I’ve heard many “chapletisements.” At a school like Wheaton, I am constantly presented with different “causes” towards which I should throw myself. Maybe it’s a water shortage in some poor country, or an inhumane industry in another, or economic poverty in our own cities, or service to those affected by disability, or empowering the youth, et cetera: surely the list is unending. While this is a gross, unfortunate, and impersonal summary of the state of things, it points out the striking effect that sin has on our world. We see so many broken, painful, and less-than-ideal situations. Including myself, most with any sort of compassion or empathy look at this and wonder how they can help, if they can even help, and if their help would even have an effect. Where do they even begin?
Amidst all this evidence of evil, we must first remember that God’s kingdom “has never been in trouble and never will be. It is not something that human beings produce or, ultimately, can hinder. We do have an invitation to be a part of it, but if we refuse we only hurt ourselves” (Dallas Willard; Divine Conspiracy p. 25). The effects of sin in the world do not trouble God’s agenda or his power to achieve it. Unceasingly, he continues to redeem the brokenness of this world. It is God, fundamentally, who does this work, which should be a sigh of relief to those who feel like they want to do something but don’t have the capacity for it. It’s not our “responsibility,” but the beautiful thing about our faith is that God invites us to help him in this task. In Christ, we have this divine purpose to have a hand in bringing redemption to things that are fallen. If we decline this invitation, we resign to complacent christianity that selfishly sits in church pews on Sunday mornings and is fed truth and grace, with no outpouring of love for its neighbor.
Because we realize only God is powerful to fully do this work, and because we know the burden is not on our shoulders to redeem, we are free to accept a role in sovereign redemptive history that is well suited to our own capacity. No we don’t need to aimlessly run around trying to come alongside every helpful organization and feel guilty when we, exhausted from trying, realize we cannot.
How do we decide where to serve?
- It begins with self-awareness. This can come from prayer, introspection, and conversation with trusted peers and mentors. Know the gifts and skills God has given you. Sure, some are more gifted than others, but everyone is gifted in some way. In the parable of the talents, one servant was given five talents, another was given two, and the last was given one. Each was given a different amount, but all were expected to do something with it.
- We should choose one or two organizations (or begin a new one) that allow us to work in areas that fulfill both the interests and the gifts God has given to us. Realizing what your gifts are, and then using them for the glory of God is one of the most beautiful forms of worship, for it accepts the way God made you and offers that as a sacrifice. The opposite of worship is seeing how God created things, and trying to go against that.
- If torn choosing between one of two great opportunities, be others oriented first. What does this mean? Simply, before considering at which place you would thrive better or enjoy more, think about which place would benefit more from your gifts and skills. If you speak French, and you have to choose between Cambodia and the Congo, knowing that the Congo is typically more dangerous, you may still choose to go there because you are better equipped to develop deeper relationships with the people there (not to say it’s the wrong decision to go to Cambodia. There is no “wrong decision” in cases like this). We should look to the benefit of others before the benefit of ourselves.
- Consider serving locally. There is definitely place for international missions, whether short or long term; however, there’s plenty of creation to be redeemed that surrounds us daily.
When we realize what our gifts are, and that we have finite bodies that can’t be everywhere, we are able to freely serve the Lord in true worship that accepts his invitation to help make his kingdom better known to humans on Earth. If we trust God has given us specific gifts, knowing where he will place us, we don’t need to feel guilty about not serving everywhere, for we can trust that in his sovereignty, God also equips and enlists other believers to accomplish his purposes elsewhere.
I would love to hear your thoughts!
3 thoughts on “We can’t serve everywhere”
Good thoughts, Cruz! I’m always feeling pretty drained from the “chapeltisements” too, and the amount of issues and causes to dedicate myself to is so overwhelming… to the point of just not doing anything. Underlying a lot of these conversations for me is the fear that a better cause will come around, so I don’t commit to one or two ever. Just some thoughts, thanks for the post
Excellent words of wisdom! Keep on keeping on. Love your insight into serving God especially for a young man — you are comprehending what God asks of us, die to self daily and live to/in/through Jesus Christ. He does give us our abilities not to use on ourselves but to use to serve Him by serving others. Seeking His guidance in where to serve Him and where to give our finances are the things we are to do. Jesus showed that as a man He only did what He saw His Father do and only spoke what He heard His Father say. In the book of James he tells us that our tongue is hard to control. Learning to speak only what God says will be what helps us to control our tongue. I say this because that is part of ministering to others — speaking the words God wants them to hear. Follow what the Bible teaches about serving and our talents/gifts from God instead of following the fads of the world (which are slipping into our churches) is the only answer! Also a Christ-centered message only, not an add-on to the feel good, self-help messages. I say this because HE IS the only way!
Really great. Love this: “effects of sin in the world do not trouble God’s agenda or his power to achieve it.” Something I often get discouraged about!
Also so cool how Christ not only redeems us, but then he equips us to serve him in particular ways. He’s given us all the call from Matthew 28, but he has also given us various means to proclaim his gospel to the world.