Preparing the Way…

Waking up three hours before work was not what I had in mind to start this week. It did, however, give me the prime opportunity to start a morning reading routine. Morning reading routines have often been all-or-nothing for me; either I get up really early and read a ton or I sleep in, not read anything, and almost show up late to work. Got to make life suspenseful, right?

Anyhow, I started reading Luke’s Gospel. I wish I could say it’s my favorite Gospel, but they are all my favorites. Luke’s unique elements, though, begin with the first chapter. Matthew is the only other Gospel with a birth narrative, but Luke has two birth narratives; one for Jesus and one for John the Baptist. Where one might expect Luke to start with the birth of the Savior of the World, he starts with his fore-runner, John.

What hits me about this back story to John the Baptist is his role in God’s story. Every Gospel reveals John’s task, but Luke has Gabriel, one of God’s most prominent angels, delivering the news to Zechariah, John’s father. If you aren’t familiar with the story, Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth believe they’ll never have children because it seemed to them that Elizabeth was barren. To their wonderful surprise, declares Gabriel, they’re going to have a son. Yet what is said about him is the most important thing:

“And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord,” (1:17).

Later in the same chapter, Zechariah regains his ability to speak and sings a song after John’s birth. He sings, “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,” (1:76).

In Luke 3 Isaiah 40:3 is used to describe John, “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him,’” (3:4b). While all the Synoptic Gospels quote Isaiah 40:3, Luke emphasizes John the Baptist’s role in how God would rescue His people: He prepares the way. He gets things ready.

What I think God was asking me was what am I preparing? Or, to be more precise, how am I preparing?

Back in high school, I golfed a lot. I even skipped soccer during my junior year just so that I could play more golf. I wanted to do well for the upcoming season and the only way that would happen was if I practiced as much as possible. Back then, Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, and Phil Mickelson were among the top five of the world’s best golfers. What did they all have in common besides a ridiculous ability to hit a golf ball? A ridiculous work ethic in preparing for each tournament.

It is no mystery that the best athletes in any sport are the ones who prepare the most. They’re like Vijay; the first on the driving range and the last to leave. Every swing, every shot, and every possible scenario is played out in practice so that when it comes time to compete, nothing will catch them off guard.

What would this look like spiritually? How do we prepare the way for God to work in our lives? Prayer, reading Scripture, meeting with fellow believers – all of those are helpful, but what else? Are we practicing what we preach? Are we actively seeking to share Jesus – not a pamphlet, business card, or tract about Him – with those around us?

It’s not a surprise that on the day I decide to start preparing for my day more effectively is the day God reminds me of the importance of preparation. Jesus needed John to prepare things for Him because maybe who He was and what He had to say was more than the people could bear. I think the same could be said for many today; they’re not ready to receive Him. So in essence, we’re the ones to warm people up for Christ; to get in a spot where they might be more ready, willing, and able to receive Him.

Yet this immediately raises another difficult task: Are we preparing ourselves for this task? Like I said above, are we practicing Jesus’ words, praying as often as possible, and sharing all we have with the church we’re a part of? In order to prepare others, we must be prepared already. In order to give Jesus to others, we must already have Him.

I’m not suggesting we all quit the day jobs and become missionaries; I’m simply saying we’re all missionaries wherever we are. So if that’s the case, how are we treating our coworkers? Are we loving the regular people in our lives – the baristas, bankers, and bosses? Are we already in the habit of embodying Jesus so that whether we’re aware of it or not we share Him with others? It is by no means an easy task, but it’s the task before each of us.

It might help to think through every aspect of your daily life and the people you come across. How are you treating them? Could you treat them better – showing more kindness, gentleness, patience, self control, etc.? When I consider how well or not well I’m preparing the way for God to work, I realize there is always room for improvement.

God bless.

Ceaseless, Sleepless Prayer…

“In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.” – Luke 6:12

I was roughly five minutes late for work on Monday. I wish I could say that it was for a good reason – like getting my coworkers donuts or walking a family of ducks across the street. But I was late because I was getting coffee. I have coffee at home and had plenty of time to make some, even though I had slept through my alarm by an hour and fifteen minutes. Instead I thought I’d be lazy and get a mocha from Dutch Bros.

