When I was a younger Christian, I used to be captivated by God’s dramatic work through Bible heroes: his call to Noah to build an ark to save the world from judgement; his behind-the-scenes work through Queen Esther to save God’s people. I thought of Jonah emerging from the great fish: such dramatic flair! What a way to demonstrate God’s hand in motion.
I used to translate these expectations into my daily life, making them the standard for my life and service. I’d ask myself, how will God use me to achieve His purposes? Will he call me away from my mundane office job to be a full-time missionary in some remote part of Africa? Or to some sweltering Australian beach in the middle of summer?
As I grow as a Christian, I see things a little more clearly. I see that God usually works in us, not apart from our ordinary lives, but through them. He develops our Christ-likeness through the daily grace of inconspicuous opportunities. Meanwhile, grandiose and dramatic notions of service now seem dangerously unrealistic. I realise that they romanticise the lives of God’s people and tempt me to forget what service to God usually requires: faithfulness, and often of the long-suffering kind.
As I grow as a Christian, I see things a little more clearly. I see that God usually works in us, not apart from our ordinary lives, but through them. He develops our Christ-likeness through the daily grace of inconspicuous opportunities.
Faithfulness is the metric of fruitfulness.
Despite the examples of dramatic obedience by the Bible characters mentioned above, we also read of their failures in living as God’s people:
Because the Bible characters mentioned above are sinners as well as heroes. Drunk and naked Noah needed his children’s intervention to cover up his shame (Genesis 9:18-28). Queen Esther needed to be warned to do the right thing (Esther 4:12-17). Jonah’s story ends with God rebuking him for his faithlessness and lack of compassion for the unsaved (Jonah 4:1-11). When we notice their shortcomings, we become less starstruck by their courage, obedience or perseverance. Instead, we turn our eyes to the God who patiently worked through their sinfulness (and ours) to execute His grand plan of salvation.
Fixing our praise on the God we serve helps us to persevere when ministry seems unglamorous—or even painful. It helps us to be less desperate for wondrous miracles of church revitalizations or rapid conversions (although God, in his grace, might choose for that to happen in our lifetime). Instead, when we make God the centre, the steadfast character of God—revealed in history—becomes our hope for the future. Meditating on his promises help us to roll up our sleeves and serve his church—even when it looks boring or undramatic. Faithfulness, not star-studdedness, is the plumb-line to which we hold our effectiveness as Christians.
We are sanctified through our obedience.
As we make these moment-by-moment decisions to obey Him, Christ sanctifies us. For want of a better metaphor, sanctification is like being a chicken roasting in a slow-cooker. It’s never comfortable, yet you know the process is transformative. Amidst the pressure, the heat, and the general discomfort, He is using all our hard-wrought obedience for His purposes. Our obedience is never wasted: God grows us in Christ-likeness every time we hold your tongue; every time we turn to God in prayer; every time we offer something to someone out of generosity. In a world obsessed with grand public gestures, it is immeasurably comforting to discover that God is at work through the little things and the unseen things.
Our obedience brings glory to God and joy to ourselves.
Most importantly, a life lived like that speaks volumes to a depraved world: it points the world to God our redeemer. As we remain faithful to the tasks and people God has called us to, we display a life that is tethered to Christ—not chained to the material yearnings of this life. We prove to ourselves and others that do not need to chase after the trending, the highest-paying, or the most popular. We show that we are free to love selflessly and live generously. We begin to reflect the same servant-hearted obedience demonstrated to us by Christ on the cross (Philippians 2:5-11). For his life was marked with moment-by-moment faithfulness—even to the point of a humiliating death on the cross. To have our lives reflect even a semblance of that perfect obedience to our Creator God is cause for rejoicing.
Our walk with the Lord is very much like breathing. We are sustained by a steady, long-term process, rather than short bursts of hyperventilation. In writing this, I hope to encourage you, fellow Christian, to persevere in your daily service to the Lord. It is not insignificant from his perspective. It will not be in vain.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)