Tuesday, August 2, 2011

How Much and How Well?

If you have read some of my recent posts, you may remember one called "Finding Your Place" and another entitled "The Work of the Ministry." These both stemmed out of something that has been on my heart for a while, and I want to continue with that same theme in this post. No matter who we are and what our background happens to be, all of us are born with the desire to find where we fit and to be involved with something that matters. Most of us feel like there is something bigger than ourselves that is worth pursuing, and we want what we do to matter. Nobody, if they are really honest, wants to live their lives in mediocrity and just pass the time. I believe these desires were put inside us by the Lord. He created every one of us and fashioned us very uniquely and specifically. He has given us all special talents and abilities, and it is important that we utilize those in our lives.

However, many of us never really know where to start, or maybe we don't know what we are supposed to do, so we never really engaging in anything. I attended a ministry school for three years right out of high school, and I have seen this challenge arise in my own life and in the lives of many people I know and have been able to observe. Many of us, particularly when we graduated from the school, were kind of left reeling not knowing what was next. Where do we go from here? I think many of us felt that we had been prepared for something, but we weren't sure what it was. I think some of us might have even come face to face with it, but when we did, it didn't look like we thought it would look. This kept us from really applying ourselves, so nothing ever happened. I think there were others of us who felt pressure to be involved with or start something big and we couldn't commit ourselves to something that seemed small, particularly if it didn't seem as important as what someone else may have been involved doing. Whatever the reason for us individually, many of us have never really gotten engaged in moving toward our purpose, although we have really wanted to do so.  

I don't want to sound like I have this all figured out, because I surely don't. Additionally, the specific steps each individual must take will vary, and no two people's journeys with the Lord will look exactly the same. I am just trying to shed some light on a general principle that applies to all of us and that can hopefully help us get moving in the right direction. As I mentioned before, we all want to be involved in something significant and feel like what we're doing really matters. As we pursue these things, it is important to bear in mind that the way the Lord measures significance and the way we measure it are not always the same.

That being the case, sometimes our desire to be a part of something we feel is significant can cause us to miss opportunities that truly are significant. In natural terms, we tend to think of something as significant if it is big. If it reaches a lot of people, or at least if a lot of people take notice, we feel like it may be of more importance than something that does not seem to be as far reaching. We might feel like a church of 500 people is more significant than one with 25 members, or that an organization that feeds the homeless everyday is more important than the family who pulls together to buy some groceries for the under-privileged widow down the street. However, the fact is that we can never truly measure significance in natural terms. Something that we might feel to be super important in the natural may carry an entirely different weight with the Lord. This is not to say that He deems a large church as insignificant, but neither does He view a small church as insignificant. He obviously wants all the hungry to be fed, but it is no less significant that you and I feed the hungry individual who may cross our path today.

Wade Taylor once made an astute observation that explains this principle really well. He said: "The important thing is that the will of God is being done in our lives. When we stand before the Lord, He doesn't want to say "much done," but "well done." I think many of us tend to judge how well we are doing by how much we are doing. However, let's look at it this way: which is more likely to be significant: a person who attempts to start 12 different projects, but never really completes any of them, or the person who truly applies himself in a couple of areas and really builds them into an established, lasting work? Sometimes the old adage "quality and not quantity" is a good guidepost.

This reminds me of a story that I have heard many times, but it is worth repeating now. During the first half of the 20th century, there was a Christian evangelist named Mordecai Ham. Mr. Ham was fairly well known and held evangelistic crusades in many different states. A few hundred thousand people are said to have met the Lord in his meetings, and at times thousands would be converted in one crusade. During the early 1930's, he held a crusade in Charlotte, NC. When Mr. Ham gave the invitation to accept the Lord, comparatively speaking, a smaller number of people came forward. By natural terms this crusade could have been deemed less significant than many of his others. However, one of the converts was a young man named Billy Graham. Since that time, it has been documented that over 2 billion people have been presented with the Gospel because of the ministry of Billy Graham. This particular crusade could have been thought to have had less of an impact, but it actually helped to birth one of the most significant evangelistic ministries in human history!

I don't know how Mr. Ham viewed his crusade in Charlotte, but if I had been in his shoes, I might have thought to myself: "What am I doing preaching to just a few converts? My message needs to be heard by thousands!" Well, as will be the case with many of us, Mr. Ham's crusade turned out to be a clear example of the importance of doing well rather than doing much! Let's go do the same!

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