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by Ken Mills
Recently I was reading the Oswald Chambers Daily Devotional Bible, and found the following excerpt taken from an earlier Chambers’ book. So Send I You:
“Walking on water is easy to impulsive pluck, but walking on dry land as a disciple of Jesus Christ is different. Peter walked on the water to go to Jesus, but he followed Him afar off on the land. We do not need the grace of God to stand crises; human nature and our pride will do it. We can buck up and face the music of a crisis magnificently, but it does require the supernatural grace of God to live twenty-four hours of the day as a saint, to go through drudgery as a saint, to go through poverty as a saint, to go through an ordinary, unobtrusive, ignored existence as a saint, unnoted and unnoticeable. The “show business” which is so incorporated into our view of Christian work today, has caused us to drift far from our Lord’s conception of discipleship. It is instilled in us to think that we have to do exceptional things for God; we have not. We have to be exceptional in ordinary things (emphasis added), to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, surrounded by sordid sinners. This is not learned in five minutes.”
I have reflected on Oswald Chambers’ words with excited suspense. While the words are true in many regards, I am not so sure but what we still need God’s grace in the crises. In fact, I am sure of this. But I am magnetized by the thought that it may take more grace to follow God on dry ground than trying to walk on the stormy waves of life. On dry ground we are more tempted to believe in our own strength and resolve, than to rely on the magnificent and gracious resources of the living God. And most humbling to me is Chamber’s thoughts about our need to be exceptional in ordinary things, such as being a holy people in the midst of mean and sinful surroundings (which is by the way our calling in Christ Jesus).
Lyle Schaller also suggests in his book, 21 Bridges to the 21st Century that “performance counts!” The basic concept even in our contemporary consumer culture is not necessarily labels, size, or numbers as much as it is competence, commitment, and character. This may be interpreted in various ways and for sundry purposes, as I am sure it will be. But in general, I believe what matters to God and seemingly to the world is an ordinary people who become exceptional due to the grace and work of God in their lives.
I too confess the temptation of wanting at times to be “sensational” as Chambers would describe it. Yet, the call of God in my life and yours is simply to be ordinary people who know how to follow Him on dry ground. There is nothing ordinary about the tasks to which we are called, however. We are called to extraordinary tasks, such as consistently living the life of Christ, proclaiming the truth about Jesus, praying that God would send labors into the harvest fields, and so forth. Sometimes these tasks feel arduous, ordinary, and unnoticed. But, ultimately these extraordinary tasks combined with (or more appropriately, directed by) the supernatural grace of God yield remarkable, phenomenal, magnificent, impressive, incredible, and outstanding results.
This week we will be looking at the leader having a good read on their own strengths and weaknesses in order to know how to best lead and/or shepherd other people. Yes, we will focus on your own resources, such as your passions, burdens, strengths, personality, and gifts. However, I remind us that our gifts and strengths are given by God, and for specific purposes in His plan. And these gifts and strengths that we seek to discover are not meant for us to walk on water, but instead to be exceptionally faithful and fruitful in the tasks we have been given on “dry ground.” In Exodus 4 (1-5), we find this great story of a man resisting the directive of God:
Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?”
Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?”
“A staff,” he replied.
The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.”
Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. Then the Lord said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. “This,” said the Lord, “is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you.”
Our being “exceptional in ordinary things” is made possible by the supernatural grace of God. What is in your hand? Or, for our purposes this week, what gifts, strengths, and passions are in your life?