December 27, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Giving it All)

Submitted by Debbie F. from Gracepoint Austin Church

Which of the following areas have I grown in this year? What are the circumstances or what acts of obedience led to growth in this area?

  • Living a passionate and sacrificial life
  • Generosity in giving time, money, talent and energy
  • Working hard and doing our best

One area I’ve grown is in a passionate and sacrificial life. I’ve found myself in the very obvious position of needing to mature, to get out of myself, to give of myself for others, to expand my scope of concern as several older staff left to help serve in our other churches, ministering to a fairly sizable life group with people of diverse needs and the start of our new Praxis ministry.

This past year was filled with challenges from the Word of God, from Jeremiah’s complete giving of himself to live out and preach God’s message, to DTs and Bible studies through Apostle Paul’s epistles demonstrating his passion and heart, that were always so timely for me.  The DT that stood out for me the most, and that continues to bring me back to my identity is 2 Corinthians 5, the amazing fact that God gave me—lazy, selfish, grumpy, full of failures me—the ministry of reconciliation, entrusted me the message of reconciliation, and has me as an ambassador for Christ, God making his appeal through me.  That was the motivational speech of the year, a “What on earth–” moment.  I saw how in every way, God has incomprehensibly entrusted me with such lofty roles and responsibilities, and I just couldn’t understand why.

Yet, as I reflected over it, I saw this as actually not so surprising when I looked at just who God is.  He’s demonstrated His love and grace in that while I was a sinner, Christ died for me.  He’s a God of grace, and He’s the one who does it all, and calls me to go along with Him, to follow Him.  How can I not respond with humility, gratitude and passion?  When I see all that God has entrusted to me–this precious ministry, the people in my live, I desire so much rise up to the task for which He has called me, to grow up, to give more of myself.  In response to this message, I’ve found myself becoming a lot more passionate about people, thinking not only of their immediate issues that they may present to me, but often being unable to sleep, thinking about how better to minister to them, take them to the next step in their walk with Christ, pull some out of the mud and mire in which they’re stuck, be a lot more proactive as I claimed greater ownership (as I should’ve from way back when) over this ministry group.

And if anything, I’ve come to realize that by God’s grace and power working within me, I have way more capacity than I thought I had, and in the coming year, I hope to find the same once again.

In which of the above areas do I want to experience growth in this coming year?

The area in which I need to grow is in the area of working hard and doing my best.  Though in the area of ministry, with the people entrusted to me, whom I’ve been called to love, serve and disciple, I’ve grown in understanding my identity, my role in their lives, and have come to realize that there’s still way more room in my life to give of myself in love, Acts 20:34-35 speaks of Apostle Paul’s total blamelessness in all that he does, striving in every way to be a blessing and not a burden to those around him.  He worked hard, not only in “spiritual” ministry, but the scope of his ministry was such that, in every way, his life would bless others.  He supported himself financially, so as not to burden or potentially stumble the church, even though he had every right to be supported by the churches he founded and led.  The fact that he can say, not only in this text but in other text as well, “You know me,” reveals how he never saw “downtime” for himself, but every moment was a ministering moment, a chance to be a blessing, to serve the Lord Christ.

And this is where I need to mature.  This past year, I’ve come to realize, with much shame, that, as CS Lewis had described in Problem of Pain, “They wanted some corner in the universe of which they could say to God, ‘This is our business, not yours.’ But there is no such corner,” there still existed those corners in my life where I did not serve the Lord Christ, but myself.  Those corners which I called “my room” or “my downtime,” where I chose to do was personally comfortable, rather than what would be befitting as a servant of Christ.  I am not my own, I was bought at a price, and I’m to honor God with my body, heart, mind, soul, strength.  Even when Jesus took time to rest, he invited interruptions out of his compassion for others and his clear identity of what He was here for.  My identity has been given me by God.  I’m a servant of God, He’s made me a minister of reconciliation, His ambassador, one through whom He makes His appeal, one who’s been called to love and He’s loved me, called to serve as He’s served me, obedient even to death on a cross.

Lord, may my standards in every area of my life be raised to honor you in greater and greater measures.  May my house be kept as the Levites meticulously kept the tabernacle, that whoever enters through my doors may experience Christ without distraction.  May every minute of my time be a ministering moment, be it with those I lead, my co-laborers, my leaders, my husband and child, or the random encounter.  It is more blessed to give than to receive, and I want to be a blessing to others, a blessing to you.

