A Little FartherDo you hear much about lament in your local church?
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Steven Curtis Chapman “Do Everything” Devotional
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (v.17)
Jesus had a habit of turning things upside down during his short three-year ministry. From the tables of the temple moneychangers, to the teachings of the religious leaders, to the dreams and expectations of his followers, to the entire world system of power and influence and authority, he challenged and uprooted all that was not aligned with the reality of the kingdom of God. He said that tax collectors and outright sinners might be closer to the kingdom than the self-righteous religious leaders. He pointed out that the near-worthless coins a widow dropped into the temple treasury were of greater eternal worth than all the extravagant and showy gifts of the wealthy.
The least, he said, would be the greatest. The weak would be strong. The meek would inherit the earth. The greatest would be those who willingly humbled themselves to serve others. What is highly valued among men, Jesus warned the Pharisees at one point, is detestable in God’s sight. What you think matters, in other words, is not what matters at all. God doesn’t look at outward appearances, but at the heart. In this eternal kingdom, success and significance are not measured by beauty or wealth or power or worldly accomplishment, but by simple faith and faithfulness. Beyond that, the details of what your vocation or station in life might be, are apparently irrelevant.
In fact, one of the most radical implications of Jesus’ teachings, was that rather than a few important “spiritual” things taking priority in our otherwise mundane lives, suddenly, everything mattered. The smallest details of life and thought were shot through with the light of eternity, fraught with a deeper significance than we had yet imagined. The repetitious tasks of the day-to-day were suddenly revealed in a wondrous newness, as significant moments in the unfolding story of redemption, as opportunities and responsibilities that if stewarded faithfully, might ring like bells in testament to the glory of the God who ordained that we should have such tasks and responsibilities before us.
Perhaps our problem in grasping this deeper reality is that we tend to be so invested in the outcomes of things that we get easily sidetracked and disappointed by our own expectations. We want things to go a certain way and when they don’t, we feel like failures. We want to be about tasks and responsibilities that feel important in the eyes of our culture, and when we’re not, we feel worthless. But God, on the other hand, seems to be most concerned with the process by which our hearts are being slowly conformed to the heart of Christ. And while each of our lives will certainly contain a few dramatic moments, most of the ongoing work of sanctification comes about in the context of our ordinary relationships and responsibilities, and in the small quiet choices we make every day.
Could it be that the refusal to respond in impatience or anger when rudely cut off in rush hour traffic could be a victory of eternal significance that might resonate more powerfully through the halls of heaven than the Battle of Agincourt? Or that the continued faithfulness of a lonely, young mother of three who battles depression while facing a seemingly endless cycle of laundry, dirty diapers and snotty noses might one day be more widely celebrated and richly rewarded in the Kingdom of God than the conquests of Alexander the Great? Could the conscientiousness of a coffee shop clerk who for years faithfully serves his employer and cares for his customers one day warrant the applause of angels? It is definitely possible. The realities of this eternal kingdom, as we said, run contrary to the ways of the world, and the only real measuring line is faithfulness in all circumstances.
As we learn to reinterperet our lives through this divine reality, we come to recognize that God has made each of us stewards of whatever responsibilities, relationships, talents, opportunities, possessions, connections, and time that we have. Every moment of every day, every decision, every task and responsibility, every action and reaction, however small, is yet another opportunity to exhibit faithfulness in all that God has entrusted to our keeping. Everything matters.
The author of Paradise Lost, 17th century British poet John Milton, was fully blind by the time he turned 47. In his remarkable sonnet “On His Blindness”, Milton laments the fact that though he now longs to serve God more than ever, his talents have been rendered useless. He even goes so far as to wonder if God will still judge his stewardship by the same standards, now that his sight is lost.
But through the course of this beautiful poem, Milton reaches the astounding (and true!) conclusion that God does not need either Milton’s work or his gifts. God has countless people he can call into service to meet any need. All that God requires of John Milton is willingness, obedience, and faithfulness in whatever circumstances he finds himself in—or, as Milton so aptly concludes: “They also serve who only stand and wait.”
The same is true for us. We all face moments of frustration and disappointment when we want to throw in the towel. Days when it feels like the life we want to lead has been forever swallowed in a sea of petty tasks and minor disappointments. But that’s when we most need to be reminded that the ongoing story of God’s kingdom is being played out in the smallest details of our lives.
Whatever stands before us to do, marks a significant opportunity to live faithfully. Battles of epic proportion between good and evil, pride and submission, hope and despair, faith and unbelief, selfishness and love, are met and fought in the fields of our minds and hearts every day as we choose kindness, forgiveness, patience, humility, gentleness, and faithfulness. Even if we one day find ourselves, as Milton did, sitting in the darkness of a blindness that robs us of our former talents—that difficulty, if endured with a willing and submissive heart, intent on faithfully and lovingly discharging the small tasks left to us, might one day, in God’s kingdom, yield an eternal praise more profound than those lost talents ever could have produced.
So take heart in all circumstances. Give yourself to the tasks before you. See all of life as an act of worship. With devotion and strength, steward and shepherd all that God entrusts to you. Do everything as unto Him. Remember to live as if everything matters… because it does.