The last 24 hours or so, especially since Pope Francis ascended the papacy, have been filled with thousands of the faithful, both Catholic and non-Catholic alike, examining their lives as they relate to Jesus and God the Father. It makes sense that when one of the major religions of the world selects a new leader of the people – 1.2 billion of them out of 7 billion on the planet, that we may take that opportunity to reflect on our own faith and ponder what Jesus wants from each of us. I admit that the same question crossed my mind.
Yesterday, I spent part of the evening with the former Dean of one of the seminaries that I attended. We had a great time, discussing theology and what each of our ministries is doing. He is active in studying ancient ruins in the Promised Land and has been to Israel more than 30 times in the last decade – at least 30 times. He has moved on from teaching and now lectures at churches around the United States. He is a Greek and Hebrew scholar and was the one who taught the foreign languages to me. I loved his classes and the classmates that I had when I was in school. There was something so special about those days. I was learning about the Lord and in the middle of a group of people who had fully dedicated their lives to serve God. Part of me feels guilty that I don’t study as much any more – I miss it…
As you may already know, I thought God would bless me with a church and that would be the end of my corporate life. Apparently, that wasn’t the plan. Now I am knee deep back in the business community and how much I miss the school and the constant learning. In fact, life was simpler then. Study, practice what you learned, then study some more. Prayer and chapel were the cornerstones of my existence. It felt safe – and secure. Not so much any more.
Then Janet came home from a Bible study she attends each Thursday and mentioned that one of the other ladies asked a question today about whether Jesus expects us to act like He did – a life of poverty, living simply and fully dedicated to God. The woman went on to express her concern – wondering if Jesus wants us all to drop everything and fully dedicate our lives to studying the Bible and not worrying about anything else. I am sure that the facts revealed about Pope Francis yesterday helped frame the question. Because he could have easily lived in a mansion in Argentina, yet chose instead to live in a small apartment with a twin bed and a nightstand. He fixed his own meals, ran his own errands and drove around in a Volkswagon, unescorted even as an Archbishop. Is this what Jesus wants from each of us?
Or how about the families I know who live to completely serve the Lord? Acts of selfless devotion, hours in the Word each day, family devotions every evening and a real sense of servant leadership. And then there’s Mother Theresa and Pope John Paul II, all the Trappist monks who live in seclusion – reflection and prayer a huge part of their daily ritual. Is this what we all should do? Do we give everything away and act like the original apostles? And should we feel guilty if we don’t?
Somehow, I don’t think that is what God wants for each of us. Yes, of course, He wants us to be dedicated to Him, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we should quit our jobs and all go to seminary. For Janet and me, that was the right decision – but notice that even now, God has not seen fit to provide me with a church. And maybe that’s because I can serve the kingdom better doing what I’m doing. Interacting with people, coaching and helping people to be the best that they can be, teaching the Bible to believers who want to know more about the One who created them – and, yes, working as a witness in the corporate world.
Do I wish that I earn a good living in the ministry? Yes, I do. But maybe by working in the business world, I can be a better ambassador for raising ministry funds for others who may not have the gift of earning much income. Because God asks us to serve Him in places where we are gifted and are the most qualified to glorify Him.
The verse for this evening emphasizes the commandment that we have been given. From Mark 12:30, we are told, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” My encouragement this evening is to affirm that God loves you just the way you are. He will touch your heart and let you know how He would best like for you to serve Him. If that means seminary, as it did for me, He will let you know. And if it is doing something else, he will nudge you gently toward that as well. My prayer is that you will trust and obey – answering the call on your life, whatever that may be. And remember, we are all created in His image, but with different gifts, passions and styles. That means one size doesn’t fit all. So should be like Jesus? Yes, doing whatever it is that He has called us to do. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…