The Extraordinary Ordinary

7 Mar

The Bible often uses words like fight, struggle, strive, strain, labor and work to describe the Christian life. That is probably a good indication that living all out for Christ is going to require effort. In this series of posts, we are imagining that you have decided you want to make the effort to live radically for Christ and we are considering several specific difficulties that you will likely face if you begin working towards a specific goal to make Jesus look great.

1. You will be likely be criticized by people you care about and even respect.

2. There’s a whole lot to an extraordinary life that is very ordinary.

I grew up reading biographies of Christian missionaries. There is so much benefit that comes from hearing the stories of these great men and women who gave up everything to glorify Christ.

One danger however is that as you hear about them witnessing to a crowd of angry villagers who were intent on killing them and their entire family or beginning orphanages where they fed thousands of children and never asked for a dime of support is that you begin to imagine that every moment of the extraordinary life is like that.

There is usually for example not a whole lot in the biographies about the eight hours they spent sleeping every night or the time they spent making dinner or playing with their children or in the garden or even going to the toilet.

What I am trying to say is that sometimes when you have this vision of not wasting your life, you begin to have this idea that every moment of your life needs to be packed with this extraordinary action and that is just not really the way that God has designed life to be. But, if you are not thinking straight, sometimes you can begin to feel guilty that every moment isn’t extraordinary and what’s more, you become very tempted to give up on trying anything at all, because you begin to think that maybe those people really were extraordinary and God can’t use an ordinary person like you.

I have definitely struggled with thoughts like that and when I do struggle with feeling discouraged about the ordinary moments of life, there are several specific biblical truths I try to go back to:

1.) Trusting that God is for me because of the work of Christ makes the most ordinary moments of life extraordinary.

I think for example of Peter who is talking to slaves which is a position or circumstances in life that couldn’t be more ordinary (I mean, being owned by someone else!) and he tells them that when they are beaten and they continue to do the right thing because they love God, that moment, that action, that faith, actually finds favor with God, which is quite extraordinary, we are talking making the Creator of the entire Universe, happy.

What can happen when think of radical living as a place or a specific event is that we really miss out on radical living. We are working our way through Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians and what has been striking to me is that when he talks about the radical impact the gospel should make on our lives he talks about things like being truthful, working hard, speaking with grace, responding to people sinning against you in a whole new way, which in and of themselves seem very ordinary, but really when you think about it and look at it more closely, you see that living for Christ in those kinds of ways, is actually very extraordinary and can only happen if I really believe what God says about what He has accomplished for me because of Jesus Christ.

Maybe to say it another way, it is not all that extraordinary to be self-righteous and that’s sometimes where our thinking about extraordinary living starts, we think if only I was doing this then I would matter, and if that’s where our thinking about extraordinary living starts it is only going to end up in disappointment.

2.) Remembering that there is a resurrection from the dead makes the ordinary moments extraordinary.

Jesus actually tells us that when we pray we should go into our closets, when we give we shouldn’t let our right hand know what our left hand is doing, in other words, here are these moments that look very, very ordinary, no one even knows that we are doing them, there’s no big applause in the background, it’s just a man on his knees in his closet, and for Jesus that is extraordinary, and why should we live this way, because there is a resurrection from the dead and our father who sees what is done in secret will reward us. If you have God watching and remembering and promising to reward, it makes small moments big. We need to be very careful not to use the world’s standard of what is important and what is extraordinary, we need to use God’s. Look, the world stands up and goes absolutely crazy for a guy in tight pants who catches a ball. People don’t have the best idea of what is great. So don’t get all worked up whether people see what you are doing and whether people think what you are doing is significant, what you want is to please God and his standard of greatness is very different. I think for example of how he talks about a cup of cold water in his name or visiting prisoners or all these other kinds of actions that the world would think of as pretty much pointless. They are not pointless though because at the right time we are going to be rewarded. Quoting Paul, let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

3.) You don’t usually get to anything extraordinary without working hard for a long time doing what looks ordinary.

Before Adoniram Judson could give his life for Christ in Burma, he had to spend a long time on the boat. William Carey’s life may have made an eternal impact on India, but how many years did he have to wait before he saw his first convert?

We sometimes want instant results and when we don’t get instant results we feel like a failure, but that’s a little like a child who weeps uncontrollably because he wants to be six foot and finds out that it doesn’t happen in a day.

4.) Who are you to say that what you think is ordinary isn’t really extraordinary?

Appearances can be deceiving. We serve a God who can do a whole lot more than we could ever ask or think. And we may look at a situation and think absolutely nothing is happening when actually in God’s great eternal plan, something unbelievably significant is happening. I think for example of Naomi, losing her husband, losing her children, having to go back to Israel, at that moment, she must have been thinking what a waste, but God in that moment, was actually accomplishing something great, but not just for Naomi, for us, by bringing Ruth to Israel, meeting Boaz, getting married, and having children whose descendants would be the great King David and even better, our Messiah Savior, Jesus.

It is fantastic to dream big dreams. Please keep dreaming. Dream bigger. I would never want to discourage anyone who is sitting down and thinking how can I use this one life I have to make Christ look great. Just, as you do that, don’t do it in a way that is self-righteous, or misses out on the resurrection, or forgets how long accomplishing something sometimes takes, or just plain ignores the fact that you are not the only one who is interested in your life being used for God’s glory, God is and He in His sovereignty is committed to accomplishing just that, in ways sometimes that you would least expect!

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