In 2017, I have one question for you. Why do you do what you do? What is the reason behind the actions that you take, and the way that you live your life? The answer to this question can be absolutely life giving, or it can be totally eye opening and bewildering. It is an answer that I have just now remembered. And for me, it has truly been life giving.
This past Friday night I had an opportunity to hang out with friends that I haven’t seen in the last five years. As we reminisced about old times, present ventures, future dreams, I felt myself doing what I have done a lot of in 2016. Complaining.
I complained about all the work I had coming up to do. I complained about the stupid things that had happened over the last year. I complained so much that I’m sure that the people around me were annoyed.
Later that night, I went over to their apartment, and we were sitting there playing video games and chatting, and my friend prompts the question “Are you happy doing what you are doing?”
I hadn’t really thought about that recently. I knew I was supposed to be working with students and teaching them the Bible, but really if I can be honest, my life has been empty over the last year. I was just tired and exhausted. Burnt out. Church had become a chore to do, a work place, not a place to worship God.
My response: “I should be happy, but I’m not.”
As we continued to talk, our conversation shifted. I began to talk to him about what God had done since January 2012. And immediately, as I reminisced about all that God had done, joy returned, in a way that it hadn’t been evident in 2016.
We went to bed and i woke up the next day early to catch the sunrise at the Isle of Palms Beach in Charleston, Sc.
I walked onto the beach, sand crunching under my tennis shoes, the cool ocean air blowing across my face, and sat down. I began to take in the sights and the sounds. The sky was a hazy purple with a tint of yellow and orange as the sun began to make its ascent slowly into the sky.
As I sat there taking pictures, enjoying the scene, I looked to my left noticing a lady sitting there, tears running down her face. I began to pray for her as I didn’t know what her situation was.
I stood up as the sun fully made its way into the sky, brushing the sand from my jeans, and began to shuffle over to where the lady was sitting.
“Hi, is there anything i can pray for you about?” I asked.
The woman looked up, replying “No thank you.”
I began to turn and walk away and then I looked back. “I just want you to know that whatever you’re going through that Jesus loves you.” I smiled and then turned and walked away.
As I made my way off the beach, and into my car, I began to think. Something had shifted for me in the last day.
As I drove along I began to think about the shift in mindset. The shift in complaining about life and its difficulties, to experiencing joy and actually having compassion for this woman on the beach.
For me personally, when something is off in my life, I know it is only a matter of time before God reveals what that is. I call it my Aha moment.
And as I drove down HWY 17 in Mount Pleasant, Sc I remembered why I did what I did. I remembered why God called me into ministry and where joy came from.
My realization: I do ministry and I live life as a Christian because Jesus has changed my life and therefore I want to see others lives changed.
To condense that more, simply, life and ministry is about Gospel Centrality.
As Christians, it is easy to get lost in what we do. Whether we are a pastor, or salesman, or teacher, it is easy to just go about life and do things. But if we forget why we do what do, even why we are who we are, then life become meaningless. Life becomes frustrating and even something as amazingly wonderful as ministry becomes a chore.
My phrase for 2017: Remember the Purpose.
Its so easy to forget why we do what we do. But we must remember our purpose. We must remember that we live and move and breathe because Jesus has given us life. When we remember that, when we wake up with the gospel on our minds, on our hearts, then our lives will exude joy, peace, patience, love. We will actually enjoy life as Jesus had created for us to enjoy it. We will actually pursue others with love.
“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as front lets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).
I love the intentionality of this passage. The Israelite’s were to take every possible measure to remember who God was, who they were, and what they were to do.
We are forgetful people. That is why everyday we must come back to the Gospel. We must come back to clinging to Jesus. We must return to the fight with the knowledge of who we are and why we do what we do.
May we remember our purpose in 2017. May we seek God and love others out of the centrality of the Gospel. Only there, with the Gospel centralized in our lives, may we see life as it was meant to be seen and lived.