December 22, 2010

Free Agent In A Team Effort

Many people are under the impression that if they obey God and stay within His Will they end up leading tediously boring monochromatic lives. As Blackaby and King once said in their book Experiencing God, the correct question to pray to God for-or to ask Him is not, "What is Your will for my life Lord?" but instead it is, "What is Your will?" This puts you in the correct frame of mind. It is not a matter of what God can do for you but is an issue of knowing His Will and adjusting your life accordingly so that you are in His purposes (Exo 3:8,10). When I am in the zone where He wants me I have found that I am anything but static and bored. I am constantly navigating the field for errant fly balls so to speak. As I grow in my walk I become more cognizant of His presence in the world. I become more aware of things that He is doing because I recognize the marks of the holy in the things that transpire in the world.

People need to stop looking at serving God as some horrendous chore that takes you to the far reaches of civilization on a mission in Sub-Saharan Africa and plants you firmly like a tree. This is not to say that you may not end up in one place for a sustained period of time wandering in the outfield. I am sure there are some in the ministry that would be quite content with a static mundane existence...but these appear more an exception often times, not a norm. As I have journeyed further into what I believe God is calling me to I have found more diversity of duty and brevity/fragmentation of my time. Chasing fly balls over my head and worm burners right down the line. The ministry is anything but mundane and anything but commonplace. God continually puts me in positions where I need to step outside my comfort zone and do so in faith to help His team. God has never heavily informed me on the front-end of the duties that He has laid out for me to address and accomplish (Matt 6:33). I need to head into it trusting Him. I know that He would never send me into a task that I was unprepared or unequipped for. In doing so I have learned to trust Him more. It is a self-feeding cycle. By investing the faith up front knowing He will equip me for the job I end up building more faith in the process of completing the task (Gen 12:1-5). As my relationship with Him grows my knowledge of Him grows. The apostle Paul said it best when he wrote, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6). Just like when you have a human companion and you get to know them trust more. You have an instilled faith.

I am also finding that my background in business, project management, engineering and design is starting to come in handy. Many of the things that would inundate or freak out people new to ministry due to their multi-layered complexity and seeming insurmountably just look like another manageable project to plan for and for me to take care of....but this time they are for the most important boss I will ever have. God. I know that I need to eat the elephant one bite at a time or it will choke me. The enemy goes down one out and one inning at a time.

God doesn't want you to just work harder, He wants you to work smarter too (Rom 12:1-2). He has given you the work instructions/playbook. He has told you the parameters of the game (2 Tim 3:16-17). He has told you the dirty tricks the opposing team plays so it can cheat to gain an upper hand (Eph 6:12). For many it has just sat on their nightstands month after month and year after year collecting dust. The binding on the playbook is never cracked and there are probably pages still stuck together because they have never been separated after printing. The work manual has never been read. The proud owners of these manuals leave them on their nightstands untouched. They think they have better ideas of how to perform their duties (Pro 21:24). All the while the One who designed their job duties and the tools to accomplish them goes ignored along with the work instructions He has graciously provided. The Bible. These rogues act like free agents that are show-boaters working for themselves for the most gain and most profit...for themselves. It isn't about the team. It isn't about helping others or doing it for the greater glory of something larger than themselves. They are then soundly trounced by the opposing team (Pro 16:18). The opposing team knows your weaknesses and will exploit them. They have had plenty of time to review the plays and see the video. The enemy has diligently studied their prey and they prowl like a hungry lion waiting for an opening to pounce (1 Pet 5:8). One man showboating and committing an error in the open field jeopardizes the efforts of the entire team.

Conversely, being a player in ministry makes everyone on the team working towards the same goal and still doing so in a state of free agency ready to move at a moments notice. They can separate and recombine at any given time and pretty much produce the same end results regardless of how they are configured or where they are called to engage the opposite side. These believers that play by the rule book and work instructions, the ones that adhere to the rules become indispensable to God. They function well on a team...if they function as a team (Ps 133:1, 1 Cor 1:11-13, Eph 4:1-3, Phil 1:27, 2:2, 3:16-17, 1 Pet 3:18). Every one of them plays their position better than any other or God would not have them there but very rarely will they win a game if they do not work together. There are individual relationships required in these tasks but it is also clearly a team effort.  They adapt well to different environments and improvise when the odds are long.

This is an interesting life. I am not young enough to be naive anyone. I do not hold some unrealistic views of how things should be anymore. I do not have a pie-in-the-sky image of the ministry. I realize people are often messy in their sinfulness and this makes for some messy problems that require mop-up. I know that games can be lost when the bases are loaded against me if I loose faith in God and the things He has given me to complete the task (Proverbs 3:5-6). So we need to suit up and be properly fitted to face the opposition. It only takes forgetting one piece of my uniform or loosing focus on that ball for a split second for me to drop it (Eph 6:10-18).

But what I have seen is...when everything works together properly as it should things become miraculous. I have seen things that border on the absurd or they are miracles when God is firmly in the picture and my faith is strong. The odd-defying home runs in the bottom of the ninth by the catcher against the best pitcher in the league (figuratively speaking). I have seen some amazing things (Romans 8:28-30).

We are all gifted by God through the Holy Spirit for the positions that we play (1 Cor 12:4-7 see below). God knows the count and He knows how this game ends (Isa 46:10). He knows were we are best suited. He knows who's best equipped for the task and choses those accordingly (Jer 1:5, 29:11). If there are others that are not quite as well equipped He equips them until they are perfect for the position (Matt10, 2 Timothy 3:16-17). And be warned...on God's field it is not uncommon for Him to put a catcher in to do the pitchers job every now and then (Isa 55:8-9). Why? Because God works with ordinary men to do great things (1 Cor 1:26-30). Things that not even they can believed they could do. He prepares us, who better to know when we are ready to change positions? 

"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;  and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  1 Corinthians 12:4-7

If I had taken the view that ministry was going to be boring and uneventful because I would be stuck in a dead end team in the minor leagues that never made it to the pennant, I would still be stuck in a real dead end job that brought me no joy and I personally believe was actually killing me one day at a time.

I am still in the game and I intend to give everything I have for the team. Would you? (2 Tim 4:6-8)

"Put me in Coach! I'm ready to play!" (Isaiah 6:8)

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