The holiday’s are now behind us, the pressure is off, and we can finally get back to normal life. No more agonizing over who will get presents and who won’t, which parties you’ll attend or skip, or if you should tell your house guest to stop leaving the hallway light on. Sure, it was stressful and it would be natural to just ‘do you’ and hit the ground running into 2018, but before you get too far, it would be wise to seize the opportunities God has given us while there’s still a remnant of Christmas cheer in the air. With the untold promises of 2018, people are especially in tune with all that’s broken in their lives. Just days ago, millions gathered to sing praises to the Lord (Psa 22:3), Christ was being exalted on secular radio stations, and unbelievers were busy giving glory to God by taking their eyes off themselves and focusing on others. With this new year, many of us declared, “enough is enough” and made bold resolutions to make the much needed changes in our lives. This nationwide call to introspection flooding our country can be a great opportunity to grow in Christ. While the rest of the world is reflecting, Christians should be preparing to busy themselves with the Lord’s work. The early days of a new year are unique, people’s defenses are down, their usual pride is weakened, and the usual defense mechanisms are low. They think they need a new diet, relationship, or updated wardrobe, but we are keenly aware of their need for Christ. In other words, ‘tis the season to share the Gospel.
I brought in the holidays with my future in-laws (who I hardly know.) They are sweet people and made me feel very welcomed. After a day or two (and lots of new names and faces) I realized that something unique was happening. Bitten by the new beginning bug, the topic of all of our conversations steered towards life and faith. As I perceived this recurring pattern, I recognized this as a prompting from God. I had planned my trip as a leisurely vacation, but God had other plans (Prov 16:19). As these divine opportunities manifested, I was focused, encouraged and compelled not to miss them. Time and time again I would be asked during organic conversation, “So Troy, what do you do?” I responded by sharing about the urban ministry I am a part of at New Hope Philly in Southwest Philadelphia, which led to more questions, and eventually, the opportunities to share Christ.
On Christmas Eve, I was involved in yet another discussion on faith. Uncle Jay, a Buddhist who was contemplating his own faith and resolutions, opened the dialogue by saying (in a deep Sri Lankan accent,) “I respect Jesus for the man and teacher he was, but…” He would go on to share his convictions on the power of self-will and indicted Christian liberty for being restrictive and stuffy. He thought I was weak for subjecting my life to Christ and His commandments. From six in the evening until midnight, the family discussed their respective worldviews. We spoke in depth specifically on Christ’s deity and whether He was justified to make such audacious demands on His followers. We amicably parted ways, and he thanked me for such “riveting dialogue.” The next day I slept through most of the morning and still woke up exhausted. Virtue had left me (Luke 8:46) and on the day I was supposed to be celebrating the birth of Jesus, I found myself dry and weary. As I reflected on the night before, I was discouraged. I was saddened that none of the nonbelievers who heard the Gospel gave their lives to Jesus. I felt rejected and insecure, and on more than one occasion, I was laughed at for my faith. I was certain God intended this trip for the works of His kingdom but didn’t understand why I was so ineffective. I turned to coffee and my Bible.
That afternoon I poured through the Scripture and soon sensed God’s Spirit ministering to me. My loving Father helped me see the situation from His perspective. I realized I wasn’t delighting in God’s sovereignty over my interactions. In the Apostle Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians he writes, “For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you because our gospel came to you not only in word but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thes 1:4-5a). God reminded me that if my encounters didn’t produce evidence of power, the Holy Spirit, and full conviction, it did not mean I did something wrong. At that moment the pressure was lifted, and my peace was restored.
My burden and concern for people’s relationships with God alone testified to His power at work within me. Christian witnessing and discipleship are never meant to produce discouragement or condemnation. We are not required to do God’s work in our strength nor are we responsible for the outcome of our efforts. We are only ever directed to step outside of ourselves and lay down the results of our encounters with Jesus. He has been faithful to everything ever committed to His care and will continuously lead us back to recognizing this as long as we acknowledge His worthiness to handle all entrusted to His capable hands.
More so than any other time of the year, people around us are open to looking within themselves; you possess the answers to their questions. This will require you to get outside of yourself and remember how Jesus hung naked disregarding the shame of the cross (Heb 12:2) so you could embrace a life you could have never earned or deserved. For the record, this is never easy, and it is a common temptation to withdraw, deflect, or altogether avoid the opportunities God has for us in these types of settings. Don’t do it! No matter how strained, or tired, or sick or wicked, resolve in yourself to walk through every door your Heavenly Father wills to open. Witness to the uncle Jays in your life. Don’t shy away from telling a Christian what the word of God says about their lives. In 2018, let’s encourage others to walk in the manner worthy of their calling (Eph 1:4). Most of all, remember that some plant and some water, but only God can bring the increase (1 Cor 3:6-7). God is able, and a difficult situation may need just one more sprinkle before a miracle can manifest.
Written by Troy Fink: Troy is a colony graduate and serves on staff at New Hope Philly www.newhopephilly.com. His email is email@example.com. His son Troy Jr. is his best bud and together they love to eat sushi and train martial arts.
Daily Quote: “God forbid that I should travel with anybody a quarter of an hour without speaking of Christ to them.” – George Whitefield
This Week’s Verse to Memorize:
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope. — Psalm 16:9