Digital Systems Coordinator
Living missionally is hard because it is a call to live generously. It’s not natural to make your life about others for their benefit and not your own. At least, it isn’t for me. But I don’t think I am alone in that. Living generously is uncomfortable and challenging, or at least it often feels that way as I over-think about that conversation I would like to initiate with my neighbor. But my experience has also been that living generously on mission, whether praying for friends and family, sharing my testimony with a stranger, going through life issues with a college student, buying lunch for someone in need, or helping my neighbor with some yard work, has been one of the most joyous and faith building actions in my life.
That is partly why I am so thankful for discipleship. It keeps me on mission and stirs me up to love and good works. It helps me get past the fear or apathy and do the thing that gives me such joy and faith. But how do we live generously now? Can we think creatively about how to love people in the midst of Covid-19? How can our discipleship groups continue to encourage us in this endeavor? Before we go there though, I think it is good to remind ourselves of why living generously on mission is so joyful and faith-building in the first place, and what gives us the power to do it. Before the call to action or the helpful tips, we need to tune our hearts.
Duty and Delight
Jesus commands me to make disciples—to love my neighbor—to live generously. It may sound trite, but I need the reminder that it is a command, and as a follower of Jesus, I do want (sometimes I want to want) to obey and walk in step with my Savior and King. His command is reason enough and a good place to start, but living generously is more than just duty. In tuning my heart, I am also reminded of its delight. We get to work with God and see Him at work! My earthly father has helped me understand the delight in joining my heavenly Father in His work. As I explain, I hope it is a helpful for you too.
My father the Carpenter
Growing up, my dad would call me into his shop and ask me to help him with a project. And of course he would! I was very skilled and knowledgeable in woodworking! Wait, no I wasn’t…I was 8 years old and certainly missed the nail with the hammer more times than I hit it. My dad could have easily made that piece of furniture without me, but he asked me to help him in the shop. Why? Because my dad wanted to share what he loved to do with the son he loved to be with. He really built whatever we were working on, but I enjoyed sharing in something he loved to do and playing a small part in making something beautiful.
God is at work redeeming the world, making things new, and drawing people to Himself. Because He loves us, he wants us to join Him in the work He loves. We miss the nail probably more times than we hit it, but that is okay! It is ultimately God’s work, and He will complete it. That does not excuse us either, but I love that our duty is not only His delight, it’s ours as well. Why wouldn’t we want to work alongside our loving Father?
It’s funny too, the more I built and fixed things with my dad over the years, I didn’t just get closer to him as we spent time working together, I also became a more skilled craftsman. Imagine that, the more time I spent woodworking the better I got at it and the less fearful I was to operate the table saw! It’s the same as I think about the time I’ve spent joining my heavenly Father in His work. The real joy has certainly been seeing the love of my Father as I spend time with Him involved what He loves. But I am also a little more comfortable in the work–a little better at living generously and loving the people around me.
I guess what I am saying is that it takes a little less to work up the courage to join Him, I’ve gotten a little better at sharing His love, and I have even grown to enjoy the work. I am still not even close to the craftsman my father is, and the truth is, my heavenly Father’s work is much greater and more impossible to match. He is always the one who brings the dead to life. But what a joy it is to see a skilled Craftsman at work–even more to be a part of the beautiful things He is making.
In Light of the Gospel
I know living generously on mission is my duty, and I see the potential delight, but what gives me, gives us, the power to actually begin living generously? It still just isn’t natural, at least it isn’t for my fickle, self-centered heart.
If I share the gospel with that person, what will they think of me? I long for approval.
Is it really worth it to give this money away? I long for security and personal pleasure.
Should I serve this person? I really am too busy for that…I want my life and time to be all about me.
Yikes, my heart is a mess…
But then I return to the cross, or more likely, God graciously reminds me of the cross through the work of the Spirit in me. How did I forget that Jesus lived generously to give me all things, humbling himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross? (Ephesians 1, Philippians 2) Because of Him, my greatest, eternal need has been met. For even to die is gain! Jesus took the punishment for my sins upon himself, and I now stand redeemed before the creator of the universe! Not only that, but he calls me son. He says well done.
I am secure.
I am known.
I am loved.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8) In Christ, what else do I need? Oh, how free I am to live generously in light of the gospel! God, how great you are. Jesus, thank you for your atoning work on the cross. Spirit, help me to live generously in the freedom and joy of the gospel.
I hope that your heart, like mine, is stirred to love and good works–to live generously—now that I am reminded of the call to make disciples, the work that God is doing, and the goodness of the gospel. Then, Covid-19 strikes, and I am stuck inside. But, what if instead of putting off mission until everything is back to normal, or seeing this as a setback, I saw it as a fresh opportunity to be on mission and live generously for the good of others and the glory of God? How has Covid-19 even given us new ways to meet people where they are at in the brokenness of this world? Because I think that we can, and I think that it has.
A Few Ideas for Your Discipleship Group to Live Generously
• Remind each other of the truth of the gospel. Stir one another up to love and good works.
• Adopt a local restaurant as a way to support them. Pray for ways to start building relationships with the owners or people who work there.
• Commit to supporting a local food drive.
• If you’re healthy, offer to get groceries for your elderly neighbor so they are less exposed to others. Stay and talk for a while when you drop the groceries off at a safe distance. People are lonely.
• Post on social media about your church’s livestream, or better yet, personally invite someone to it.
• Put together a care package for someone you know is in need.
• Call people in your church and just check-in to see how you can pray for them.
• It may be easier to reach out to that family member or friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Maybe you have had a hard time coming up with an excuse to reach out. Covid-19 gives you an excuse to see how they are holding up.
Personally, my roommate and I have a groupme full of friends we used to see regularly before all of this. Most nights, we pick one person in that groupme to call. We just catch up, encourage, and pray for them. I am sending family members copies of The Answer, praying that the Lord would use it to give them hope in a time of darkness and give me opportunities for spiritual conversation. My discipleship group continues to meet every Thursday night over Zoom to check in and encourage each other to live generously. I know of another group who decided to “adopt” one person in need that they would love financially, prayerfully, and any other way they could. It is amazing the stories of blessing that have come from all involved as they have sought to live generously!
Whatever you decide to do, I believe this is a time to be creative. To step into people’s lives. To love those around you in unique and thoughtful ways. To live generously as the rest of the world lives in fear and isolation. Not to shrink back. Ultimately, what do you have to lose? You are eternally secure in Christ. Your Father is inviting you into His work to experience His power and love. The Lord is sovereign, even now. It’s still not easy. That’s why discipleship is so important. We were never meant to do this alone. Times may feel uncertain, but God is certainly at work. How might you join your Father?