our planet.
I look at nature, at animals, and I see innocence. I see creatures trying to survive. I see them dying at our hands, hit by our cars, driven out by our expansion, hunted for our pleasure. I see our planet being leeched of its resources. Our planet — and the animals that inhabit it — are desperately trying to adapt and survive to the changes we are so rapidly imposing upon them. It shatters my heart and brings me to tears that millions of animals are dying by our hands. But many people perceive nature and animals as cruel. They see a vulture scavenging a car-struck deer on the side of the road and don’t think for a second that it’s worth saving. They see a lioness kill a newborn zebra and a sympathy is evoked.
But the seeming cruelty of nature — which is survival based — pales in comparison to the evil and cruelty that we are able to conjure in our hearts, lives and societies.
Humanity has become so comfortable in its own sin that when people see something as fundamental as survival in the wild they call it ‘cruel’ whilst simultaneously overlooking the far more horrid injustices we commit to our brothers and sisters. We have convinced ourselves that we are good enough on our own.
When I look at humanity, I see our desperate need for a Savior. It’s obvious that we aren’t able to fix the problem ourselves or we would’ve figured out a way to do so by now. We have forgotten our humanness, our brokenness, our innately evil tendencies.
We have forgotten how badly we need someone to save us.
I called my mentor crying, asking him how he deals with the weight of all the evil in the world. And he reminded me that it serves as a reminder of our desperate need to be saved. It unmasks our humanity, showing us the reality of the human condition, and it makes room for Jesus to come in and heal our hearts, our lives and our societies if we let Him. The hope we get to cling to is named Jesus — He will come and rule the world one day with truth and justice. Until then, we get to cling to the promise that He will do so.
I did a lot of wrestling today. A lot of contemplation with the Lord. A lot of allowing myself to feel everything. I felt physically heavy, a tangible weight pressing on my shoulders. I cried at the world’s brokenness. I cried at the fact that we live in a world in which people are more appalled at the seeming cruelty of nature than they are at mankind’s ability to hate and steal and murder. I cried at the fact that some people will never get to taste the assurance of the hope named Jesus. I cried to the Lord. Then I thanked the Lord for His promise of hope. I thanked the Lord that one day He will rule with truth and justice on the earth. I thanked the Lord that one day we and all creation will be free from the bondage we have made ourselves slaves to.
I encourage whoever is reading this to feel everything you are feeling. Feel the anger, the brokenness, the sadness, the pain, the confusion and anything else. Cry. Lament. Talk to God. Allow yourself to be vulnerable with Him. Ask Him to bring up new things and comfort you in new ways. Allow Him to do so. Commit your hope to the coming of Jesus.
If you’ve never experienced Jesus in this way before, if you have any questions or if you need to just talk, please reach out to me. I’d love to chat with you.
Maybe there's more to having a relationship with the Lord than feel-good mantras, uplifting worship songs and out-of-context Bible verses. But if these aren't enough to get you through the challenges brought up by COVID-19, what is?
I want to establish that, first and foremost, I am talking to myself. This post serves as conviction from the Lord for myself and for others. It also serves as a reminder, however, of what is truly important during this time in which the whole world seems to be collapsing with fear and uncertainty.
We've been in quarantine for about a week now, and I'm doing everything I can to keep myself from boredom, complacency and laziness. I'm not too worried about the virus itself -- I've long expected some kind of crazy pandemic-type thing to hit the US, and I actually trust the Lord about it a lot. It's not hard for me to trust Him with this (Side note: it is very hard for me to trust Him in other areas, and I had to repent for the pridefulness that arose from trusting Him so much over Coronavirus. The reality is that I have a very hard time trusting Him over the things that are of more importance to me).
It is very difficult for people to trust Him through this, and rightly so. This is a lot to be confronted with all at once. Students across the United States have transitioned to online courses for the remainder of the semester. College kids have packed up their dorm rooms and headed home and returned early from study abroad programs and trips. Many businesses across the country have transitioned to allow employees to work from home. Others have yet to make changes, keeping employees at work out of necessity. Many businesses have been forced to close. People are losing jobs. People are falling behind on bills and payments. People are struggling to cope with the uncertainty and changes. People are getting sick. People are losing loved ones. People are experiencing the very real implications of this pandemic.
Western Christianity is finally experiencing a TINY glimpse of what Christians around the world have been facing ever since Jesus walked the earth: discomfort, uncertainty, challenges and the impact of corruption induced by mankind's sin. For many, faith is being shaken. Foundations built upon the sand are crumbling under this storm (One of my close friends Chantel wrote an excellent blog post about what it looks like to be a disciple during this time -- it's definitely worth the read. You can find it here).
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
As I've talked with fellow believers, we've discussed the comfort of knowing that God is here in this time. God is turning this evil into something for His glory, and He's doing it at on international scale. Foundations built on anything other than the rock of God are being shaken, torn down and felled so that lives can be rebuilt upon the cornerstone of Jesus. We are experiencing something we've never experienced before, and we have the opportunity to encounter God in a way we've never experienced before.
