‘Can I really know God?’
‘I was told that Jesus didn’t die for Pakistanis.’
These are parts of two different conversations I have had with women from different cultural and religious backgrounds and there have been many similar ones over the years.
As friendships develop with these women, at times you feel a responsibility to help them as they settle into our western culture. And quite apart from their temporal needs, you are desperately burdened by their spiritual need too. You think about them and pray for them; you talk to other Christians about them. You wrestle with how to show them Jesus in a much clearer way.
With so much going on, how do you personally stay devoted to and focused on Christ as you work in the community? At times it can be so hard. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us that we have an enemy who prowls around seeking someone to devour. He is real and relentless in his pursuit of us. And he wants to attack anything that makes us devoted followers of Christ and effective gospel workers.
I have found that when things are tough, when I’m tired and feel alone, my devotional life can sometimes be a messy battlefield. Patience, trust, faith and hope lay battle-scarred on the ground, while my thought life struggles to hold on to the truth of God’s Word and becomes susceptible to the enemy’s lies. After all, what we believe affects our ministry and so the enemy wants to hijack our thoughts and tell us that we are a lost cause, that God can never use us and that we’re not making any headway with people at all. If he can do that, and do it successfully, then the message we seek to share will become weakened as we submit to defeat.
The beginning of that verse in 1 Peter tells us to be sober and alert because of the enemy, and for me in the midst of difficulty and weariness it has been crucial to remain focused upon the truth of God’s word. At times it is good to ask the question, ‘Am I inspired by the truth or by the enemy’s lies?’ When I am bound by negative thoughts then it affects not just my mind but my effectiveness and usefulness as a gospel worker, and more importantly it affects my own walk and devotion to the Lord.
A right view of God
I find it very helpful to keep checking that I have a right view of who God is, of his love for me, his grace and of his great mercy to me. When I have a right view of the gospel and the going gets tough and there seems to be no fruit in ministry, holding on to the fact that God is good and that he is good all the time helps me to keep focused on the right things and makes me feel so much closer to him!
It is so important to grow in Biblical truth, knowledge and understanding and to apply his Word to our lives. I have found that the need to love his Word and desire to learn from it is so important in terms of my own devotion to Christ, because there can be pitfalls. As a friend pointed out to me, when you’re coming alongside others, a real danger is that you can start reading scripture only with others in mind. As you come across certain passages you start applying it to their situation instead of your own. Or, as someone starts to engage with Christ and read the Bible, at times you find that your encouragements come vicariously through their experiences,instead of as a result of your own walk with the Lord.
It goes without saying that prayer is a vital part of staying focused on Christ. We need to be honest with him about what’s going on in our ministry and our lives, to pursue him and to pursue the personal holiness that he wants to see marking our lives.
Satan will continue to seek to devour us and the battle for our devotion to Christ. That battle that will rage until Christ’s return but we have a God who has won the victory and who is faithful and true. May we continue to keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus, to love and desire him and to ask for his help as we seek to serve him in the community in which he has placed us.