-by Pastor Mike Middaugh
Perhaps the most amazing and mystifying aspects of Christianity is our belief that God, the Creator of the Universe, would allow himself to be born into his creation as a human. That an infinite, eternal God, would bind himself under the temporal and physical laws of this life, even if just for a time, is difficult to fathom. Yet that is the reality of the incarnation, that God chose to live among us in the person of Jesus who was subject to the brokenness and limitations of our world.
Perhaps then, the second most amazing and mystifying aspect of Christianity is that as Jesus ascended he told his disciples that they were to be his replacements. Like any of us might have done, they stood around staring at each other for a while, trying to understand. Of course we find out in Acts that the disciples were not really alone, but that Jesus kept his promise of sending his Spirit to be with them. His people had help, and not just help, but power. They were now a people of the Presence, the Holy Spirit was with them compelling them and empowering them to be about the Father’s business.
I capitalize Presence on purpose, because I believe this word captures a bit of how the Holy Spirit works. He dwells among us, working out the gospel truth in our lives, and working through us to bring about God’s work in the world. But if this is true then it must be taken seriously. We have God dwelling in us. He has given us power. And we are now to see ourselves as the ones doing all that we do on his behalf. We are a people of the Presence, and as we go about our work, others will sense we are different, at least that is what can happen.
So if all of this is true, then what are our responsibilities?
First, we should realize our lives are not our own. As Paul tells us, we have been purchased at a price, we now belong to God because of Jesus’ work. If our lives are not our own then we should look at them differently, we are living for God, for his purposes and now just our own. We are not allowed to be selfish, or self-centered. We are here for him and because we are here for him, we are here for others as well.
Second, we should do all we do with the greatest of integrity. We often think that “doing God’s work” only means preaching and teaching, caring for the poor or being nice. But I would argue our calling is actually much higher than that. We have all been given gifts. Some have gifts of management, some have gifts of artistry, some have gifts of accounting, and some have gifts of repairing things that are broken. But all of these are gifts, they are given by God for a purpose and so they must be used, not wasted. He has given us the ability to make the world better, and more whole. So if you are a manager, then manage others well, with integrity, with grace and with excellence. If you are an artist, then pour your heart into your art, do it to the glory of God, with integrity and with excellence. If you are in finance, then do it well, and for the good of all you serve, with integrity and with excellence. And if you are able to fix that which is broken, then do the job in way that it is better than when new, with all the skill you have, with integrity and with excellence, creating order out of chaos.
Third, we should find joy in all our efforts. I know it is not fair to command you to find joy. But in fact, James tells us to “count it as great joy whenever you face trials of any kind, so that testing may produce perseverance.” If we can find joy in trials, then how much more in the good work we do in our lives, in the things we are able to accomplish and the ways we are able to serve with our gifts. When we rightly see ourselves as people of the Presence, dedicating our work to God, we will find joy in all the things we do. We will be rewarded with great satisfaction.
So, this then is the great and mysterious plan of God. First, send his son to live in and redeem creation, and second to raise up his people, us, as his Son’s replacements, the workers in the world. But we are not alone, we are people of the Presence, He is with us in all we do. When we do it for others as if it is for him, people notice. It feels different to be truly cared for, or for an employee to show up not just for a paycheck, but with a higher calling in mind. We are people of the Presence, so let us live as if we are.