Saturday, May 30, 2009

All We Can Do

The following post was published in the June Edition of the Safeharbor Christian Church Newsletter, where I will sere as Sr. Pastor, as of June 22nd.

When I was asked to write my very first article for the SCC newsletter, I originally thought, "Ok. No big deal. I write stuff all the time; it's what I do." But as I began to think of an angle for this article, I realized, "people may have expectations," which kind of made me rethink how I approached this task.

Surely you have expectations. Maybe you want to get to know me, and expect me to share some biographical information or my favorite scripture verse. Maybe you want me to demonstrate that I know how to interpret the Bible or exegete a passage, and your expectations are that I'll write a half-page commentary on a difficult text. Or, maybe your expectations are that I'll issue a call to action and pave a way for the future of SCC. Maybe you were hoping I'd include a good joke for you to share at work tomorrow. You may not even be aware of your expectations. But, if you were waiting on this article, you surely had them.

Good grades didn't come naturally to me as a young man, but something changed by the time I graduated high school. And by the time I moved on from my undergraduate studies, I had the system figured out. Now, I'm told it wasn't always like this, but, in the college classroom now-a-days, there's an easy formula for good grades: 1) know the professor's expectations, 2) meet those expectations, and 3) wait for a good grade. Some professors despise grade inflation and classroom evaluations, but they can't fight it; they have to cater to the system that pays them. Other professors just go with the flow; it's all about imparting knowledge for them anyway, so grades are kind of superfluous. But the expectation of most students is that if they meet the professor's expectations, they're going to get a good grade; and that's pretty much how the academic world works in the 21st century. It's not about doing your best; it's about meeting expectations and doing what it takes to get an "A." That was the game I was conditioned to play.

When I finally "entered the real world" and began serving in a church as an associate pastor, I still viewed my responsibilities much in the same way I viewed them in undergraduate and graduate school—if you want to be successful, figure out people's expectations and meet them. It didn't take long to realize that this approach to life and ministry is maddening. Everyone had their own opinions about success. Everyone had a unique view about the best way to approach a task. Everyone had different expectations. I needed a new approach.

Here's what I came up with: "Do your very best for God; that's all you can do." This is the approach that brought peace. This is the approach that balanced humility with poise. This is the approach that satisfied my soul and honored God.

Before his book title was borrowed for a song, a singing group, a movie, numerous blog titles, and various parachurch ministries, Mike Pilavachi expressed this thought eloquently when wrote For The Audience of One: Worshiping the One and Only in Everything You Do. The title says it all. Live for God and worship him in everything you do. Yes, he has expectations, but they're the only ones you have to worry about.

If I had only taken Jesus' ancient advice to heart, I could have avoided a lot of stress. In Matthew 6:1-18, he reminds us that God is pleased when we live for Him alone, and even takes notice of things that other's can't see—look it up.

So, SCC, I'm looking forward to the future. I have expectations about the way things should go. I know that you do too. But, I want to challenge us to consider the expectations of the only one who really matters, and vow to give Him our very best. It's all we can do.

“ view of God's mercy,... offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.”
- Romans 12:1


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