Like most pastors, I really want our church family to know their Bibles. My desire for that explains why I preach the way that I do. I preach expository messages, informed by a quote I heard at the very first chapel service I attended while in seminary: “There are two kinds of preaching – expository, and bad.” In addition, I like to alternate testaments, so that our church family gets to see how the Bible works together, and that ultimately all of it points to Christ. I also like to preach through books that have been authored by different individuals, again, so that our church family gets to see how the Bible is one unified story, despite the differences in authors, audiences, languages, locations, dates, etc.
Currently, I am preaching through the book of Jonah. At first glance, I thought it was going to be a quick, 4 week series. Jonah has 4 chapters, a lot of it was narrative, so I figured this would be among my more brief and swifter series. But then I began to study the book intently. When I did so, I realized that 4 weeks was too short. There is way more going on than it appears. Four weeks quickly became 7 weeks. It has been a joy to get to preach through this book. Jonah’s account has revealed my tendencies and exposed my heart. His story has reaffirmed God’s relentless pursuit of me, and His relentless grace to me.
One theme that continues to pop up each week – so much so that our church family can repeat it on command – is that the story of Jonah is not about what Jonah is doing for God, but what God is doing for Jonah. And in like manner, my story is not what I am doing for God, it is what God is doing for me AND what He has already done for me through His Son.
Dwelling long on that truth has been challenging, yet encouraging. Nearly everyone defines themselves by what they do – “I’m a doctor, I’m a student, I’m a plumber, I’m a pastor…” What would it look like if we defined ourselves not by what we do, but by what God is doing in us? It might be a little weird and wonky to say it out loud “Hi, I’m Carl, and God is causing me to grow in the area of patience” (you know, I might just try that). But what if we started to at least think that way? What if we stopped defining ourselves by our spiritual works resume – “I teach this class, I lead this small group, I serve in this ministry…” and instead stopped long enough to recognize that God is doing a unique work in us? Do you recognize His work in your life? What area of your life/mind/heart is He working on? How have you been experiencing His presence? What is He teaching you? What He is nudging you to do? How is He bringing about His work of grace in your life? I’d love to hear it, so if you are willing, share your story of what God is doing for you in the comments section. A follow up post on my coming to grips with this will be coming next week, so I’ll be sharing too!