As it turned out, there was a bit of a line at the Dutch Bros I decided to swing by. After waiting fifteen minutes and spending nearly $5, I got my mocha and drove to work. Fortunately enough, there weren’t any consequences for showing up a little late. But I point it out because I was a minute late Tuesday morning – and for a completely different reason.

I woke up at my usual time, ate breakfast at my usual time, and hopped in the shower at my usual time. And while I was in the shower, I started off a simple prayer for the day. Knowing that day was going to be busy – as well as the rest of the week – I thought it’d be best to set my mind in the right place. Shortly after praying, I turned off the shower and stepped out. Even though I normally take 5-10 minute showers, Tuesday morning’s rinse was nearly 20 minutes long.

I don’t really remember what I was praying about, either. I just know that at the time it was necessary and I wouldn’t have handled the day’s stress and frustration very well without having prayed. And as I was pulling into work one minute behind schedule, I thought of Luke 6:12 talking about Jesus praying all night in spite of His job. Moments before this verse, Luke records a couple encounters with the religious elite over someone whom Jesus had healed on the Sabbath. Moments after this verse, Luke records the naming of Jesus’ apostles and further healings after that. In spite of what Jesus had to do, He still sacrificed sleep to pray.

All-nighter prayers are very infrequent in my life. I’ve maybe pulled off a couple here and there. In recent days, praying has become rare in general. Work has been busier and busier with the football season in full throttle and my day to day tasks have multiplied as well. Praying on a regular basis isn’t very convenient.

Even if I do find the time to pray, they aren’t always the most focused of prayers. I start rambling about different things going on that day, which quickly turns into me reciting my to-do list out loud to myself. Next thing I know, I’m off to start my to-do list all the while I haven’t finished my talk with God. It’s like making a phone call, but walking away just as the other end picks up.

Prayer, in my experience, gets treated as a highly-formal religious rite or a simple, short-lived part of an every day routine (i.e. praying before going to bed). What I find challenging, though, is how Jesus uses prayer. Sometimes He’s praying alone (Matthew 14:23); other times He prays for what seems like hours when a major shift is about to take place (consider the garden of Gethsemane; Mark 14:32-40); and yet all the while, it is an intimate and special practice in our walks with God – something to be kept behind closed doors (Matthew 6:6). As Jesus teaches, God does not want our pretense; He wants our communion with Him.

Despite how we may treat it, prayer is not a fee; it is not something we have to do as part of being good Christians. Instead, it is total surrender of whatever we have going on to engage and embrace whatever God wants to have going on within us. It is not a small snack here and there, supplementing our main-course meals; it is all the meals combined (however many we may receive) because it is the very thing that sustains and drives our spiritual lives. To try and be Christian without prayer is like trying to drive a car without an engine: You’ll stay in one place without it.

“Pray,” as Paul says, “without ceasing,” (1st Thessalonians 5:17). Pray – even if it means being late to work, skipping breakfast, sacrificing a few hours of sleep, or whatever else. Jesus utilized prayer not because it was merely the most effective tool to continue His ministerial work, but because it was the only tool with which He could bring about His Father’s kingdom. It kept Him focused. It kept Him nourished. And it kept Him moving.

Days will only get busier. Maybe you take on more classes in school; maybe you gain more responsibility at work which requires more of your time; or maybe you start dating someone or raising a family. Life’s many stages will only cause us to work harder and retain a stronger focus. Prayer not only helps in these two areas, but causes us to look beyond the temporal circumstances (i.e. this life) toward the life that is to come. Isn’t that worth the 15-20 minutes here and there?

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit,” – 1st Thessalonians 5:16-19

God bless.

Disarming Distractions…

We are so distracted here in America. Even in the simplest decision of eating food, we have hundreds and hundreds of different food companies and brands vying for our attention (or rather, our dollars). As Christians we may not think anything of it. “It’s just how it is,” we might say. But with so many things going on in our lives – jobs, school, friends, relationships, bills, etc – we rarely make time for God. Oftentimes, He’s just part of our schedules – not the other way around.

