The way that Christians in general talk these days, would probably lead you to think that if you aren’t doing *big* things for God (i.e. changing the world) or seeing tremendous results you aren’t doing something right… maybe God just doesn’t like you or maybe He possibly forgot to give you your share while he was passing out the proverbial blessings of ministerial fruit… and at the end of the day you feel like you are, as my friend Rich Goldman would say, “swimming in mundane,” leading a very ordinary and boring Christian life, wondering if you missed the secret meeting where they laid out the details of changing the world.
Well, what if I told you that this whole, if I could borrow a phrase from Jerry Falwell for a moment, “Big-Hairy-Audacious-Goal” (you know, the “BHAG”) business was a little off the mark… and in reality it was actually unnecessarily causing the vast majority of us to become entirely too anxious and easily disappointed; wallowing in a pool of self-pity and despair?
Maybe you would agree with me… or maybe you would chant along with the “big-vision” lovers, saying, “What’s so wrong with having huge dreams and going after them and even accomplishing them?” Nothing! It’s perfectly fine and often biblical. Matthew 28 does call us to reach ALL of the nations… that seems pretty big to me! And I love all the great Andy Stanley vision casters out there. But taking a peak into the Bible… I just don’t see this *heroic* and *celebrity* Christianity thing being the *norm* of the Christian life.
“Wait,” you say! “You will stifle many leaders and great champions for Christ with all that talk!” Hog wash, I say! “Why,” you ask? Because if you truly read the Bible and truly catch some special “vision” from God (which I think is highly overused… but that is not for this discussion), I won’t be able to stop you with any type of talk. You will do great things for God regardless.
“So, biblically… do you have any evidence for this??? What about that one verse in Proverbs (that I have to use Google to find the reference…)??? Without “vision” the people will perish!!!” First off, stop using the random obscure translation for that verse and realize it doesn’t mean that (The NET Bible footnote says this: “The Hebrew word “vision” (from the verb חָזָה [khazah, “to see”]) refers to divine communication to prophets (as in 1 Sam 3:1) and not to individual goals or plans.”). Sorry leadership gurus. Secondly, look at the life of Jesus. First 33 years of his life? Pretty normal and average if you ask me. Just working hard as a general contractor. Building stuff. Being awesome in the most normal of ways. Remaining faithful and holy. Then 3 years of crazy awesome stuff for God. Then the most intense suffering imaginable. Well, in my count, normal outweighs “BHAG” 33 to 3.
“Wait, wait, wait… slow down there Jordan. You know, we talk about being ambitious for God all of the time in church, right?!? What about Philippians 4:13??” Well, actually… that verse plays right into my hand when we understand the context… and really should be the theme passage for this entire post. It is actually contentment that is missed out on, not doing “world-changing” things. Being content in EVERY situation; whether we do big things for God or small things… we can do it all through Christ who strengthens us for his great glory.
Let’s continue to look elsewhere.
1 Thessalonians 4:10b-11 – “But we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, to aspire to lead a quiet life, to attend to your own business, and to work with your hands, as we commanded you.”
Paul calls them to 1) Lead a quiet life, 2) Attend to their own business, and 3) Work with their own hands. Seems pretty *normal* to me.
1 Timothy 2:1-2 – “First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”
Why does Paul command prayer? So that they may lead *normal* lives in godliness!
I could stop here and be done… but let’s dig a little deeper into the whole “God’s will” and “vision” for our lives.
1 Peter 4:12 – “Dear friends, do not be astonished that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as though something strange were happening to you.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise, according to Peter, that suffering comes along our way. It shouldn’t be surprising that things don’t go the way we had planned. That results don’t come. That we actually lose ground.
1 Peter 2:20-21 – “For what credit is it if you sin and are mistreated and endure it? But if you do good and suffer and so endure, this finds favor with God. For to this you were called, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in his steps.”
Peter here lets us know that we are called to suffering… Later, 1 Peter 4:19 lets us know that it can be the very will of God! Suffering is a way bigger theme in Scripture than we give it credit for. Paul even calls it a gift in Philippians 1:29.
My point is this: God’s will for you is not so much catching some awesome vision but rather becoming holy. Maybe that includes some type of “sun stand still” moment… maybe that means actually changing the world… but more than likely… it won’t… more than likely you will be living a very normal and mundane life where you are; and remaining faithful and growing holiness will be the goal… still.
So… Grow in holiness. Remain Faithful. Then die and be forgotten.
Because at the end of the day, it is not about people remembering your name or life. It is not about going out and building your own little kingdom. It is not about having something great to put on your tombstone. It is about pointing people to the greatness of Christ. That is all that matters. And as far as I am concerned, you are probably going to reach a lot more unbelievers with your faithfulness in the boring portions of life and the suffering that comes your way than while being underneath the lights of fame and greatness.
Honestly, I think we have painted the picture of the normal Christian life incorrectly. We say, “God’s will for your life is to: Be like Paul! Be like Jesus! Be like Peter! Be famous and great in God’s name!” But what did that mean for them? Paul? Suffering. Stoning. Pain. Jesus? The Cross. Enough said. Peter? Suffering. Also a cross. That does not seem to fit inside the grand “vision” that people try to paint for us these days. The common thread among even the great “celebrity” Christians is what? Suffering. God’s more normal will is suffering! Not fame. And think for a moment about all the other “nameless” Christians that lived during the New Testament times that far outnumber the spiritual giants. God used them in the quietest of ways. God’s sovereign plan does not include the *vast majority* of us being “celebrity” Christians. Are those “celebrity” Christians bad people? Absolutely not. But we probably won’t be them.
Why is it that we understand that we probably won’t be LeBron James, Barak Obama, or Oprah (not that I would really want to be any of them…) but we can’t get our minds around the fact that we probably won’t be the Apostle Paul or Peter? We cannot look to them as the *only *model of effective and biblical Christian living! We cannot just look to the Mark Driscoll and Andy Stanley’s of the world as our only model. They are the rare breed. Let me put it this way: There were only 12 direct disciples of Jesus. Don’t expect to be one of them. Not everyone will be given the opportunity to be a great and famous Christian. The overwhelming majority will be called to live a godly life within their own mundane circumstances and sufferings.
Why give so much air-time (or better phrased, blog-time) to this? Because I think many people are leading depressed and disheartened lives because they were sold the idea that if they didn’t come up with huge numbers and results for Christ they were a failure. Clearly they didn’t have enough faith. Or didn’t pray enough. Or didn’t read their Bible enough. Or… well, you get the point. But in reality, according to the Bible, this just isn’t the case. Some of the most holy and godly men and women will be names you have NEVER heard of and have had near ZERO results. Their example of faithfulness is extraordinary.
Now hear me say that the mundane is not the *only* life that is pleasing to God. Please do not take that away. It is not the only way. But it is a completely valid, biblical, and generally more common life that is given to us from God. Don’t waste it in self-pity and bitterness. Use it for God’s glory. Be faithful where you are. Be holy where you are. Regardless of status. Regardless of fame. Regardless of smallness or bigness.
P.S. Please don’t get all up tight with this post because of my word choice of “normal.” I am not defining it in a way that means we should live like the world. This is not a post endorsing the idea of doing everything that non-Christians do. Context is king in how I define the term.
All Bible verses are quoted from the New English Translation (NET).