January 12, 2013

Unconscious ministry?

Yesterday while running errands, I was in an office where the lineups are usually long and the customers are in a hurry. I happened to hit a lull and didn’t wait or even sit down. However, the woman behind the desk who took care of me looked stern and stressed.

Joyful and thankful about many things, I began to chuckle about no waiting and that led to other shared thoughts. The next thing I knew, the other woman was smiling, even laughing. As I left, a question crossed my mind. It isn’t like me to be that talkative as I knock routine items off my to-do list, so why this overflowing joy?

Today’s devotional gives me an encouraging answer. The verse is about one circumstance in the early church. Many Christians were being persecuted but that did not hinder Paul and Silas. They were in a prison, a dreadful place (not like today’s jails) yet joy prevailed.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. (Acts 16:25)

The devotional writer picked up the idea of “unconscious ministries” when the people of God are not aware how they might be affecting people. Some can sing at midnight because God is with us, yet we are unaware that we are being watched or listened to by others who need hope.

I don’t know if that applied to me yesterday, but God encourages me with this thought to have a strong heart and deep joy all the time. I might not realize that some other person is stumbling on their way and needs a joyful note to encourage them. The devotional says it might be words, a smile, a touch, but He can use our deeds of “unconscious helpfulness” to serve the needs of a fellow traveler.

Joy is infectious. Obviously, those who can sing at midnight because God is with them are doing something for others. This is not a Pollyanna kind of joy, but that joy that comes from an ever-increasing trust in God. Because He is in control and because He loves me with an everlasting love, I do not have to let life weigh me down. Because His Spirit lives in me, I can be a channel for His joy all the time.

Those who are happy even in the midst of life’s ordinary burdens are also involved in unconscious ministry. We are seldom aware of what God is doing with the fruit of the Spirit that He produces. We sometimes discuss the surprises we are promised in heaven, one of them being a “well done” for words and deeds that we don’t even remember, things done because we love the Lord, not because we are trying hard to do good. The surprise will be the kinds of things that receive that award, many of them being very ordinary.

As one of those people who feel as if I cannot do enough to express my gratitude to God for all He has done for me, this devotional was a bonus. Sometimes my sense of failure and inadequacy can haunt me, but He reminds me that I must leave my usefulness for Him to judge. God will see to it that I do not live in vain.

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