Backstory to the photo above—Paul and Barnabas have just informed the Jews (who were jealous of the large crowds coming to hear teaching about Jesus) of their decision to begin sharing the Way with the Gentiles. Paul references the decision to preach to Gentiles in Romans 11, admitting that he magnified his decision and subsequent ministry in order to make the Jews jealous so that they would want to believe also.
When I read the response of the Gentiles, I can’t help but think of a video from a few years ago showing Chinese believers diving over one another to claim a Bible for themselves. You can see tears streaking their faces as the clutch the Word to themselves. How must it have felt to believe and yet be on the outskirts of the life changing message of salvation? How overwhelming must it have been to hear that one of the leaders of the early church was devoting his ministry to you?
Sometimes I think we are too cavalier in our approach to the Scripture. Our very access has jaded us. Gathering has become an obligation. Reading Scriptures has become a bore. Communion with the Holy One has become a distraction from our favorite pastimes. Prayer has become a means to an end.
And, as usual, I am sharing my own experience. Goodness knows there have been times halfway through “the begats” that I’ve found my thoughts trailing along some other path, biding time until I could be done for the day.
It takes work to appreciate what we have. Gratitude is an act of our will that must rule over our emotions.
It would be easier if we could somehow bottle the sense of longing found in other believers who don’t have access to the Word the way we do in the Western church. I would love to get to sprinkle on some “holy reverence” that would automatically push my heart into wonder as I plod through obscure passages detailing the minutiae of every sacrifice required in the Levitical law.
Unfortunately that isn’t something available to us; but maybe I should say “fortunately” depending on perspective. I believe God sees our cold, distracted, burdened hearts as an opportunity to prove our love. In the same way that He planted the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden to give mankind an opportunity to love, so the fallow fields of our hearts provide a place to choose thanksgiving. Every time I stir up my emotions to approach my time with Him with expectation, He sees my spiritual posture as an act of love and it draws His heart. I choose to love Him with my will, not just my emotions. I choose to let my spirit rule over what I feel. I choose to shake off the mundane one more time and approach His Word like it is the first time I’ve ever seen it. I choose to expect Him to stir my heart again, even in the boring places. Love in the mundane is valid, beautiful, and necessary.
Many of us are approaching the United States Thanksgiving holiday where, as a matter of tradition, we set our hearts to find expressions of gratitude. What if we spent thirty days stirring our hearts to be thankful that God chose to make a written copy of what is on His mind available to us? What would it work in our spirits if we approached Him over the thanksgiving season without putting our expectations on what He wants to say? What if we decided that we would take upon ourselves to stir our hearts and delight in His voice, despite our lack of interest in the subject? “God, for whatever reason, you found it important to honor these names in your Word. I celebrate You today, and I read these names and remember that You see every life and know every person’s story.”
Enter His gates with thanksgiving. May you find His grace on the journey.