But what does a foundation built upon the sand look like? Ah, the enemy is crafty. He has given many people a false sense of control over their lives through financial stability, job security, home ownership, education and degrees, and through the lie that Christians are supposed to "have it easy." There are a couple harsh realities to be addressed here:
(1) Once we give our lives to Christ, they are no longer our own.
Then He said to them, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for My sake will be saved." Luke 9:23-24
We are not meant to have control over our lives. The whole point of surrendering our lives to the Lord is trusting that He knows better than we do, that He is a better God over our lives than we are. This is something we constantly have to do, though. I know for me, the temptation is to lay down my life and then pick it right back up again. We constantly have to lay down our lives.
Pause and ask the Lord what it would practically look like for you to surrender your life to Him.
(2) Christianity was never about living a life of comfortability.
This is evident throughout all of Matthew 10, when Jesus sends out the 12 apostles. Wrapped up in this passage is a message that is both an encouragement and a warning. The whole thing is incredibly convicting. If this is what following Jesus is supposed to look like, what is it that I am doing?
God calls different people to different things, and I'm not saying that it's bad to have financial stability, job security, home ownership or education. What I am saying is that it's bad to build your life with those things as your foundation. Why? Because one day the storm will come, and your foundation will be put to the test.
Well, my friends, that day is here, courtesy of COVID-19. We are in the midst of one of the most uncertain times in our lives, and our foundations are being put to the test.
So where do you find yourself presently?
Are you worried about what is going to happen to you and your family in the midst of this? Here are some encouraging verses:
Matthew 6:34: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Do not worry" is a command, not a suggestion.
Luke 22:42 "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."
Jesus prayed this prayer in the garden before He was taken to be crucified. This needs to be the center of our prayers: Not my will but Yours be done.
Are you not experiencing the worry of the world and instead finding it easy to trust God through all of this? You should tell people, then, in encouragement. Give them an opportunity to have the hope that you were given. Show them the good news that is Jesus.
Mark 16:15: He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."
A relationship with the Lord more than enough to get you through the challenges presented by COVID-19. It's time for you to assess where you are in your relationship with the Lord. Take this opportunity to grow in trusting the Lord if that's something you're struggling with. The implications are real: it means laying down your life in surrender to the Lord and letting go of control, not just saying "Trust the Lord!" It means changing your language from "I'm so worried about x, y and z" to "Even though it doesn't make sense, still You are God over my senses. God, Your presence is more real. I'll walk by faith and not by sight and put my trust in You" (from Even Though by We Will Worship). It's time for the lukewarm to make a decision. It's time to either trust the Lord or don't, to lay down your life or keep it. But don't be disappointed when you try to employ inspirational quotes and comforting Bible verses to rescue you without ever turning to the Father.
It's time to radically trust the Lord in the way that He was always meant to be trusted.
May the dust of the Rabbi cover you,
Ah, the mission field. I guarantee that if you've grown up in the church in any capacity you have heard about the mission field, whether it pertains to your personal mission field or your church's. When talking about mission fields many people reference Acts 1:8:
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
But how do you find your mission field?
I believe that we all are capable of — and called to — having a mission field in senses both specific and broad. I consider it foolish to limit God's revelation of your mission field to one specific way, so please do not take this post the only way to discover yours. Rather, I want to share my experience with you. What I have found to be true concerning the discovery of one's mission field is the work of a couple different factors at play:
- Your passions.
- The good news of the Gospel for you.
I am a firm believer that the Lord has intentionally instilled unique passions in each and every one of His image-bearers.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
These passions can be anything: photography, nature, cars, teaching, music, etc. The list could go on forever. It's important to pay attention to your passions and interests, as the intentionality with which they were knitted into your being can serve as a map to your mission field. What are your passions? In what ways do you feel that your passions could be used to reach a certain group of people? Spend some time in prayer with the Lord sifting through your passions and asking how they can be used to glorify Him. (I find it of the utmost importance to warn each of you how quickly and subtly a passion can become an idol, as it did with me. Always pursue God more than the blessing, the Gift-Giver more than the gift.) God cares about the things we care about. He has put passions in our hearts for a reason.
Personally, I have always been drawn to nature, animals and the wilderness. One day in the fall of my senior year of high school I was exposed to the idea that the scientific culture is a mission field, too. Ever since then, I have been convinced of my calling to the scientific world. While it was my passions that sent me in the direction I have pursued — the direction I feel very strongly the Lord was calling me to — the idea of my mission field has been honed with the revelation of the Gospel's good news to me.
The Gospel's Good News.
It wasn't until recently — like, three weeks ago — that I finally discovered what the good news of the Gospel is to me. Reflect here for a second — if you can't truthfully say that the Gospel is good news to you, that's okay. Pray and ask the Lord to reveal to you what the good news is for you. And then trust that whatever comes to your mind is the Holy Spirit speaking to you. For me, the good news is that there is no place on this earth — no wilderness — that is more wild than my relationship with the Lord. Now that I know what the good news is for my life, I want to tell everybody, but I especially want to tell people who are like me, people who put their hope in nature rather than in God.
