Helping our Father
Our part in the mission of God is more like that of a toddler helping his father with a project than it is like an employee who has been delegated a task from his boss. I have already discussed the lessons I have learned from being a father, but I have again received an acute picture from my relationship with son. This time it is about how we engage in God's mission. We recently got a new table and chairs for my wife on her birthday. She had been asking for a new table for many years, and we were finally able to pull the trigger and get a new set (thank you Becker Furniture World for having a 50% off sale - plus an additional 10% - although is it really much of a sale if nearly everything in your store is nearly always on sale...? I digress.)
It was one of those table and chair sets that needs to be assembled. I actually really enjoy putting things together, so I don't mind the work. The time, mess and chaos it creates is the real challenge in our home. When my son Liam sees me start pulling out parts, hardware and tools, he always says, "can I help!?!?" I often indulge him, and it is a joy for me to have my little boy helping me put things together. But let's be honest - the task would be easier to accomplish if he wasn't helping. During the course of assembling the table, chairs and bench we had a few incidents that sidetracked my progress. At one point Liam was breaking the styrofoam in half and small white pieces began floating through the air, which I later had to clean up before our 15 month old tried to eat them. He was trying to help me get a ratchet wrench and opened the case the wrong way, causing the attachments to spill all over our train table. And at another point, he dropped a nut down the air vent. He proclaimed, "uh oh!" We were able to retrieve it, so all was not lost.
We eventually got all the pieces of furniture assembled. When we were done, all the tools were back in their correct place and the room was cleaned from all the styrofoam pieces and other garbage. We got the job done. Liam loved helping me, and I enjoyed having him by my side. This is a small picture of what it is like for us to be part of God's mission, like a small boy helping his father with a project. God could accomplish the task better on his own, but he invites us to be part of the mission. We may at times create more challenges than we solve, but God will see us through. In the end, God will accomplish his mission. He will get the job done.
The task can be daunting
The entire scope of God's mission is far beyond anything that you or I could do on our own. It is intimidating to think about. Renewing all of creation. Drawing rebellious souls into a reconciled relationship with their creator. Eliminating poverty, addiction and oppression. Having a meaningful impact on even one other person can be a daunting task. When your friend approaches you about contemplating suicide or a married couple comes to you at the point when divorce seems like their only option. These alone can feel like more than we can handle. What about the larger systemic problems in our society? Poverty and racism that seem to creep into every city and societal sphere that we can imagine. What about the global mission of seeing people from every tribe, tongue and nation coming to faith in Jesus? Did you know that about 1/3 of the worlds population lives in a location where they have little to no access to the gospel? They will not hear unless someone crosses a culture and goes to them.
Within a half mile of First Baptist Church (where I am a pastor), there are approximately 20,000 people. Many of whom are not engaged in their faith or do not know Jesus at all. Within Minneapolis there are 400,000 people. The Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area has about 3 million people. There are 5.5 million people in Minnesota. 316 million in the United States and about 7 billion in the entire world. When helping one person can feel daunting, the population of the whole world is an absolute impossibility to consider helping.
That is a lot of people. And there are a lot of problems to solve in the world. The task of God's global mission is overwhelming to consider. How can we have an impact on such a massive undertaking with the limited years we have on earth? It might feel a bit like setting the box of table and chairs down in the middle of our living room and telling Liam to put it all together. He would never be able to finish the task. Fortunately, that is not how it went. I was there with him. Liam got to tighten a few bolts along the way, but I was the chief actor in the task of assembling the table and chairs. This is the way it works with God's mission. He is accomplishing the task. But we get to be part. We get to tighten a few bolts along the way.
God ensures the mission will be accomplished
We know the outcome at the end of time. God finishes the task. He accomplishes his mission. The book of Revelation ends with a picture of a renewed creation and a beautiful city. It says that there would be "a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb! (Rev. 7:9-10)" This is the picture at the end of time. People from all tribes and tongues and nations singing praises to our God.
One day, there will be a new heaven, a new earth and a holy city. God will "wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Rev 21:4)." We can be sure of the eventual outcome. God's mission will be accomplished. He will make sure of that.
Mission as Participation
We get to be part of this great mission. We get to play our small part, knowing and trusting that God will ultimately accomplish the task. Even if we mess up and "drop a bolt into the air vent," God will ensure that his mission is accomplished, but we get to tighten a few bolts here and there. God may allow us the privilege of seeing our friends and family begin a relationship with Jesus. We might have the opportunity to be part of seeing change come to someone's life, or to an entire neighborhood, or even a whole city.
Our role is simply to participate. To be involved in our small way. We need not feel as though it all rests on us, because it doesn't. God is calling us to simply be part of the mission. We get to work with our Father on the greatest mission the world has know. When we see his work happening and cry out, "Can I help?!?!?" His answer is "Yes. Yes my dear child, you can help."
If we chose to not engage in God' mission, it is not to the detriment of his mission, it is to the detriment of our lives. He will finish the task. He will ensure its final completion. If we do not join him, we will get to the end our lives and see that we have missed out. We have missed out on the joy of joining our Father in his great mission. Let's not miss out.
How will you respond?
How is God calling you to respond today? Here are a few thoughts:
1. Ask God how you can be involved? You might need to simply get engaged in the mission. Even in a small way.
2. Renew your confidence in God's ability to finish his mission. You may feel overwhelmed or burnt out. Trust in God's strength, not your own. Remember that your role is to simply fulfill the role God has called you to. The rest is up to him.
3. Invite others to participate. Maybe you are engaged in the mission and trusting that God will accomplish it. But are their people around you who are mission out? Invite them to join the mission along with you.
I would love to hear from you. Comment below on how God is inviting you to respond today.