When we lose sight
When I compact two or three months of ministry into one newsletter my life sounds great. The responsibilities I have, the privileges of working with a Christian organization, the trips I get to take, the people I meet, the stories I hear and tell, the projects we support…it’s great, incredible, wonderful! I love being part of it.
But sometimes, it doesn’t feel so great. Sometimes it seems like much of my time is spent with the not-so-great parts of all that needs to get done. Sometimes, or rather all too often, I lose sight. And when I lose sight, I wonder if I am the only one who has ever felt this way. In those times, it is always the best choice to turn to God because He puts everything into perspective. His Word gives new sight because the Bible portrays real humans, along with all their dirt.
One of the people we read a lot about in the Bible is Paul. He is what we would probably call one of the greatest missionaries of all times. Most have read his story, about the many people he brought to Christ, his teachings and his preachings. And it all sounds so glorious. Wherever he went, people gave their lives to Christ.
Reading through the Bible and the obvious tremendous impact Paul had, I wonder how he felt back then. Did he ever lose sight? Did it feel as glorious as it sounded? Probably not, for the Bible even talks about his sufferings, concerns, troubles and heartbreaks.
When he travelled for days did he wonder if it was worth the trouble? When he was reasoning with the Jews in Athens did he ask himself whether it was a waste of time? Did he ever get even a tiny bit frustrated when he had to defend himself and his ministry to the Corinthians? Was he discouraged after quarrelling with Barnabas? Did he question why he had to purify himself to show Jewish believers that he had not forsaken their customs? In all his troubles and hardships did he ever despair? Did his heart break?
Now, I am no Bible expert and it is a dangerous thing to speculate about what is not actually written in the Word. We do not know what Paul felt or thought unless he told us.
But fact is, he was on the road for days (journeys that now take only a few hours!), and we do not know if any miracles happened during that time. He did reason with the Jews in Athens and the Bible doesn’t say if anyone believed until he spoke in front of the city’s high council (Acts 17). He did have to defend his ministry in a letter to the Corinthians who were questioning his methods and character, (2 Corinthians 10). He parted ways with Barnabas, a fellow apostle and a ‘good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith' (Acts 11:24), because of a disagreement (Acts 15). He spent several days purifying himself to show the Jewish believers in Jerusalem that he wasn’t telling others to disregard Moses’ law (Acts 21). Although we don’t really know about personal despair in his many troubles, Paul did cry when he told the Philippians about the many people who walk as enemies of the cross of Christ (Philippians 3:18).
It is also not apparent that Paul knew what tremendous impact his ministry would have on the world. He did not know that the precious money and time he spent writing letters to different churches would be read, recited, preached on and help guide lives uncountable times these past 2,000 years. He did not know that after being in Philippi for several days, the joining of the prayer meeting on that Sabbath day would result in the first European Christians (Acts 16), and that that would only be the beginning of a revolution that impacted the European continent to this very day. He did not know what impact his investment in young Timothy would have when he first asked him to accompany him on his travels (Acts 16).
Likewise, we do not know what impact our ministry will have. That woman has no idea just how much her email encouraged me. That couple doesn’t know what impact their guidance has had on my life now five years later. And that man doesn’t know that he said exactly what I needed to hear the other day.
Just the same, I often don’t see what impact my ministry has. I don’t know who will read this blog post or whether writing it was worth my time. I know it won’t change the world – neither will the emails I write, the events I organize, the meetings I attend, the photographs I take or the baking I do.
But there is the chance that the ministry I do may change one person's life, if only in a small way.
When our time is consumed by the details of life and we are wrapped up in all the to-do lists, it is easy to lose sight. It is easy to look at other people’s lives and think they change the world and not see how we have just changed someone’s.
What Paul did seems so big – and it was. But he did it in the small. He went on a journey. He talked to Jews in the synagogue. He defended himself and his beliefs in a letter. He purified himself. He went and joined a prayer meeting. He invited Timothy along on a trip. He didn’t change the world at once, but obeyed God in the small things and went from there.
Likewise, all we need to do is the small, and just like that, we might change someone’s life. Christ will give us the strength to endure troubles and hardships and will let our hearts break for what breaks His, just as He did with Paul.
I pray that you and I will always have the courage to follow God in the small, ask for the perseverance to endure and never lose sight of the big picture.