Tonight I joined with a group of friends (some old, most new) for prayer. For about an hour or so we just stood in a circle and prayed. For Eugene, for each others’ needs, but – most importantly – for God’s presence. It was the one common theme in each of our prayers that really stuck with me. Why? Because more often than not, I’m focused on my own thing. God’s frequently a part of it, but that’s just it: He’s a part, not the whole.

Ethan Holub, the guy whose house we were praying at, encouraged us beforehand to really focus on God as we prayed. He said, quite accurately, that most of the time we pray out of habit or out of show and we hardly ever truly acknowledge God. Honestly, it was difficult.

No, when it was my turn to pray it was relatively easy. For one thing, I was the second person to pray. And for another, I had thought of what I was going to pray about a couple minutes before. I said the things I wanted to say and squeezed the next person’s hand (indicating it was their turn to pray). It didn’t take long for my mind to wander into tomorrow’s events and all the things I need to take care of tonight. If it wasn’t tomorrow, it was Friday and how I need to go to the bank before my first shift. One thing after the next led my mind farther and farther from the group praying before God.

By the end of the prayer time, I was refocused. But I don’t know if my prayer experience tonight was as good as it could have been. If I hadn’t been thinking about my to-do list, I would have been hearing and feeling the hearts and prayers of those around me – a style of empathy that is increasingly rare in American churches. I know for a fact that if I didn’t go to this group, I might not have prayed at all.

After prayer was over, though, Ethan popped in a documentary DVD and invited anybody to stick around and watch it. Since I no longer have homework, I decided to stay. It was a video about the displaced people of Uganda fighting to survive in little huts and villages while malaria and hepatitis run wild within and militant groups wander around just outside the villages – abducting any loners to make them part of their armies.

One kid, named Sunday, told the American travelers that he was aspiring to be a doctor and was studying restlessly in order to do it. He went to school every day, but was sent home each time because he didn’t have the school uniform, which he couldn’t afford. In his own words, though, he’s “stubborn.” He knows that in order to be a doctor, he cannot neglect his studies. And even though the school sends him home each day, he does not stop teaching himself at home.

I found myself jealous of what Sunday had.

As I said at the beginning, we’re distracted in every day situations, like picking a place to eat. But we’re also distracted in the bigger parts of life, like what we’ll be when we grow up or what kind of career we want to have. We’re so focused on being in the land of opportunity that we don’t focus on really anything specific. It’s why college students change majors so often; we can’t make up our minds. But Sunday – in a poor, diseased, and overall dangerous village – knew what he wanted to be and went about every day with that as his focus. I wish I had that.

Our country is focused on efficiency, productivity, and profit: We want more of it all. We want to spend less and make more all in half the time it took yesterday. This drives us into a fast-paced society. And yet here I desire the slow pace that Sunday has in Africa.

The other day I was reading the Gospel of Luke. At the end of chapter 10 is a story of two women and Jesus. Martha and Mary, sisters, were hosting dinner for Jesus. Martha took charge of cooking all the food and setting the whole ordeal up while Mary, much to Martha’s frustration, simply sat and talked with Jesus. Scripture paints Martha with a certain word, though: “Martha was distracted with much serving,” (10:40). American society is a lot like Martha; we’re too focused on “what needs to get done” that we miss out on talking with Jesus.

I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty about their busy schedules. But what I am saying is that our busy schedules must be a part of our overall lives with the Lord. Jesus must be our primary focus as we go about the little tasks of each day. It’s like a round of golf: You don’t set out to do well on one hole; you set out to do well on each hole so that you do well for the entire round. Your final score is what’s most important. In life, God is most important. Each season we go through – however long they may be – is one hole in a round; meant to be played well, but not meant to be the only hole played.

I can’t tell you what hole I’m on or what round I’m in. But I can tell you that I’m feeling the difficulty of focusing on this particular round and this particular hole instead of all the other rounds and holes I’ve ever played. Like Martha, I’m too focused on all the different things I think I need to do when the most important is to hang out with Jesus.

In a world that lives with the “no-tomorrow” attitude, I am choosing to live one day at a time. As my society goes about its fast pace, I am choosing to go at my own. It’s not about getting to a certain point by a certain time; it’s about enduring to the end, focused on the prize.

God bless.

