By Dr. Christopher Cone
Tyndale Theological Seminary
Highlights. We are addicted to highlights. We subject ourselves to a continuous media stream telling us what is noteworthy and what isn't. Is it re-tweetworthy? Is it worth a share or a status update? We have come to value style over substance and flash over fundamentals. Of course, nothing is inherently wrong with highlights, style, or flash, but when these captivate our attention fully, we are in trouble. We can quickly lose our appreciation for and connection to ordinary. We have teachers and teachings advocating a kind of Christianity that is radical and a kind of love that is crazy. They tell us we should consider the status quo an enemy and fight to enjoy our best life now, and to make sure we are driven full throttle by purpose. We begin to place ourselves in bondage, wondering if what we are doing is significant enough. We feel guilted into wishing for bigger and better things—for more fulfilling roles and more substantial ministries. But in our zeal for a kind of Christianity that makes a difference or that matters, we have become focused on outcomes and mountaintop moments. In doing so we are prone to overlook something important.
Be Good at Ordinary
Hosting Jesus, Martha was so busy and distracted with preparations that she was missing out on the simplicity of fellowship with her Lord. Mary, on the other hand, sat down at His feet and listened to His word. When Martha expressed her frustration, Jesus said, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary" (Lk 10:41-42). A few years later, Paul spent time in Corinth making tents along with Aquilla and Priscilla (Acts 18:2-3). He then spent a year and a half teaching the word at Corinth (Acts 18:11). We seem to laud Paul for his apostolic ministry, but we sometimes forget that he often labored to earn an income so he wouldn't be a burden on those to whom he was ministering (e.g., 1 Thes 2:9). We recognize his teaching ministry as vitally important, but fail to consider the menial aspects of his life and ministry as equally important. Even Jesus, during His earthly ministry, spent three years with His disciples—most of that time traveling the countryside doing ordinary things, and having ordinary conversations. Of course, there were the miracles and signs. Of course, there were the great public teachings. But Jesus spent a good deal of His time teaching these disciples in simple ways.
Paul later tells the Thessalonian believers to "make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commended you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need" (1 Thes 4:11-12). Paul was earnest in his exhortation that the Thessalonians be good at ordinary. In Romans 12:1, we discover something remarkable. Paul exhorts believers to act in light of the mercies of God (those mercies that Paul had spent the previous eleven chapters discussing). He urges believers to present our bodies a living and holy sacrifice. You can't get much more ordinary than that. God doesn't ask for only our best moments—He wants our every moment! He doesn't just want the very best we may think we have to offer—He wants all that we are! Everything we do in this life is done in our bodies. And He wants our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice. But this is a spiritual thing, right? After all, the verse says, "...acceptable to God, your spiritual service of worship." Right? Not exactly. The Greek word, translated "spiritual," is ten logiken (τὴν λογικὴν)—it is the rational, reasonable (or logical) service of worship. It is only reasonable. It is what makes sense. Presenting our bodies to Him is not intended to be some radical or revolutionary idea—it is ordinary! It is the basic expectation He has for every believer.
It is remarkable that we are never told to do great things for God. Instead, we are told to abide in Him (Jn 15), to let His word richly abide in us (Col 3:16), to walk in the Spirit (Gal 5), and to be constantly in prayer (1 Thes 5:17). We are reminded that we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Eph 2:10). If we will just walk with Him, we will be right where we need to be, doing what He wants us to do. We are not called to be super-Christians with impressive portfolios of highlights. In fact, the things we consider highlights are often the very things that appeal to our personal pride and not His glory. Further, when there is fruit, it isn't even us bearing that fruit—it is Him doing it in us (1 Cor 3:6; Gal 5:22).
It is sometimes said that Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. Perhaps that is even understating things a bit. Christianity is about ordinary people (1 Cor 1:26-29), who God has saved by extraordinary grace through belief in Christ (Eph 2:8-9), who are given the opportunity to spend their ordinary moments walking with the Creator of all things. To be able to talk to Him in prayer at every moment, to be able to meditate on His word, to be able to share His pleasure in expressing His love toward others, to express gratitude to Him, and to pursue His glory at every moment—there is nothing crazy or radical about these things. They are the ordinary expectation He has for His children. We don't need to worry about whether He will allow us to do great things. We don't need to worry about whether He will use us in big ways. Instead, lets consider what would happen if we just simply focused on Him and ran the race He put in front of us (Heb 12:1-2). Simple obedience, and simple fellowship. Perhaps the specific tasks are different for each one of us. Perhaps one plants and another waters (1 Cor 3:6). Perhaps one is a hand and another is a foot (1 Cor 12:12-27). Of course, there are many roles in the church, and different seasons within each individual life—some highlight moments, and some seemingly far less notable. But every moment spent with Him is the most beautiful kind of ordinary. With Him, every little moment, and every little task is a little taste of eternity and a little sampling of His glory. With Him, we have every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ. That's fantastic, right? Actually, that's ordinary.
- How God Uses Ordinary People • Bible.org (Steven J. Cole)
- The Fate of Fruitless Followers in John 15:6 • Grace Life (Charlie Bing)
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- Top 10 Most Read Church & Ministry Stories of 2013 • Christian Post
- Biblical Archaeology's Top Ten Discoveries of 2013 • Christianity Today