I have a friend (we’ll call her Jane) who is one of the most loving, kind-hearted and happy people I know. She has a gift for making those around her feel loved and appreciated. Lately my friend has suffered from some health concerns, and doctors have put her on medicines that are making her feel depressed. One Sunday when she was feeling particularly down, she had no desire to go to church, but “out of obedience” she went.
She stepped into the meeting and noticed a lady who travels a lot and is rarely at church. She sat down beside her, gave her a big hug, and told her how great it was to see her. They enjoyed sitting next to each other throughout the meeting. When the meeting ended, the woman turned to my friend and said, “You know, I travel a lot and it’s hard when I’m home to go to church. I don’t know most of the people, and they don’t know me. So it’s difficult. This morning I didn’t want to come, but I thought: Jane will be there, and I know that if no one else notices or cares, Jane loves me and that’s enough.”
Isn’t it wonderful how these two women were brought into each other’s lives to help each other feel uplifted, valued and loved? But there’s more to this encounter that I’d like to explore. I was struggling through my own issues when my friend told me this story. I was feeling exhausted, worn-down, and as if no matter what I did it was never going to be enough. I have this great desire to put good out in the world, to reach more people with positive messages about God and the joy a Christ-centered life can bring. Yet, no matter how hard I tried, or how many long hours I worked, it seemed it was never enough. Even successes felt anti-climactic because it still wasn’t enough in my mind.
I was talking to my friend about this, and she told me this story and said, “I know it relates to what you’re dealing with, you’ll just have to figure out how.”
For the next twenty-four hours, I pondered this story, and I came to realize something significant. My wonderful Christ-like friend didn’t have to do anything extraordinary to impact this woman’s life. She didn’t go to church with the mindset of “I’m going to church, and I’m going to make it a positive place where everyone feels welcomed and loved.” In fact, she had to drag herself out the door and make herself go. “Obedience” is the word she used.
When she got there, she was simply herself. She saw this woman that she knew and loved, and her natural personality and gift for making people feel loved spilled out of her and enriched both their lives. Do you see the simplicity of this formula?
1. Be obedient.
2. Show up and be yourself.
Or as Jesus said it:
1. Seek ye first the kingdom of God,
2. And all these things shall be added unto you.
These words of Christ also came to mind, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” I went back and read the first half of Luke 12 in a new way. Jesus is talking to his disciples. Note that — he’s talking to his disciples and not the general public. These people are His followers. They know Him, and they love Him. They want to help Him build the kingdom.
I think that’s significant. These aren’t ordinary Joes and Janes. And neither is my friend. She’s a wonderful Christian woman who loves people and loves the Savior. Not everyone can “show up and be themselves” and make the world a better place! Some people have quite the opposite effect on the world around them. So I’m going to add one more underpinning piece to this formula:
1. Be a disciple of Christ.
2. Be obedient.
3. Show up and be yourself.
Then Jesus tells his disciples not to worry about food or raiment but consider the ravens that don’t sow or reap, and the lilies that don’t toil or spin, and the grass that just sits there and is a beautiful green. Aren’t you better than these? Aren’t you of more worth than birds, flowers or grass? So stop worrying over these things.
“For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:30-32).
Typically when we read these verses we think of physical things we need, and we wonder how in the world we are supposed to take care of our families if we don’t work. Should we just sit back and expect God to provide for us? I really don’t think that’s what Jesus is saying. I think he’s talking about worry. When we’re putting God first and building His kingdom, why do we need to worry that He’s going to allow us to land in the streets homeless and naked? And is it really all that important to have the best car or the biggest house if we put the kingdom of God first?
I’ve looked at this passage so many times as I’ve thought about my physical needs, and it’s given me great comfort. But I’m looking at it with fresh eyes today. I’m looking at it from the perspective of someone who wants to be a disciple of Christ — someone whose greatest desire is to help build the kingdom of God. This disciple’s not worrying over food and raiment at the moment and isn’t worried about keeping up with the Jones’. This disciple wants to be an instrument in God’s hands to bless lives.
What is this disciples’ concern now? She wants to reach more people with God’s message. She wants to make an impact. She wants to shed His light to all the world. Why? Because she loves God, and she loves His children. This person begins to realize that the job is immense. People are overwhelmed with just keeping their heads above water and don’t always make time for what they really need. She starts to get the sense that Christ is coming soon, and we’re running out of time. She starts to think, “I’m not doing enough. I’m not making a big enough difference.” She starts burning the candle at both ends and feeling guilty over not doing enough.
Christ’s words ring just as true for this person. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” God wants to help you with your purpose! He wants to help you build the kingdom. You’re not alone. You don’t have to feel guilty. He’s not grading you. He’s not telling you that you’re not doing enough. He’s saying, “Consider the lilies of the field, and the grass, and the birds. They don’t toil and spin to be who they are or to bring beauty to the world. They just are who they are, and God uses them perfectly, flawlessly.”
Do you see what I’m saying? What we, as disciples of Christ, need to focus on is our relationship with Him and being obedient to His commands. As we do that, we’ll be in the right places. We’ll show up. We’ll be ourselves, and we’ll change the world. No toil. No spin. No guilt required.