How do you see Jesus at work in the world?
Josiah Carey | May 10, 2016
At Tulane RUF, we have discussion-time every week. I write a few questions, and students hop in and discuss with one another in small groups. I recently asked a variation of the question above: “How do you see Jesus at work in your life? In your community?” It seemed that students struggled to answer this, and I understand why.
“God is at work” is a core assumption that RUF teaches us to carry around with us. The thing is, most of us don’t naturally look for God at work. If you don’t have the idea floating in your head that God is actively at work now in ways you can notice, you usually don’t have eyes to see where he’s working. It’s far more ‘natural’ to attribute experiences to the cause-and-effect processes we can quantify. However, I think I am becoming convinced that an important skill of life is to learn to see life as the arena where Jesus is at work. While I’m obviously still working on this skill, I’d love to share some of what I’ve observed.
First, if Jesus is at work, what is he doing? A lot of stuff, of course, but I think it can all probably reside under the category of ‘redeeming everything.’ This is a promise that I’ve been learning to rest in. He is reconciling to himself all things (Col 1:20), and thereby making all things new (Rev. 21:5). In other words, God is bringing his good rule to earth (Mt 4:17), reordering everything according to love, bringing blessing to all brokenness. He delights in what he has made, and, because he delights in it, he delights to redeem it. This means he is actively at work bringing people to himself, leading his people in holiness, gathering his people in fellowship, helping us catch a vision for what he’s up to, and inviting us to participate in it. Amazing stuff! And it means we should start both expecting that he’s doing these things and looking for where they’re happening. This year I was privileged to see Jesus at work bringing students into the community of people who worship him. At the start of the year, I didn’t know a single member of the entering class, and yet there were a number of freshmen that Jesus brought anyway. I was then privileged to observe how he was at work in students, leading them to love and serve one another, to invite and welcome other students, to grow together in trust and shared life. I think a pastor is privileged in perhaps a special way to see how God is at work, and yet God is at work in every place redeeming all things. So where do you see him doing this? Where do you see him at work in your town?
Okay, so Jesus is at work, and he’s reconciling all things to himself. But how? Here’s the cool part. Jesus is at work in many ways, and one way is – through us! He dwells in people who trust him. This year I have seen him work through me. That’s incredible. And from the wrong perspective it can lead to arrogance, but in the Spirit of God it leads to humility. Who am I that God should work through me?! What an honor! It is totally dignifying. I have something to offer, and so do you! It’s not a lot, but it’s something, and it’s significant. And, just like loaves and fishes, he multiplies it. It’s still Jesus’ work, but it is through us. And this is one reason that he works in us, so that we can participate in his work. How have you seen him using you? Where is he asking to work through you?
Here’s the second way he’s at work. He’s working in spite of me and in spite of you. In spite of us. This probably sounds rude, even perhaps demeaning, but really I mean it as an encouragement. This is how I’ve experienced it. Because, if the work of this past year at Tulane was purely accomplished through me, then 1) it wouldn’t be much work accomplished, 2) there would be significant negative consequences stemming from my work, and 3) there would be tremendous pressure on me that would be too great to handle. It has been a great comfort to me this year to know that God is at work in spite of me – when I say something dumb or untrue, when I am selfish, when I sin against someone, when I’m insecure or afraid. God is at work. Period. And the burden for his work thankfully doesn’t rest on me. This year, the day after the worst talk I gave all semester – a talk that literally did not make any sense until maybe halfway through it – a student told me how she had put my challenge to obedience in action, had prayed about what I had said, and God had already answered her prayer in a dramatic way! Jesus is at work in spite of us, and for this I am thankful. Where do you see Jesus working in spite of you?
Finally, God is also at work beyond us in our communities. This semester a joy has been to see how God is at work in the Tulane RUF community. This is a community that I participate in and contribute to, yet it’s a community whose final shape isn’t given form by me its leader, but rather by Jesus. This again has been a great source of encouragement, as I’ve watched students move toward one another, love one another, pray for one another, welcome one another, comfort one another, challenge one another, and forgive one another. The Spirit of God is at work in the community. Because he’s at work beyond me, I can rest. I will do what God has asked me to do. But when the time comes for rest, I will rest and sleep in peace, because I know there is a community present whose members can and will serve, teach, and care for one another. I am non-essential, and yet privileged to participate. There is a community where the Holy Spirit is at work – she is the beautiful community that Jesus loves – and he delights to work through her. How do you see Jesus at work beyond you in your family, in your church, in your city?
How do you see Jesus at work in the world? Your life is the arena where Jesus is at work! He’s given you a unique vantage point from which to see what he’s up to, so that your heart can be encouraged, so you can encourage others by what you see, and so you can jump in and participate in what he’s doing!