“You need to figure out why that hit such a nerve.” These were the words my supervisor said to me at our recent Divisional Staff Meeting for the Surf and Turf, the division I’m a part of in my work for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in Bakersfield, CA.
She was referring to my reaction to a session we’d just had on the “marks” of missional student. A missional student is someone that cares about whether or not their friends and acquaintances know Jesus and are growing in relationship with him, while seeking to impact the world around them. In other words: Do they care about the eternal state of someone’s soul, but also care about the state of the world around them?
Some of the marks of a missional student are:
- They take personal risks for the sake of advancing the mission
- Are motivated to and/or enjoy spending time with non-Christians
- Are able to engage others, and is a person of influence
- Are willing to make accommodations/willing to make sacrifices in order to see something happen
There are others as well, but it was that last one that particularly excited me and bothered me all at the same time. As my supervisor and I talked, I recounted a conversation from the past where I was starkly told that I shouldn’t ask why someone wasn’t willing to sacrifice [something] in favor of making [church, bible study, something Christian-faith related] a priority. I walked away from that past conversation frustrated because I was unable in investigate why someone was unwilling to “buy-in” to these things about faith that were important. If the desire wasn’t there, then anything I tried was basically going to fall apart. We talked about everything else we did with our day, our time, what hobbies we had, and why they mattered. Why were matters of faith so verboten?
I was psyched about the possibility that students existed who wanted to sacrifice in order for someone they cared about to come to know Jesus and become more like him. But I was also anxious–okay terrified–that I was going to run into this same lack of motivation in my new ministry. Was I going to fail here like I had there? I couldn’t understand why people weren’t willing to sacrifice when it came to their faith.
And it was this lack of understanding that hit a nerve. See, I’m used to sacrificing for what I want. I’ve always had to work hard, and sometimes I’ve clawed my way through the dirt. Sometimes I’ve wondered if all this effort would really be worth it. But the fact was, I worked as hard as I did because what I was working towards was valuable to me, and I was willing to do anything to get it.
And I get the feeling that most of us are like that. We’re willing to sacrifice for what we want. It doesn’t matter how hard we have to work, or how much we have to sacrifice, if we want it badly enough, we’ll strive and strain until we get it. So why weren’t we/I willing to put forth the same kind of effort when it comes to living a life of faith?
Just as everyone has different things they’re willing to sacrifice for, I suspect that everyone has a different answer to this question too. Surely fear plays a role for some. Perhaps for others they feel as though they don’t know enough, or they wouldn’t know what to say. Or maybe faith is too personal.
I get it. I do. The fear is real and powerful. Sometimes even we theology students don’t know enough, or what to say. Yes, faith is a very personal thing. And I include myself in the category of those who are unwilling to sacrifice for matters of faith. Maybe sharing my faith comes a bit easier for me than it does for others. But I’ll tell you what doesn’t: spending personal time each day with God and the Word. That spiritual discipline is like pulling teeth for me, and I know it shouldn’t be. As one who values her relationship with Jesus more than anything else, I need to engage in that relationship.
The truth is, when it comes to personal devotions, my heart and my treasure is laid up elsewhere. Like Jesus says in Matthew 6:21, we will devote our time, talent, and money to the things that matter to us. And what matters to me–far too often–is that long “to-do” list that I have. Or the fact that I’d like a few more minutes of sleep. Or something else. Something trumps my conversations with Jesus much too frequently–even though I love talking with him.
What is my problem?! Why won’t my heart just get in line with my head? Jesus and I are working on that. Because when I’m out there talking with my students or even when I reach the other side of eternity, it isn’t going to matter if everything on that list is checked off. My to-do list doesn’t contain the answers to my students’ questions, and it won’t help them (or me) to develop the character of Christ. Only knowing my Bible and my God is going to do that.
How about you? What do you find difficult to sacrifice when it comes to your walk of faith and your relationship with God? Why do you think that is? What can you do about it? Where do you need to ask God and others for help?
May each one of us learn how to put our heart and our treasure into the eternal work God has given us to do.