Reflect on one verse that particularly hit you.

2 Timothy 4:6-7

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

These are words that I want to be able to say, confidently that I have fought the good fight, finished the race, kept the faith!  The way I live is still too much like how I was running the 10K last year– run, walk, run, walk, walk, walk, fast sprint the last few yards.  The way I fight is not on the frontlines, but hiding behind others hoping I don’t get hit.  I don’t want to be a coward; I want to fight hard, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus, pleasing my commanding officer.  I want to run as one running to win the prize.  I want to keep the faith that has been given and entrusted to me.  So that when my time of departure comes, I may stand, able to say to my Lord, “I did my very best,” and be able to hear from my Lord, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Submitted by Sarah S. from Gracepoint Austin Church

Which of the following areas have I grown in this year? What are the circumstances or what acts of obedience led to growth in this area?

  • Living a passionate and sacrificial life

Looking back at this year, I see that there has been growth in this area of living passionately and sacrificially.  As I get older and life gets more complicated, there is that desire to not do as much or give of myself as much.  As I think of this past year, there were times when I felt that desire to just settle or slow down.  However, I think God knew my default desire to want comfort and ease and placed those boundaries for me so that I wouldn’t give into that temptation.  This year has been a growing year, involving growth in areas that I never felt that confident in such as leading groups on my own or leading a younger staff and growing pains of trying to embrace my role as a spiritual mentor and one of the older staff here in Austin.  After some older staff moved to help out at different ministries, I knew the choice was either for me to retreat and fall into that “little ol’ me” mindset, or to push through my feelings of inadequacy and insecurity and obey God in embracing this role.  Now, without someone older right above me, there is a much greater urgency to take complete ownership over those I’m ministering to.  Yet, even though as the pressure got higher, more responsibilities were placed upon me, and the realization of the gap where I am in my character and where I ought to be has widened, I see that my passion has grown.  It’s not just about tasks and getting things done or just trying to show like I’m doing ok.  I’ve learned this past year that there is too much at stake to operate in this way.  I don’t want to just operate as if I’m a “good staff”, though that strain of performance-orientedness is still within me, but I see that more than that is this deeper drive and motivation of wanting to see people saved by this gospel b/c I know as I’ve been ministering to people especially this year that sin is real, death is real, and the gospel is the only hope we have to give. I think another circumstance that has helped me to grow in my passion and in living a sacrificial life is as I’ve been helping some people go through more serious sin issues this past year, I’m more convicted that there can only be true hope in the cross of Jesus.  This world is so broken as I hear of people who are scarred from the past, from recurring sins, or just finding worth and security in this world as many of the seniors are looking towards graduation.  Although it’s been harder emotionally and often feeling at a loss in how to help people, but the fact has become clearer the only source of hope, of finding healing and renewal is in Jesus.

In which of the above areas do I want to experience growth in this coming year?

  • I want to work on experiencing more growth in continuing to live a passionate and sacrificial life.  I feel like the other two areas are encompassed in living a passionate and sacrificial life, and I would only increase in becoming generous with my resources and work hard and do my best as my passion and zeal and sacrifice for the gospel increases.  Although, I know that growing in passion and sacrifice is directly related to how much I’m willing to surrender my own life and preferences and embrace even more suffering.  I don’t know what this new year has in store, but I want to pray and recommit myself to dig deeper in my convictions and guard myself from wanting to settle down especially when it feels harder.

Reflect on one verse that particularly hit you.

I’m hit by Apostle Paul’s description of his life in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29.  Reading this always brings me back to proper perspective about my life, what suffering really is, and challenging me of the standard to which I’m called to live a sacrificial life.  Apostle Paul never shied away from embracing suffering and giving himself to spread this gospel.  I think about the coming year and spring semester, and although I will never have to face the kinds of obstacles that Apostle Paul did, but it hits me again how God gives me a new year in which I can strive to give it my all again.  Yes, there are regrets of having given into my laziness or fears and passivity, I have been given a new year in which I can try to live wholly giving myself to God, just as Apostle Paul did, and not shy away from the opportunities of suffering that God may place in my life.

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