Dear West – 8 November 2018

Once a week I write a pastoral letter to the good people of the West Congregation of the Austin Stone Community Church. I will occasionally add some of those letters here.

Dear West Family,

This last week I had the privilege of being able to fly around the US quite a lot. It really is a privilege and one that I don’t take for granted, but that doesn’t mean that I enjoy the actual flying experience. It is possible for something to be meaningful and altogether horrible at the same time. Something can be a significant privilege and tremendous burden simultaneously. I am sure that Wesley knew the immense privilege of his relentless travel by horse in an era when few left their hometowns, but I also think he probably hated riding that poor beast, and the beast most likely wasn’t thrilled about the arrangement either. I feel the same way about planes.

Air travel isn’t fun anymore, in fact it seems like the opposite of fun. The two are mutually exclusive. There is the unrequested public pat down by a stranger at security, the fact that everyone has to stand in long lines in every stage of the journey, the tiny seats, the circulated air, and inevitability the dude next to you brings fried chicken on the flight even though there are tiny seats and circulated air. Then there is the fact that you are frequently exposed to stranger’s toes, and the fact that all of the crew went to Grumpy University School of Unhappiness and Misery for their training, and on top of that, you are literally ranked by class and number and herded like Wesley’s poor beast into your ill-fitting, fried chicken smelling, toe seeing cubicle of pressurized misery. I think the point is made. It’s not fun.

So (getting to the point) when I fly I pray like crazy. I pray that the flight would be on time. I pray that the seat next to me would be open, and that the seat next to that would be filled by a tiny person allergic to human interaction. I pray that I would get upgraded so that I could get some rest for the important gospel work I am going to have to do. I pray that no one at all speaks to me. I pray that the crew just bring me my tomato juice with no ice and my tiny bag of pretzels and that they arrest the fried chicken guy for crimes against humanity. I ask God to bestow His favor upon me in those simple ways.

On this last set of flights, God answered very few of those prayers in the affirmative. Chicken was everywhere, the crew were having grumpy days even by their standards, the security lines were threat level quadruple orange and Andre the talkative Giant who had some insight into Bitcoin and some associated political views was my travel companion on every flight. I was annoyed and confused about whether I was cursed by God, but it got me thinking about the will of God. I clearly have a certain set of desires for my everyday life, but sometimes it seems like God is actively working against those desires. Maybe He is, and maybe that is His blessing and not His curse.

You see, once I managed to dislocate both of my hips so that I could fit into the space that Andre left me, I opened my bible as a clear sign that I didn’t want to talk anymore and this verse hit me.

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” – 1 Thess 3:4

It goes on to say that this would be evidenced in abstaining from sexual immorality, which wasn’t a big problem for Andre and I at that particular moment, but that phrase struck me so clearly. I don’t have to sit and wonder what God wants for me in the every day moments of my life.

He wants me to be sanctified.

While I am working on a particular set of desired outcomes for me which are usually comfort related, God has another desired outcome for me, and it is usually discomfort related.

I want to be left alone, He wants me to be sanctified in community.
I want to be treated like first class, He wants me to be sanctified in humility.
I want to withdraw and judge, He wants me to be sanctified in compassion and empathy.

Maybe He brings discomfort to speed me towards His actual will for my life. What if the discomfort is a huge blessing from Him?

So friends, why don’t you join me is asking God for what we know He wants to do anyway? What if we asked God to do what He wills in our life, which is to change us and to make us more like His Son? Don’t sit around wondering what God’s will for you is, do the next most sanctifying thing.

Is that confessing sin in covenant community? Then do it!
Is that making hard calls to grow in holiness and to flee temptation? Do it!
Is that to forgive as you have been forgiven? Start now!
Is it to sacrificially serve? What are you waiting for?

This is God’s will for you, that you would be sanctified, and He gets what He wants. Let’s stop asking just for trinkets of comfort, and let’s plead for anything that makes us more like Jesus.

See you Sunday.
Ross

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