, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Once Upon a Zeppelin”

Twilight Sparkle had it rather rough in this episode. She set out with her family on what she thought would be a relaxing cruise to give her not only some time with her loved ones but some good old fashioned R&R and a break from her “princess duties”. Quite the opposite ended up being true. It turned out the reason her family got the cruise for free was because it was a “Princess Tour” in which she and her sister-in-law were expected to be the main events for the passengers. In order to buy her sister-in-law and family a break, she ended up having to take the role of princess more than ever as she went about hosting events and making appearances, and soon needing a vacation from her “vacation”.

While for Twilight this served as a lesson in needing to make time for herself, for me it brought to mind a different Christian dilemma. The fact that ministering the Gospel doesn’t tend to keep “normal hours” and often blindsides us unawares.

I’m sure all of us as Christians would love every time we were called to witness or be as Christ to someone to be practically gift wrapped to us. To come right after a Sunday service in which we’re feeling particularly energized and “holy”, to the tune of a golden ray of sunshine or a rainbow encircling the very specific target of what God is calling us to do, and in a situation we are perfectly suited and prepared for. Naturally, that sort of idealistic situation never occurs, but often we don’t even get anything remotely close.

Instead, opportunities to witness and minister hit us unawares. Maybe when we’re driving back from work and thinking of everything we have to do when we get home. Or when we’re waiting for the bus or a taxi while going out running errands before needing to make an appointment later. Or when we’re at the work concentrating on our jobs and what deadlines we have to meet. Or, possibly in a vein similar to this episode, when we’re out with our families at an attraction or on vacation just trying to get some relaxation in. Life doesn’t operate according to a normal schedule, and neither does God. As a result, we could often find ourselves tired, stressed, preoccupied, or even desperately trying to get a moment for ourselves when we find we’re being called. Odds are it often happens at times when the last thing we are thinking of is being Christian. And even if we are willing to make an effort, we’re probably too distraught or haggard to put our “best foot forward”.

The Bible tells us to be ready to preach the Gospel at all times (“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” 2 Timothy 4:1-2; “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” 1 Peter 3:15-16), but that, like most things in the Bible, is far easier said than done. How can we be ready to minister at all times, including the majority of times when our minds are elsewhere or when the last thing we’re thinking doing is “acting Christ-like”?

For me, I think it’s important to realize that being a good witness for Christ is not like preparing for a test or a competition, in which we will get one big event where we’ll have a chance to show our stuff and then it’ll be over. Christianity isn’t just poignant acts of ministry or evangelism; it’s a way of life and a state of mind. To me, far more important than trying to be prepared to say or do the right thing at that one big instance that could come up (or, more appropriately, that we think will come up) is to maintain a more Christian frame of mind and heart. To make our lives as a whole more in line with the heart of God and the things of the Bible. When you do that, everything else, including witnessing, ministry, and even being able to be “as Christ” at the worst of times, becomes more natural because it’s simply an extension of who we are rather than us trying to be something we’re not. Furthermore, it’s our ability to naturally turn to God and to count on him to bear us through all difficulty, both in the best and worst of times, that ultimately shows the world why our faith is so powerful.

The Bible cautions not just to pretend to love people or to care about them. (Romans 12:9; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3) To me, that goes part in parcel with ministry. If it’s simply memorization and training ourselves for specific moments or instances to give out some well-crafted and yet canned response, it’s no good in the long run. No ministry or witnessing is truly effective unless it comes from the heart and what God has placed in our hearts. And I feel the best way to have something placed in our hearts is to strive to draw closer to God in a greater relationship and have him place something there. For the closer we are to God, the more we understand him. The more we understand him, the more we understand his desires both for us and others. And the more we understand those, the more we want to work toward fulfilling them even if we’re exhausted or overwrought. After all, as Twilight illustrated, no matter how tired or stressed we feel, we’d all do something for our own loved ones that needed to be done.

A suggestion I have to aid in this is a challenge I received a couple Sundays ago. Just for five work days, Monday through Friday, make a commitment to devote time three times a day purely to God. No other tasks, no other thoughts, no other concerns during that time…just nothing but you and God. I myself was only able to find five minute periods, but I did try it out and it did make quite a difference. For anyone wishing to enhance their devotional life and draw closer to God and his desires for us, I recommend it highly.

As a final note, something that I always find encouraging (which those moments of prayer I just mentioned helped me realize) is to remember that God will never ask you to do something that, with his help, you cannot do.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for your blessed assurance, in my times of fear, exhaustion, self-doubt, and anxiety about doing your Will, that you will never forsake me or abandon me but will guide me through all difficulty so long as I commit to follow you. I seek to draw closer to you today and understand you more and your desires for both me and the rest of mankind. Please draw me nearer so, in getting to know you more, I will have a greater love and enthusiasm for the riches of Heaven and the salvation of the world. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”