Happy Sunday, Friends!
You know how much I love my ‘outside office’. I’m out here today for a few hours until the heat and humidity drive me inside. I’m enjoying the beautiful morning and thinking of you.
The picture of my backyard doesn’t reveal what we know all too well – we are in a different world these days.
I recently finished three days at the Speak Up Conference, which was moved to a virtual format because of COVID-19. Last July, I traveled to Michigan in a cute outfit to attend. This year, I traveled to my little upstairs office in my pajamas!
While it wasn’t the same, and I missed attending in person, it was truly an excellent experience. Carol Kent and her team made it work. The content was incredible! There was a ton of information given to process and begin applying to life & ministry. I felt like I dove headfirst into an ocean of living water. There’s nothing like meeting up with people who share similar passions and gifts.
Close to 500 women gathered online to learn how to effectively deliver their God-given messages via speaking and writing. In our new reality of speaking engagements being cancelled and postponed, how we minster to women has changed. We do not know if it is for only a season or if this change is forever.
For many of us, the word ‘change’ is scary. We get upset when God begins to rearrange things – especially when it involves the things we love to do. Truth be told – we don’t like it one bit.
Which brings me to a conversation I had with friends recently. We were sharing (ok…we were complaining) about the upheaval and changes to how we do ministry & life thanks to COVID-19. One of my friends exclaimed, “We didn’t sign up for this!” We all shook our heads, agreed whole-heartedly in true sisterhood, and the conversation went on to something else.
But, over the next week, the phrase, ‘We didn’t sign up for this’ kept ringing in my ears. Something wasn’t right.
It swirled around my mind for several days in an unsettled kind of way – and then it dawned on me; we actually did sign up for this. Hear me out…
When we became followers of Jesus, we surrendered our life to Him. We gave up the path we attempted to engineer for ourselves, and He was placed in His rightful role as Lord of our lives. We promised to follow the path He has for us and to go wherever He leads. We said, in so many words, “take my life – it’s Yours.”
And so, you see, we really did sign up for this.
He has led us straight into the place we find ourselves today – right smack in the middle of a pandemic and unrest in our country. We were strategically placed here, in this generation and at this time to spread the good news – which is the one and only answer to all of the upheaval – and in turn, bring glory to Him.
When we open the scriptures, we find person after person and scenario after scenario where people were suddenly placed in upsetting and life-changing circumstances. The life they once knew was abruptly changed and, yet, the phrase ‘We didn’t sign up for this’ is nowhere to be found.
The Apostle Paul spent close to five years in prison and under house arrest. One day he was out and about traveling far and wide, preaching the Gospel to all who would come and listen, and the next thing he knew he was put away for an unknown length of time. Eventually he would be freed, only to be locked up again. Sound somewhat familiar?
When writing from a Roman prison to the Philippian Church, Paul describes his God-surrendered perspective this way;
I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content – whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:12-13 (HCSB)
And I love this translation of verse 13 (TLB),
…for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.
Isn’t it amazing that the book of Philippians, written by Paul as he was imprisoned in Rome, is often referred to as the book of joy? This is because his joy was not dependent on his circumstances, and ours isn’t either.
We may feel like we are in prison ourselves as the pandemic continues and so much is unknown. Like Paul, we may feel we are at the mercy of people who are against us – but he knew the secret of overcoming that paralyzing perspective.
He understood God led him into that dark place in order to bring light and joy to people who needed the good news. The gospel went forth, despite being locked-up and out of circulation.
Prisons, pandemics, shut-downs and all manner of restriction cannot restrain or contain our God. And, if we are the ones sharing His love with others, we cannot be contained either.
We will have to change how we do it. We may have to learn new skills and tools we didn’t want to learn. We may have to adjust to a new and, to be honest, maybe not our favorite way to follow Jesus and the path set before us. It isn’t about us anyway. It’s about Him. It’s always about Him.
One of the admonitions Paul gives to the Philippian church we can also take to heart; our lives as citizens should be consistent with the good news about the Messiah.
Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. – Philippians 1:27 (NLT)
My sisters, I’ve been thinking about you this morning. I know it’s hard and I am with you in spirit.
I am sad about the disruptions to my life, the disappointment of not seeing many of you in person, of missing my sons so desperately and I am wondering where this path will lead.
But one thing I do know…I did sign-up for this – and, if you are a follower of Jesus, you did too. He is not a magic genie who sends us to tropical islands and beautiful places if we wish hard enough. He is not at all about our happiness and comfort.
He is the Lord of the universe and His plans are unfolding right now, in real time, and we get to play a part in it!
These are defining days for many of us. Did we understand what we were getting into when we chose to follow Christ? Did we mean it? It was never going to be a safe and quiet journey. Jesus let us in on this in John 16:33;
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.
Even as we weather many trials and sorrows, you and I are exactly where we are supposed to be – under the umbrella of His perfect will and serving in the appointed time & place chosen for us.
You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go bear fruit – fruit that will last… – John 15:16
So…take heart, my sisters. As Christ-followers, we are right where He wants us. This is exactly what we signed up for.
Love, grace and peace to you,
PS. We are having SO MUCH FUN over on the Sisters in Faith Facebook page! Join my friend Dallas and I for our weekly Facebook Live! We meet on Tuesday evenings for Selah: To stop and listen. To pause and praise. There’s a devotion, discussion and a give-away! Join us live or for the replay!