February 23, 2013

God’s kingdom has no superstars

Back in the eighties, I attended a woman’s conference on evangelism in Wheaton, Illinois. While not a new Christian, I still put Christian authors on pedestals like teenagers do with music and movie stars. I can remember my first encounter with one of those well-known authors. I’d read all of her books and imagined her far differently than the woman I bumped into on the steps of the venue. She would have been quite comfortable wearing an apron and carrying a plate of cookies. 

At that event, the first speaker told how she arrived late and went to a bathroom on the main floor to brush her teeth so as not to bother those who were asleep. When she finished, she discovered that the door would not open. She spent most of the night trying to sleep on the cold tile floor. At 5:00 a.m. she noticed the way the door met the floor and realized it was not locked after all. She opened it and went to her room. While everyone was laughing, I was smiling as I realized these “stars” were not that different from the rest of us.

Today’s devotional is a reminder that God certainly does not make stars out of His people. We are so much the same as each other, human, fallible, ordinary with ordinary needs. Paul wrote to his protégé Timothy while he was waiting execution in Rome. He was lonely and looked forward to a visit from the younger preacher…

When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. (2 Timothy 4:13)

Spurgeon writes, “If we had seen Peter and Paul, we would have thought them very ordinary people—wonderfully like ourselves. If we had gone into their daily lives and trials, we would have said, ‘You are superior to what I am in grace. But somehow you are people like me. I have a quick temper; so have you, Peter. I have a thorn in the flesh; so have you, Paul. I complain of rheumatism, and the apostle Paul, when aged, feels the cold and wants his cloak.’”

  When I put the heroes of the Bible on a pedestal, I need to remember that much of what is written is about everyday events in the lives of ordinary people. Even when otherwise, if some had more grace, I know that the source of grace is as open and free for me as it was for them. I believe in the same Jesus who never changes and who wants me to have victory in trials and power in ministry just as they did.

Spurgeon expresses the same truth as this blog is about. That is, faith is practical. It is how I live in my kitchen, living room, study. It is about being patient in lineups at the grocery checkout, joyful when my body aches and doing my best even when I don’t like the task at hand. As Spurgeon says, “Grace is no common thing, yet it shines best in common things.” The grace given to those preaching and church planting is no more important than the grace given to mothers of small children, or employees misunderstood in the workplace, or Christians who serve in the shadows without recognition or much appreciation. We all have trials and we all need grace. 

I’m also reminded that the road was not made smooth for Paul any more than it is for me, nor for authors, preachers, and others we might consider “stars” in the Christian world. All of us must endure difficulties, yet all of God’s people are promised victory in the end. Paul knew it, and those promises helped him endure his trials — and joyfully tell others where they could find the same grace that had found him.

But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4:17–18)

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