Hangin’ With God…

Sometimes hanging out with people is boring. Everyone’s sitting on a couch, chair, the floor, or each other watching TV or a movie while eating. All the while there really isn’t much conversation. Maybe if something funny happens on the screen, someone will chime in with something adding to the humor. Or if a great play happens everyone will cheer or boo, depending on which team they’re rooting for. But no one really talks about their day, their classes, friends that are frustrating them, or how they shouldn’t have had a burrito for lunch.

I’ve often wondered what Jesus would be up to if He had come in physical form in our day. The Gospels say He often ate dinner with people. So would He hang out with us as we watch baseball and drink beer? Would He wonder with us how a certain movie will end? And would He get frustrated at the popcorn stuck in His teeth?

Honestly, I think he would.

But only for a little while.

Why only a little while? Because I think Jesus is the kind of guy who’d do whatever it’d take to reach someone – to get on a level where they would clearly hear Him – and then use wisdom to bring us forward into something more. He would hang out with us intentionally; not just because He’s bored.

We often think – either consciously or sub-consciously – that our time with God ought to be at church or in the small Bible study. But really, He’s always with us. Jesus says that He’ll be with us always (Matthew 28:20), which I take to mean He’s there with me as I work at my job, as I drive behind the slow-moving car, as I wait in the excessively-long line at the DMV, and even as I write these words. Somehow, knowing that He is always there changes the way I seek Him.

I often find myself in the habit of extreme “devo-time.” No, I’m not sky-diving as I read through a Gospel. When I say “extreme,” I mean that I’m strictly following a set pattern of devotional time with God. I stick to whatever habit, whatever routine I’ve given myself and treat it as if it’s the only time that God is ever with me. I seem to “listen” to God as I read Scripture, but when I feel the urge to honk my horn at the guy who cut me off, I rarely choose to listen to Him.

As I said before, God is constantly hanging out with us whether we like it or not. Sometimes it feels like we’re on a date with Him; and yet other times it feels like dealing with the roommate who never showers. But no matter what, He’s right there.

I haven’t read through a daily-devotional book in quite a long time simply because I make such a routine out of it that I lose the sense of God’s presence in every aspect of my life. It changes the way I pray and worship, too: Instead of talking to God like He’s my best friend, I’m simply asking Him to do stuff for me; or instead of praising Him like He’s my favorite athlete, I simply focus on singing the songs right, standing when everyone stands, raising my hands when everyone else raises their hands, and sitting when everyone else is sitting. Books that structure how I read, pray, worship, and operate my day tend to make me less reliant on God and more reliant on the man-made system.

Man has had a long history of depending on our own systems instead of God. But God is right here with us; that’s what “Immanuel” means! We don’t need our daily devos, doctrines, dogmas, purification systems, systematic theologies, and formulaic beliefs about how God operates with us. Those all can be helpful at times, but we don’t need them like we need oxygen. We need God. And I think it’s just as easy as hanging out with friends.

God bless.

Prayer’s Power…

Retreats are awesome. The mere practice of getting out of a routine can be refreshing in itself; coupling the break with brothers and sisters seeking God practically quadruples the effect of getting away. And then on top of all that, receiving indirect lessons of the faith through the people around you is like, well, you get the idea. This weekend was an awesome weekend.

One man in particular really stood out to me. He might not like me writing exaggerated things about him (like the time he took on a whole biker gang with a single punch), but whatever. He’s cool and deserves the stories.

Riding up with Ethan was a learning experience in and of itself. I first learned that taxicab drivers make a lot of money in a single year. Sure there are a lot of hours spent sitting down and maybe a few too many drunks to deal with on a single night, but they seem to pay out. Ethan ended up buying into the business and now owns a good portion of Eugene’s cabs.

How he got there, though, is an amazing story; one that I don’t think I could fully cover in 100 blogs or even a 1,500-page text book. But I think it’d be cool to write like a three volume set about the guy and then translate it into as many languages as humanly possible because the guy has been to like 60 different countries (legends say within one month…). The first story I picked up on, though, was the story he carried with him everywhere he went: his habit of praying before making any decisions (and yes, I mean “any”; I overheard him whispering a prayer about what kind of gas to get before we hit the road).