This is where the idea of specific and broad mission fields come into play. My specific mission field is people who are searching in nature for something that only God can provide. I have a heart for this group of people because that's the kind of person I used to be. I very deeply understand where they come from and what they search for. My mentor Brent, on the other hand, has a completely different perception of the Gospel's good news, and that allows him to have a different specific mission field, one with which I am unable to empathize as much. When I asked him how the good news of the Gospel effected his ministry, he replied with this:
To me, the Good News, is that when I was least worth loving Jesus reached past my bitterness and hatred and saved me from myself. I don’t mean that on a grand, theological scale, I mean it personally. Literally, July 7th 2012, Jesus had an encounter with me in my room and stopped me from committing suicide. It’s the first bit of good news I ever heard and the only one I care about. My reasons for loving Jesus are unashamedly selfish; I wouldn’t love him if he hadn’t done that for me, and the Gospel would just be words on a page without it. I wish I was capable of loving him for who he is because he’s worthy of it. But I either wasn’t capable or wasn’t willing to live in such a way before July 7th. And, truthfully, it’s only after many, many more encounters with Him that I’ve found my desire to worship and serve him to be less selfish.
That made my mission field extremely simple. I wanted to reach everyone but, mostly, I wanted to reach the people who were like me.
The ones who grew up hearing about a man they’d never met. The one’s that well-meaning churches and friends and parents had convinced had life in Christ but were, in reality, just like me. Just people walking around, going through the motions, unknowingly waiting for the moment they realized their life was built on nothing. The ones who were like me.
And upon asking a dear friend Chantel the same question, she replied:
For my life, the good news has proven to be that Jesus came to redeem my true self. Not the person I have been taught by society to be. But the person who is most true to the child in me. We live in a world in which everything is predicated upon keeping up with the Joneses or even being the Joneses. The good news for me is that Jesus is the standard and His method of bringing me to Him is coming to me. This has shaped my mission field because, as a black woman in finance, so often black women are competing to be better than the next, simply as a self preservation tactic. I want to bring ministry into my mission field by being the person that is willing to help others realize that they are enough. That the true power of God is in them, and money is nothing to fear. I want to change the paradigm of thought associated with money, power and identity by bringing Jesus into the conversation. The good news is that you don't need "things" and there is nothing to keep up with. Simply be who you are and Jesus will come to you, no dollar signs or titles attached.
The three of us have very different versions of what the Gospel's good news is in our lives, and it is that good news that shapes the mission fields that are very specific to us. Chantel is far better equipped to reach black women in finance than I am, and I am better equipped to reach bush-goers in Africa than she is. This is one of my favorite things about the power of Jesus and His ability to use each of our passions to further His Kingdom here on earth.
Despite our different specific mission fields and the different good news that each of us has to share, each of our messages ultimately communicates the same thing, as my friend Graham pointed out when I asked him the question:
I believe that in this life we all search for two things: love and satisfaction. We search for it in all these different areas of our lives, but nothing other than Jesus will give us the love and satisfaction that we so deeply crave. A relationship with God means that I am fully known and loved by the Creator of everything. Jesus satisfies me and helps me know that I am loved and enough.
This brings me to the broader message that we all have to share: Jesus is the only thing that satisfies. No matter what desire we're looking to satisfy, Jesus is the only thing that will bring the satisfaction for which we search. We can convince ourselves otherwise — and be convinced otherwise by the enemy —, but the reality is that there is no job, no relationship, no accomplishment, etc. that will satisfy us the way that Jesus can and will, if we let Him. Nothing. And it is this broader message that allows us to reach a greater group of people: people who turn to things other than Jesus for love and satisfaction, no matter what that "thing" is to which they turn. This is what allows me to evangelize to a desperate church-goer who has never had a relationship with Jesus or to a black woman competing in the financial world. In the same way it allows Brent and Chantel to evangelize to someone returning from the African bush disappointed by the lack of satisfaction they had set out to find (which, ironically enough, was me about four months ago). While our Gospel experiences will be more helpful to specific people with similar experiences, the message is the same regardless: Jesus satisfies.
Taking these two things into account — our passions and the Gospel's good news to us —, along with dedicated prayer and conversation with the Lord, we are able to find our mission fields. So if you're curious about the mission field the Lord may have in store for you, I'd greatly encourage you to spend some time with Him meditating over these things. If you feel like you already have an idea of what your mission field is, what is it? I'd love to hear how the Lord is using different people's mission fields to further His Kingdom in every area of the world! As always, if you have any questions, please leave them below.
May the dust of the Rabbi cover you,
1 Thess. 2:2
"...but with the help of our God we dared to tell His gospel in the face of strong opposition."