Our church has been going through the 40 Days in the Word event created by Rick Warren of Saddleback Church. A powerful all-church experience which has allowed us to create many new LifeGroups and focus people on the power and beauty of God’s Word. I am personally excited about it as my role as Connections Pastor was to drive this from beginning to end and to expand the amount of people meeting in groups to learn and develop tools to better engage with the Bible. We went from 27 active groups to 36, all but two electing to continue beyond! So I am excited by that growth.
But the point of this post is not to share what our church is doing or brag about my job results. I want to share how the very first week God’s word jabbed me a bit. You see, just cuz I’m a pastor and long-time follower of Christ, doesn’t mean I don’t need to be corrected by God through His word at times.
We were learning the first method of devotional study called, Pronounce It, where you emphasize one word at a time, taking moment to consider what each word might mean or imply. The verse that kind of caught me off-guard was from Philippians 1:27a (NIV), “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.”
On the surface, that seems clear enough – live like Jesus. But I, like most of us, have moments of stress, grumpiness, and…even…oh no…anger. That car that cuts me off, that bad customer service, that betrayal of a friend, the disrespect of a family member. These things can set all of us off. And we feel justified! We feel the right to be upset by it. And even the right to respond in anger, perhaps escalating the situation to a divisive and relationally destructive level.
But Paul writes here…’Whatever’. That’s inclusive of everything. No exceptions. Then he says, ‘happens’. Which is the word that gave me the correction. It’s the circumstances that are not planned for, the random and spontaneous moments that often catch us off-guard and evoke reactions. Reactions which are not always worthy of the gospel. I want my life to be lived with responses, not reactions. With grace even when I am blind-sided.
I don’t think I am a full-on jerk by any means. But I think God was showing me there are more times I need to apologize than I wish. More times I feel justified than I should. Can I get angry? Yes. But in my anger, sin not. Live in a manner worthy of the gospel.
The bible is said to be like a two-edged sword, meaning it can pierce the sin in our lives with precision. It can identify the wrong motives, can expose the wrong attitudes. Often that hurts and humbles and drives us to repentance. But in the pain of God making us aware of our sin, He also extends grace and forgiveness and freedom. It’s a pain quickly replaced with joy if we let go of our ‘rights’.
I think many of us shy from God’s word, from asking God to search our hearts and reveal things to us, because we really don’t want to have God correct us. Really, who likes to be corrected? But the result of living according to his word is far greater than staying stunted in our own muck. And because God’s the one handling the sword with precision skill, He can be trusted to bring us through the other side, despite the initial pain caused.
Prayer: God help us, help me, to be continually open to your word revealing areas of my life that need to be aligned with the gospel, your nature, the fullness you desire for me to experience. May we live so authentically we are quick to see and seek forgiveness for that areas of our lives that fall short of your design for us. Thank you God for your grace which sets me free from guilt and shame.