When I now read Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing,” I now think of Ethan. While he was talking about what he’s going to do next after owning Oregon’s Taxi (at least the vans), he said that he was praying about it. He’s got a few ideas with what he wants to do, so he definitely needs it. And given his history of praying and receiving an answer, which I learned from a mutual friend, Nathan, I think Ethan will be alright.

Instead of riding back with Ethan, I decided to mix things up and ride back with two girls I hardly ever talked to during Cross Training. Well, that and there were a lot of guys in Ethan’s van (3 of which were defensive linemen for Oregon). Even if all the guys showered that day, riding back in a girl’s car is much easier on the nostrils.

While riding back, I started talking to Nathan about how I now want to be a cab driver when I grow up and how I was inspired by Ethan. One of the first things Nathan mentioned about Ethan was how often the man prays – and gets a relatively quick answer. Nathan said that Ethan once prayed for land to buy over in eastern Oregon and within a span of two days received a random offer from someone he happened to run into. Whether or not that’s true; Ethan prays and God gives results.

One major thing I found lacking in my walk during the introspective moments that retreats usually provide was my prayer life. And what I mean by this isn’t merely the number of times I pray or even praying on a regular basis; I mean praying with the faith that my supplications are not only heard, but will be answered as well.

I usually pray at least once or twice a day (usually in my morning shower and the final five or six minutes before I go to bed). But rarely, at least recently, have I prayed with the childlike faith that what I ask for will be answered. For whatever reason, I roll through my mental-list of prayers and hop out of the shower or lay down in bed. It’s a terrible habit and I think on some level, it’s kept me from truly engaging God. I mean, I talk to Him, yes, but after saying all that I wanted to say, I’m not in the habit of listening for a response.

No, I don’t mean God literally speaking to me (although that would be helpful [and freaky] at times), but letting me know in some way that He has heard my prayer and has given or will give an answer. Right off the bat in Luke is a story about prayers being heard and answered (1:13). I know it’s not in an angel’s nature to drop by every day or even every once in a while to say that God has heard us and is in the process of answering (and I wonder if we’d really believe them if they did), but within this story is the implication that Luke was an avid and frequent and faithful pray-er.

God is a God who wants our trust, especially when we’re entering a foggy patch on the path of life. He wants us to trust Him that when we fall He’ll be there to catch us. Or when we have a thousand different ideas about what we’re going to do with our degrees or whom we’re going to marry, that He’ll give us some direction and guidance. He’s a loving and good Father who wants the best for us, no matter what. A girl named Melanie told me this weekend that what keeps her going is a little, repeated phrase, “God is faithful, God is faithful.”

I know; all of what I’ve written here can basically be summed up in Melanie’s personal phrase. But I think seeing God’s faithfulness working through Ethan (and particularly because of Ethan’s faithful prayers) was the lesson I needed to learn. Melanie delivered God’s thesis statement for the weekend and Ethan’s testimony gave the bulk of the essay culminating in a very persuasive and promising lesson.

Prayer’s power is unimaginable when it comes to faithfully directing those prayers to God. Barren wombs suddenly give birth, starving thousands suddenly receive their fill from a mere dozen loaves of bread, and the dead come to life by faithful and frequent, God-trusting prayers.

When I die, I want to be known like Ethan is known to me; a man of prayer.

God bless.

Stretching the Mind…

After thumbing through the pages of my Religious Studies books, I now realize that my goal for this term (getting straight A’s, but really it’s for the rest of my undergrad days) is set really, really, really high. This stuff is dense. Normally it takes me roughly 30-40 minutes to read 20-30 pages, but tonight it took me an hour to read 18 pages of an introduction chapter. If that’s just the tip of the iceberg, I’m in for one challenging term.

Honestly, though, that’s what’s exciting about this term; the subject material is exciting in and of itself, but knowing that if I don’t take it seriously my ass is going to be kicked gives it a bit of a thrill. There’s some risk involved with this term. My journalism classes last term weren’t as exciting merely because I didn’t expect them to be very difficult. They ended up being a little more difficult than anticipated, but not in the mind-stretching, intellect-exhausting sense. They were challenging in a get-projects-done sense, which was something new for me and on some level, made them more enjoyable (albeit more frustrating at times).

When Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your…mind,” I think He meant something along these lines. I think He meant for His children to explore with their minds as while as their hearts, souls, and bodies the vastness that is Him and His creation. No, this doesn’t mean everybody has to take religious studies classes from liberal universities, but it does mean that when faced with an intellectual difficulty, though their may be risks involved, we ought to take it on.

What are my risks? Well, one that I know of is the risk of ruining my GPA entirely; Professor Falk is a difficult professor. He’s a great guy, loves the Lord, a great instructor, but he demands our best effort and then some academically. There cannot be any scrambling to write a paper the night before it’s due with him; he knows B.S. when he sees it and grades accordingly. My English major skills will definitely be put to the test in the two classes I’m taking from him.

Another potential risk is a possible challenge to my faith. I have no idea what that challenge would look like or where it might come from (they usually come from a mixture of things), but I know that I’m getting myself into a class that strives for spiritual and religious neutrality as best as possible; any attacks on the Christian faith are incidental. And yet, I feel as though I won’t have to defend what I believe against someone else; I think I’m going to have to defend what I believe against myself.

In the moments of extreme doubt that I’ve gone through, it wasn’t any well-spoken argument or sermon that had pulled me through; it was how I processed a mixture of things. I once doubted the legitimacy of the New Testament Scriptures and what they say about Jesus. But in a moment of self-argumentation, I concluded with that although there may be flaws and inconsistencies within Scripture, God still used them to speak to me. Perhaps this doubt will reappear in this class; but then again I’ve dived deeper into Christ and He deeper into me since the last time I felt this way. Things have changed; my faith is centered on Christ, the foundation of our faith (1 Cor. 3:11), and at this point, it’s difficult to see anything erasing the God that I’ve known and loved throughout the last few years.

But it could happen.

And that’s what’s making me somewhat leery and somewhat sure; somewhat uncertain and somewhat confident about what I’m getting into. This term will exhaust me in many ways and that’s just the beauty of it; I’ll grow stronger for it. My faith, knowledge, and overall academic skills will be sharpened through these courses. And even if I don’t get the grades I desire, having a stronger faith and knowledge about the God I love will be worth more than any number of straight A’s. At the end of the day, it’s how you’re walking with the Lord that matters most, not what GPA you have.

Prayer will be most essential throughout this term. The only way I see my faith in God disintegrating is if I stop talking to Him. If I treat Him like He’s not actually there, well then there isn’t much left for secular reasoning to do but give me words to justify my potential lack of faith. But if I listen and talk to Him, secular reasoning won’t be able to get a foothold.

What then is this term if I’m likely to wind up with the same faith I had before entering it? It is a stage in my life where my mind will be stretched, overworked, and exhausted to build endurance. And therefore, it will no longer be the same faith I had before beginning this term; it’ll be a hardened center, an unbreakable core, an unshakeable foundation in Jesus Christ.

I honestly cannot wait to get started.

Fatigued in the Faith…

Call me a wuss, but after three shifts of work, I’m exhausted. Last night was probably the worst. I started the shift feeling a little energetic and lively, but once we got slammed for about an hour straight, I started to feel it. I haven’t had a job for almost two full years, so my job stamina has dropped dramatically. I’m rarely on my feet for five or six hours straight in my spare time. And after the rush started to subside, my feet ached, my back was terribly sore, and my energy was just about gone. Fatigue hit me like a freight train.

As I was driving home, though, I wondered about the last time I was fatigued by my faith. It might sound strange, being tired out from believing in God, but I think – when all the elements of the Christian faith are considered – I really ought to be fatigued in the faith more often than I have been. For instance, I don’t pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). Given all the troubles of the world that I’m aware, it would take me about an hour and a half to pray for them all just by merely mentioning them. God knows I’m a chatter box when I really get into praying, though. But that’s just it; I don’t feel fatigued in my walk with God and I really believe I should be.

It doesn’t stop at praying, though, and this (I hope) is obvious. Walking with God means seeking to display His love, His glory, His light to the world around us – be it the workplace, the classroom, or just in ordinary places. If God is with us wherever we go, then we carry His light wherever we go. And if we’re to constantly display that light, then we’re to constantly be aware of our mission. But in order to display this light, we have to strain to follow in His ways, to think with a Jesus-mentality, and love in a Christ-like manner.

