Working in missions, you get to see some of the best sides of people. I have been on several short-term trips and have had the privilege of seeing the body of Christ thrive in an environment that is virtually technology free, focused on a common goal and driven by the overwhelming purpose to know Christ and make Him known. Relationships are cultivated, the Gospel is shared and God uses people to build each other up and stir one another on to love and good works.
But eventually the trip is over, tearful good-byes are said and each returns home. We are all praying that we go home changed, that our hearts would not soon heal, that our minds would not soon forget the things that we have seen and that we would go home and do the same in our own Jerusalem. Sadly, more often than not, we go back to the way we were as if we had learned nothing. We get into the mindset of a dichotomy between who we are when we are on the field and who we are when we are at home. Or even more generally, who we are when we’re at home and who we are when we’re at church.
So what do we do when we notice this inconsistency between who we are at home and who we are while “doing ministry”? Here are a few helpful hints for when you detect these discrepancies.
REMEMBER THAT WE WHO ARE STRONG HAVE THE OBLIGATION.
Romans 15:1 says, “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, not to please ourselves.” If you notice this in your peers and family members, according to Scripture you have an obligation to bear with them. You are not to be fed up and walk away from them. You are not to accuse and rant at them about the areas that they are failing in. Your obligation is to come alongside them and help them, even if it requires sacrifice on your part. And it most likely will.
DISCERNMENT IS NOT FOR DEGRADATION.
Oswald Chambers puts it this way, “God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.” If you notice some variation in the life of a brother or sister, you have been allowed to see it by God’s grace so that you may pray for them, and that you may know how to do so better than you were before. You are not seeing this so that you can feel superior to them, nor so that you can have something to hold against them. You have been given insight into an area in which they struggle so that you can pick up your sword and get into the battle with them.
USE IT AS YOUR WARNING LIGHT.
Most of us are familiar with the admonition to take the plank out of our own eye before attempting to remove the splinter in the eye of our brother. We are warned that if we think we are standing, we should take heed lest we fall (1 Corinthians 10:12). We are reminded that a self-appraising attitude is opposed by God and that we are to consider others better than ourselves, not the other way around. If you are catching inconsistencies in the lives of those around you, cry out to God to search your own heart to see if there is any hurtful way in you.
WHEN YOU SEE INCONSISTENCY IN YOURSELF
REPENT, REASSESS, AND RETURN.
If the Holy Spirit is convicting you of this kind of behavior, take a moment and praise the Lord that He loves you enough to sanctify you. He will not leave you where you are, and He will be faithful and just to forgive you. When you have confessed your sin to God, ask Him to show you how this came to place in your life. Most likely, you were not abiding in Him, and the fruit your life has been producing has been the bitter fruit of human effort (see John 15). Return to the true vine, stand in the victory Christ has already won, and watch the fruit of the Holy Spirit manifest itself in your life.
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