One of the most confusing things I have been asked regularly about these blogs on my 2.5 year faith walk is, “How do you get ‘it’? You have a knack for explaining Jesus, but you haven’t been ‘doing’ it long enough so you really ought not ‘get’ it.”
In no particular order it has been suggested: perhaps someone else is actually writing these blog posts; that I ought not ‘get’ it because I’ve not undertaken theological study; or (my favourite) it would be wiser if someone with a theological degree to read through my posts before I publish them.
I have also received a humbling amount of compliments too; but still many with an air of bafflement. “This is great, I love how you explained it, but you’ve only been a Christian for how long..?”
The above have all contributed to me taking a break from my blogs for a while, coupled with shoves from the Holy Spirit to focus my attentions elsewhere.
Yet I miss it. Writers process on their pages. But I really had to wrestle with why I was writing and what – if anything – God was asking me to do with it.
This started as a place to record and unpack what GJ&HS were doing in my life. It evolved as my journalist head observed what I perceived as being lost in translation between the great news of the Jesus fella and the often stilted, sometimes stagnant, communication methods and stereotypes of church and religion.
After 2.5 years I now see more clearly how God works in phases with us. He has taken me from everything I need, then to everything I trust and now through to everything I want.
Need was obvious (after a cage fight or ten), trust took longer and want… well, want is what I liken to the sense of a growing HS magnet inside my chest that pulls and pulls me to more in relationship with GJ&HS.
There’s been a problem though. What the HS been whispering, what God has been suggesting has felt too big for little ol’ me. Coupled with a hangover of ‘you’re just too new a Christian to get this’ it left me somewhat frozen. A few weeks ago a pastor (not of the smart-alec variety) told me, “you wouldn’t understand theologically what I’m trying to do here.” Wow. That really hooked in.
I recall after my liptoning asking the SAP what all this focus on the timeline of my understanding of GJ&HS was about? As I pondered God pressing me to apply for a role within a Christian not-for-profit 18 months ago, even the SAP said, “well, they may not want you. They may be seeking a more mature Christian.”
What was this? Is one supposed to spend a certain amount of time on one’s knees in pews? Much like frequent fliers, was there a tier status I’d been unaware of?
I’m sorry if I now offend people who have letters after their name as long as the alphabet in regards to theological study, but here goes: the basic premise of Jesus really isn’t that complicated.
Yes, I applaud all those scholars who dig through greek, hebrews, and other ancient texts in order to better deliver understanding of scripture to our modern world – and maybe we’d not have had the Reformation if Luther had been unwilling to do the same. Yet at its heart, Christianity is fairly simple. After all, Jesus called uneducated, illiterate fishermen to be in on the ‘start-up’. So let’s not get over-excited about how complicated it is to grasp.
The key words in the paragraph above being ‘at its heart’. If you let GJ&HS move through your heart, your head may wrestle (as mine did) but I believe it prepares you for everything that follows after far better than if you try to move from ‘head-knowledge’ to ‘heart-understanding’.
My answer to my bewildered compliment-payers: “I have no idea how. It feels right. It flows out of me but (and here I have to say it’s all on the HS) I will always get a pressing to dig into the Bible about whatever I’m called to write about.”
Heart first, with head fact checking. Both need to be applied – even when the fact checking can be an uncomfortable truth to wrestle with! I remind everyone that – by training – I am a journalist. It is ingrained for me to attempt to make anything I write about as accessible as possible for the reader. Why would my writing about GJ&HS be any different?
He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. – 1 Timothy 3;6
Perhaps this is what people have been concerned about? Paul was saying that young converts should not be made pastors regardless of their zeal or spiritual gifts. That there is a depth of character that cannot be developed any other way than through time. It speaks to pride, and no matter what other secular positions of leadership and maturity a new Christian may have held, that experience is insufficient.
I’m going to go with a yes, maybe. But when you’ve got a 40+ convert with a breadth and depth of life experience that God is calling with a vengeance, perhaps encouragement rather than bafflement is a better way to grow new parts to the body of Christ. How many new Christians with fantastic skills and gifts are hesitating over what they can offer church, missions, and evangelising because they have been subtly told “they’re too new,” with the implication that ‘theologically you just won’t get it’?
A chapter later, Paul writes to Timothy: Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Timothy 4;12)
The principle that Paul was explaining is that maturity is not always associated with years. Out of all the people Paul had trained, Timothy’s heart was the closest to that of the Apostle Paul (Philippians 2:20). Timothy was the one anointed by God to carry on the work of the church at Ephesus, and he had to fight any cultural barriers that would cause the older people not to respect his authority because of his young age.
Paul reminded Timothy not to let others despise his youth. We are all responsible, to a large degree, for other people’s opinions about us. I am reminded to be more obedient to God than to people’s opinions, even if on a heart/head level they are somehow bound up in a scriptural opinion that recent converts ought not grasp this GJ&HS business so easily and emphatically.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17
All good things come from God. And my somehow being able to grasp and explain GJ&HS in such a way that connects with people is a good thing, no? God doesn’t work on timelines and tick boxes. He has grabbed me, this broken vessel, and in His grace, has poured in some surprising gifts. A gift of writing. Of speaking. Of encouraging people to grow, because I’ve always felt strongly that if we are all not growing then we are dying.
Throw in the past 2.5 years of falling head-over-heels with GJ&HS and where does that lead me?
a) Setting up a religious cult
b) Going to bible college.
While the thought of a) gives me many blog post ideas, it truly looks like it’s b). Took me a while – I have spent weeks praying He closes doors, this is too big for me, this is overloading for me, all of which are loud echoes of take this cup away from me. Me.
Incorrect insecure pronoun. Who do I want? To Whom do I surrender? And while the dreams that God is pressing upon my heart feel way too big for me, they aren’t for Him. He uses broken vessels in the funniest of ways. I take heart knowing He will smile at my imagining my vessel as a broken bottle of gin turned into a lamp-stand.
Which also gives me my next blog post idea: the freaked out, I can’t quite believe I’m doing this sinner’s application to bible college.
Stay posted, I’m sure I’m going to have lots of new material…
4 thoughts on “God uses broken vessels, not timelines and tickboxes”
Phil, I know many long time “mature” Christians who don’t have your maturity or clarity of thought!! Don’t be discouraged. That’s just satan trying to pull you down. Be encouraged! X
Sent from my iPad
Now I know why it had been a while since your last post. I’ve been checking for a new one. As always God has perfectly timed what you have chosen to write about.
I find it so easy to fall into pride; to think that having been a Christian since I could walk, I should be so “mature” by now. But I’m not. I fail every day. And I take so much comfort from shared experiences from fellow broken vessels.
I’m re reading T4T -Steve Smith with Ying Kai and trying to apply what I am learning. In bold on page 33_ “The vast majority of people who came to faith -thousands of thousands- were won to faith through the witness of fairly young christians excited about their newfound faith.” The focus of T4T is training everyone to obey all commands including the great commission and challenges stereotypes of what God can do through ordinary believers. Training for Training others. Our focus in the west is often teaching before trusting. Obedience is something we shy away from talking about because we think it muddies the gospel message but Jesus is our obedience for salvation and obedience is actually important. Training to train others is the way the kingdom has reached far and wide. Ying kai and his wife Grace were here a few years ago. they were at the core of the fast moving growth of the Chinese church. Your love for Christ inspires me to keep obeying!
Thank you… I think it’s really important we all as a family keep inspiring each other!