It’s tough to do. It’s so hard to live, to truly live, for the gospel. Praying about everything and everyone who I think needs prayer, refreshing myself in God’s ways by reading my Bible on a daily basis, and using that recharged energy to display His light in the dark places of the world should take a lot out of me. Paul writes in several of his letters that he and his coworkers (fellow laborers) would frequently pull all-nighters in their ministry for the Lord. And it’s not like Paul was wasting his daylight hours; he was a worker with leather (Acts 18:3), which I imagine was quite demanding work. So for him to work an ordinary job during the day and then commit all of himself (even staying up all night) to serving God’s people indicates to me that maybe our renewed lives in Jesus are supposed to be a little more tiring.

Does this mean we should all pull all-nighters to read, worship, and pray? Not necessarily. I’ve actually been a part of several all-nighter worship/prayer events and they’re actually encouraging, especially if you have a frequently busy schedule in this ordinary world. What I do think being exhausted for the faith should mean, though, is a little more effort on our end to amplify Jesus in any way we can. For me, it means writing more. Whether it’s been a lack of inspiration, a lack of ambition, or both, I haven’t been writing as often as I used to. A few months ago, I was on a 215-page per year pace in my journal. As of today, my pace is only at 181 pages per year. I know this seems ridiculous to most people, but to me it is a legitimate concern. It makes me wonder if I’m really passionate about writing. It makes me wonder if this is something I’m still supposed to be pursuing.

I believe it is, to be sure. Just the other day I felt the desire, the drive, and the joy of punching out thousands of words in a single day, even though that journal entry will never be published. For me and my journal, it’s not about what potential profit I could gain; it’s about merely responding to the things God teaches me and just the stuff that goes on in life. That’s why I write; to process the things God reveals to me and maybe pass it along to others for their benefit (i.e. post them as blogs or Facebook notes). And the fact that I haven’t been writing much indicates to me that I must not be doing much for God or learning much from God.

Regardless of whether or not that is true, fatiguing myself for the faith I hold in God and for the faith I share with others – I believe – is something I should strain towards. No, I’m not going to tire myself out just so that I can say that I’m fatigued for the faith. But what I am going to do is work a little more. It makes one wonder what Jesus was really saying to His disciples when He said that the “laborers are few,” (Matt. 9:37). Was He just saying that few are chosen for this or was He also saying that the few laborers who are willing to work are going to have to work hard?

After working only three 6-hour shifts, I would have to imagine myself dead if I had to work a double shift in one day. But the life that God calls us into – the life full of prayer, worship, communion, fellowship, community, and gospel-amplification – is like working a triple shift every single day. It’s not like an earthly job; there isn’t a separation of the workplace and the home. The work we’re called to do can be done anywhere and everywhere we go. Abstaining from sinful conduct or thought, seeking to show God’s love as well as to talk about it, and praying ceaselessly to keep that connection to God strong are all things we can do while we’re going about our days. Unlike an ordinary job, we can’t clock in to work for God and then clock out when we’ve complete the shift. These work shifts never end and there is never schedule; it’s every day, everywhere, and through everything that we think, say or do.

No, living out the gospel doesn’t mean you’re always going to be tired. It just means that there is always work to be done for God’s glory – even if it means staying up until 3 in the morning (like I’m doing right now) just to make sure it gets done.

I’m starting to love my job and sometimes I even love the feeling of exhaustion after a hard day’s work. I want to feel that way about God and the faith that I live with and for. I want to lie down each night knowing that I was productive during the day. I want to rest well after working well. Too often I think that I must rest well before I can truly work well. But as I have found, that is a lame excuse for laziness. And I’m talking in the sense of faith, not just every day, ordinary things like going to work or paying the bills or cleaning the house. Too often I’m like the workers in Matthew 20:6-7 who stood around idle all day waiting for someone to come along and hire them instead of seeking to do the work, to take the initiative, to tire and exhaust myself in labor for the faith. Too often I’m not fatigued in the faith.