Despite being well-versed in what the Bible teaches us about love, it wasn’t until January 26, 1998, that I can say for certain that I experienced true love. That was the day my oldest daughter was born. I knew the instant I first saw her and held her in my arms that I loved her totally and completely, and that she could never do anything to gain more of my love or lose my love. It was also the day when I came to realize how much God loves me. Love wasn’t something I could learn about; it was something I had to identify with and experience to appreciate.
Day of reckoning – (def.) the time when past mistakes or misdeeds must be punished or paid for; a testing time when the degree of one's success or failure will be revealed. Source: Oxford Dictionaries
Likewise, having spent the past two decades loving – encouraging, enjoying, and equipping – my three daughters, when my twins leave home later this month, and they are all in college, we will no doubt have many days of reckoning. Despite all the times that they’ve said “Yah, yah, yah, dad we get it,” this summer I’ve been acutely aware of how often they’ve acknowledged, “Oh, now I get what you’ve been saying.” Until they found themselves in situations where they were able to personally grasp what dear old dad has been harping on for years, there were many things they simply could not apply and would not appreciate.
The same holds true with our faith. Regardless of how many sermons we’ve heard, praise songs we’ve sung, and times we’ve read the Bible, the only real way to gauge the extent of our faith is to put it to a test. When trials come, and they will, the impact of the church and the rootedness of our faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior are revealed. Though no report cards will be issued, deficiencies and opportunities indeed become apparent for those who care to know and grow.
For many people and churches, chaos and calamity are what spark change. In other words, attending and serving at church, and being Bible smart, are not per se indicators or measures of our faith. Moreover, as my daughters will come to realize when they get out in the real world, despite all the things they thought they knew and understood, they really don’t have a clue.
It’s not until the proverbial rubber meets the road and we find ourselves at a crossroads that our faith is tested.
Caring ministry may be one of the foremost discipling opportunities as it is often people’s situations and struggles that bring them to a crossroads. For it is here that they naturally ponder the tough questions, and the extent of their faith is revealed. Whether vocalized or not, people are wondering: Why me? God, do you really care? Jesus, are you real? How did I get to this point? Why do bad things happen to good people? What now? How am I going to …? And more.
Left to themselves, many people within our churches and communities do not have the faith and fortitude to turn to and trust in the Lord. As such, if all we do is make a visit, provide a meal, send a card, lend a listening ear, and let them know about a support group or upcoming course, many are sure to continue down the same familiar road. In addition to being long and windy, that road is riddled with potholes, led them to where they are today, and eventually dead ends.
“In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:6)
“I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6)
The alternative is to love – encourage, enjoy, and equip – people in ways that help them discover that living life on their own, apart from Jesus, is an effort in futility, sharing and showing them how to draw closer to the Lord, and together realizing the peace, hope, joy, and life that faith in Jesus Christ affords us.
Many people have been teetering and tottering on their own for way too long. Regardless of their particular circumstances and challenges, people who find themselves at a crossroads, though they may know about God’s amazing love, are frequently most open and eager to experience the love of Christ and grow in their faith. If your church is committed to discipling people and functioning as the body of Christ, let's connect.