I’ve had some conversations lately that were not received as I intended. Ditto with some of my writing and social media posts.
As I increasingly resolve to lean into and live for the Lord while also planting seeds of faith every chance I get, I encounter more instances of, shall I say, poor reception. This despite the Lord’s assurance that the Holy Spirit will give us words to say when our faith is on the line. (Matthew 10:19-20).
In fairness, the context for Jesus’ assurance regarded more of a “being handed over to the authorities” situation. Still, some otherwise normal conversations intended to be winsome feel like that, sinking into argumentative debating.
Does the Lord’s word accomplish his purposes even when poorly delivered by the likes of me? While I enter a conversation intending to be loving and responsive, somewhere along the line, another spirit butts in. Did that nasty retort actually come out of MY mouth?
Why is it that struggling, sad, or traumatized people are generally more open and attentive to faith conversations? The hardest to connect with are those who: (a) are doing well in life, at least inasmuch as can be observed or feigned; and, (b) who I am closest to. In the case of family, multiply the likely disconnect quotient by ten.
No matter how toughened I think I am, to have my intentions doubted or dismissed by those I am most known to is emotionally deflating. It's also something I realize I need to get beyond.
Even Jesus’ experienced this when we visited his hometown during the height of his popularity everywhere else. There Jesus commented, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” … And he was amazed at their unbelief. (Mark 6: 4,6, NLT)
I italicized amazed. Imagine Jesus amazed by unbelief. Whose unbelief amazed him?
Unbelief has lots of help, like success in life already noted. Then there’s that other “presence” I mentioned that is virtually invisible to enlightened moderns but who likes to horn into every opportunity to plant Gospel seeds.
Warned Paul, “...our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12, NIV)
Here God’s message in Scripture is consistent and often. The basis of all our hope is not results or even receptive people but the Lord. Period. You’ll never hear the Lord ask, “How is that working for you?” Only, “Are you abiding in me?”
No matter how well or badly our attempt to share faith seems, the Holy Spirit is the only one able to bring new believers across the start line. All the feathers are in God’s cap while none are in ours.
Help me tell myself to take a deep breath, relax and have some fun with this, to not take myself so seriously.
No matter how much pressure I put on myself, the sobering realization also cited often in Scripture is that most people are not open to the Lord. Most shut him down or off and prefer to live according to their own intelligence. Jesus’ “narrow road” analogy is alarmingly in that it easily accommodates everyone who is tuned into God through Christ. (Matthew 7:14)
Check out how God coached Isaiah to approach his prophetic ministry.
He said, “Go and tell these people:
‘Listen continually, but don’t understand!
Look continually, but don’t perceive!’
Make the hearts of these people calloused;
make their ears deaf and their eyes blind!
Otherwise, they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
their hearts might understand and they might repent and be healed.”
(Isaiah 6:9-13, NET)
Ever hear that from a professor on the first day of class? “The road to an A is to listen and understand but every one of you is going to ignore my advice and fail.”
Distressed, Isaiah replied, “How long, sovereign master?” The Lord’s answer doesn’t paint a pretty picture. (See Isaiah 6: 11-13, NET)
Every Gospel writer picks up Jesus citing this passage, as does Acts and Paul’s letters to the Romans and Corinthians.*
When I feel cast aside, I need to order myself to fall back and regroup with the Lord! Instead of rehearsing answers to anticipated objections or questions, more and more I pray that my hope and trust in the Lord is dialed up so I am strong in his assurance that I am covered no matter how things go.
When Jesus engages us, he also assures us that he’s got our backs.
1) Isaiah passage cited in New Testament: Matthew 13:14–15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; John 12:39–40; Acts 28:26–27 and in the background of some of Paul’s letters (Rom 11:7; 2 Cor 3:14) from "The Use of Isaiah in the New Testament" by Donald W. Mills