Suppose there were two men, Man #1 and Man #2, who live in separate locations and have never heard of each other. The main things they have in common are that they are American, they are the same age, they have the same level of intelligence, and, most importantly, each one has secretly vowed to seek out more of God's Presence and listen to His counsel in everything.
Man #1 gets it into his mind to experiment with selling his car so he can live apart from traffic for a while, with the explicit intention of prayer-walking with Christ wherever he needs to go. He changes his employment to a location that is closer to home to make this feasible. He is eager to hear from Christ, so he does these things to strategically minimize noise and eliminate the life-consuming work of keeping a vehicle running. (By "noise" I mean any clutter that might distract a person from being able to listen to Christ). And Man #1 is certainly not guessing, as God has been telling Him consistently for some time take a stab at a more God-dependent view on time expenditure.
So Man #1 has one primary mode of transportation, which is walking. Meanwhile, Man #2 still has his car. Like most Americans, Man #2 prefers driving. I know there are usually other factors, such as public transportation, but we are using this scenario only as to illustrate what is success in God's eyes.
On one Saturday afternoon, both Man #1 and Man #2 have the whole day to themselves except for a short list of chores, both of which happen to be the same sleep in, deposit Friday's paycheck, buy milk and buy bread. It will take Man #2 thirty minutes at most to drive around to all his locations, and all that in a climate-controlled environment, singing loudly to his favorite CD, a regular one-man-sing-and-dance-party on wheels. It turns out, in this case, that Man #2 gets back home before Man #1 even arrives at his first location. As Man #1 strolls into the air-conditioned haven of his first stop, Man #2 is already back at home, sitting on his couch, distracted by some amplified noise or flashing screen or both, wondering absent-mindedly how he might spend the rest his day off.
Man #1 on the other hand does not mind that his chores require at least two hours of walking. In fact, he strategically worked this necessity into his life, because he cannot imagine a more effective, uninterrupted way to talk and fellowship with Christ than by walking. Otherwise he might be checking email, watching TV, listening to the radio, answering the door, or attending to whatever other seemingly harmless interruption.
Suppose this goes on for years. Man #2 finishes his chores quickly without really knowing why, while Man #1 spends his time strolling the boulevard contently talking, listening and spending time with Jesus Christ. Both these men have all the same, deep down desires as the rest of humanity: Acceptance, genuine love, contentment, joy and maybe even a quality of life that affects the world in some meaningful way. Which one of these men is striving more effectively toward his desire? Which one might be better equipped to listen to anything Christ is saying? Or, if speed is the question, which one is striving more quickly toward God's goal, which is His kingdom on earth?
In this particular scenario, Man #1 will probably be more useful to God. Not that God and His kingdom are in any way predictable, but this is only an illustration of God's unexpected definition of success. If you told Man #1 that he doesn't seem to be doing much, then he would probably say, "You're right! That's exactly the point. I am looking for God to do something something through me if at all possible."
By no great virtue of his own, Man #1 takes the time to pray, just as Christ commands all His saints to do. Therefore Christ will answer that man. Not only will Christ answer, He will steadily consume every aspect of that man's life, just as He does any other person who purposefully seeks Him out. For encouragement's sake, we should keep in mind that Christ puts consistently praying, seeking men and women to some productive work for His kingdom, not because of their great ability or qualifications, but because of His grace. Meanwhile, no matter how much we embrace the cleverest, shiniest, noisiest inventions, these things in themselves cannot establish or build up any part of God's kingdom. Man-made things cannot improve the world in the way that God would consider improvement, nor can they improve any living soul.
As of now many western churchgoers resemble our Man #2. They are trapped in a noisy, worldly cage and too distracted to realize it. They're distracted to the point that they perceive material abundance as a blessing in itself.
Material things, even our own bodies, are sacred only so far as God makes them sacred. And these things are useful only so far as God has use for them.
Christ commands His saints to pray, so that is exactly the work we should be doing, though the nature of this work is different from the common, worldly understanding of work. God brings about His kingdom on earth in unexpected, often invisible ways.
by Patrick Roberts
This is an excerpt from To the Church of the West, Scattered Throughout the World. Find this book and similar articles at www.BooksByPatrick.com
Patrick is an average Christ-seeker. His goal is to turn people to Jesus Christ.
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