With his head bent over and his eyebrows furrowed, he colored so intently, with such purpose that you would have thought it was his grandest work … until you actually saw it. When my son finally held up his finished work at the craft station at VBS yesterday, it dawned on me what was going on: he was restless. Clearly not wanting to sit still another second, he had hastily scribbled color over every area of his artwork and then announced, “DONE!” and held up his paper as evidence. And, in truth, he was done. No amount of coaxing could have kept him in that seat a moment longer. He was restless. He had reached his sitting quota of the day, and it didn’t matter that it was only ten in the morning. He was done.
Perhaps he gets this from me. I don’t know. I mean, I can sit for hours and enjoy a good book on some days, whereas on others, I can’t hardly sit still at all. My schedule reflects this antsyness in me, and although I prefer the calm, quiet stillness in my inner being because it is refreshing to me, I find myself working ceaselessly it seems. When I’m not working for the paycheck, I’m cleaning at home, volunteering in some way, shape or form, or working to catch up on Q-time with my kids. And it all feels like work. I have recently begun to wonder, though, what am I accomplishing in all this busyness? What fruit am I producing, and what good am I for the Kingdom of God in all of this “work?”
This new restlessness has just recently come upon me. I’ve been squirmy for a while, but it reached a feverish pitch this past week in which I know it’s going to be awful difficult for me to sit still much longer. Allow me to ramble a little as I try to explain this restlessness in me:
A young woman I minister to at the local skate park came back from Oklahoma this past week and shared a video of the devastation there, and my heart broke. Hearing about it is one thing, but actually seeing it is … well, it’s devastating. There are literally piles of debris everywhere; piles of what now looks like trash, but was once beautifully constructed homes and the intimate belongings of families who are now displaced. As the hype over the tornadoes there fade out, clean-up will trickle down to a faithful few but in the end, someone still has to clean all that up so that homes can be rebuilt and life can go on.
In the same sense, I know there are people whose lives are falling apart before their very eyes, much like tornadoes have touched down in the midst of them. Young men who have turned to heavy alcohol and drug use to drown out the pain of life, and young women who sell their souls to the lowest bidder in exchange for flattery. And I have often prayed with much fervency, “God, please help them!” But all of the sudden, I am a Christian who’s sick of sitting in church talking about all the great things God can do like it’s the best kept secret in the world. Because for whatever reason, it is the best kept secret in the world, to the detriment of society at large. Do you know what Christians call “evangelism” these days? Political soapboxes and hate-filled speeches against the latest evil thing the world is doing. Well, I’m sorry, but that’s not how Jesus rolled. Did he talk about sin? Absolutely. Called a spade a spade and encouraged repentance. Repentance is the core of his message. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” But look at the life of Christ: his approached to people was gentle and with much love. We’ve got it all wrong if we are spouting off hateful tirades. I find it interesting the things Paul has to say in his letters to Timothy regarding such things:
“…they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions.” (1 Tim. 6:4)
“Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.” (2 Tim. 2:14)
“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.” (2 Tim. 2:23)
Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I think God speaks well for himself, don’t you? I find that when we present the Word of God in love, it is much more effective than when we use it as a weapon. Ephesians 4:15 says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” The purpose of evangelizing is not to condemn people for their sin, but to bring them to repentance so that they might become more like Christ and share in the inheritance of the saints. We can’t cause someone to become defensive and then demand they repent and expect them to come weeping to the foot of the cross we profess to know. We can’t strong-arm people into the kingdom of God. Christians today need to get off their soapboxes and work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, realize that the ground is level at the foot of the cross and stop standing in the way of those who need Christ!
Furthermore, there is still this issue of the mess: who’s going to clean it up? I can sit here in my comfortable, air-conditioned house and pray over those piles of debris in Oklahoma, “Dear God, please clean up that mess over there.” Just like I walk past messes of people everyday and pray, “God please help that person.” But what am I doing? He has called us, his children, the BODY! As I have already mentioned the mouth, let me now address the hands and feet: MOVE! I’m so restless right now I can’t hardly stand myself. There is so much devastation in the world today. People are dying, physically and emotionally and spiritually, and I’m watching it happen. I see it in their eyes, and I pray, “God, please help that person.” But I have the good news! Why am I not sharing it? Why are we just talking about God in our Christian huddles? We are keeping the best thing that ever happened to us to ourselves. We are hoarding food and water while people are dying of hunger and thirst!
Father, I pray for a restlessness to come upon all the Christians in the land. I pray for holy boldness from heaven to envelope your people, and I pray that you will send the lost and dying to those who are ready to profess you to the nations, that people who are bound may find freedom and begin to live! I pray for your church, Lord, that your body may rise up and begin to take responsibility over the clean-up of your world. Help us not to stay comfortable, but to say, “Here I am, Lord send me!” I pray for the hurting, Father, that they may recognize the sustaining power of your righteous Word. And Lord, I pray that you would shut the mouths of those who profess you with their mouths when their hearts are far from you. I pray that you would protect your servants in the field, Father, and that you would sustain them as they labor for you. Lord, I pray for direction for those of us who are sick of sitting around. We have the keys to the kingdom! Help us to know how to use them. Give us guidance and lead us out into the work that you prepared for us before time began. Lord, send revival to the church so that more would become restless for you. As you know, the harvest is ready, but the laborers are few. Send out laborers, Lord, into your vineyard. You have prepared us for the work, now release us into the field. I glorify you, and pray that you may be exalted in the all the earth. In Jesus’ name I pray these things, AMEN!
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” Matthew 28:18-20