Oh The Places You’ll Go

What should I do with my life? What am I passionate about? What job should I take? What if I don’t like my profession? Which direction should I go?

These are all questions that have gone through my mind at some point, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. They are questions that people grapple with, and they are important to think through and seek discernment in. Although these questions are valid, I believe there is an unnecessary pressure in society for people to pick a career and figure out what they want to do with their lives before they have even experienced life. Discovering your passion and pursuing a career is a good goal to have because I know God has placed passions, dreams, and desires in our lives for us to pursue with Him. But sometimes I feel like I need to tell people a 10 year plan for my life in order to validate the intrinsic value of what I am doing in the present, when in reality I have no idea what is ahead, and I am not always sure about what I want to specifically do within the sphere of ministry.

I used to struggle with feeling like I didn’t have a practical passion. I was passionate about things, but not defined occupational things. I would get worried that I wouldn’t find that one thing that I was made to do. A lot of time has passed since then, so I have learned more about life, myself, and what I enjoy doing. Yet sometimes I still struggle with wondering if I’m doing the right thing, or worry that I am not passionate enough about certain things. I could discuss all of my self-reflection and discoveries and blah blah blah…but that’s not what I want to focus on.

When I talk about the journey of life and what I think I want to do, I often tell people that it is not as much about what I do as it is how I live. I don’t always know what I want to do, but I know how I want to live. Let me explain, what I do is valuable, but how I carry out what I do is what matters.

Since I am a follower of Christ, I already know how I am supposed to live. He lays out in His Word how I should conduct myself. I am to carry out whatever I do with faithfulness and integrity. I am to rejoice in the Lord in all things. I am to serve humbly; and the list goes on. Even if I were to do something I had little interest in, I am called to do it well and live in such a way that points others to the Lord. Of course, those are not traits I naturally incapsulate. I’m prideful, I get discouraged, I don’t always have a God-honoring attitude. That is when God’s grace comes in. He is willing and able to produce His character in me. He calls me to reflect His character every day as a witness to others. It is His desire for all of us. He will equip us.

The way I love the Lord and love people within the everyday actions of what I am doing is what is eternally valuable. It is my joy to serve in whatever capacity He wants me to. I am beyond thankful to be serving the Lord here in South Africa. I know it is where God wants me to be at this moment and I am determined to make the most of it; but I can serve here in South Africa doing everything I should be doing, all without submitting to the Lord’s purpose in my conduct and interactions with others. If that were the case, I would be completely missing the point.

I believe we focus too much on what we do with our lives rather than how we live them. Our lives are more than the career we pursue. It is about how we live and ultimately, whom we are living for. Our lives are always drawing people’s attention to something. I don’t want my life to be about myself, and yet so many times that is the message I am sending to others. I desire that everything I say and do come out of a heart that is fully in sync with the heart of God. A heart that longs for people to be in close relationship with Him. I want to love fiercely, be present, and be intentional with my relationship with God and others. If I were a waiter at a restaurant, a lawyer, a housekeeper, a soccer coach, a nurse, an accountant, or any other vocation; my purpose would still be the same. To love God, love people, and make Him known. To quote C.T Studd “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Here’s the truth, wherever God has you at the moment is where you are meant to be. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t seek growth or pursue being in a different place in life. It means you are responsible to live each moment well, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. In reality, there are people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who are still figuring out what they want to do with their lives, and that’s ok! No matter what age you are, just breathe. Don’t get so caught up in finding what you want to do for the rest of your life that you actually miss your life. Instead, seek to serve the Lord in every aspect of your life. He knows everything about you, what you are good at, what you desire. Let Him show you how you should live and He will guide you in what you should do. Life is short. Love well, explore, have fun, forgive, chase dreams, grow in experience, change careers, or be content doing what you have been doing!

Now I don’t worry as much about whether I am doing the job I was made for. I was made to glorify God in anything and everything I do. That is what matters. That is what fulfills. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17. He made all of us and infused us with certain abilities and passions ultimately meant for serving Him. He knows the complexities of our hearts. I trust that He will continue to guide me and put me in whatever context I need to be in as I pursue Him, my one true passion.

Blessings,

Shannon Roach 

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23

 

Surprise The World

I have been around some incredible evangelists in my life. I served with a guy named Joel in Salt Lake City who could make a seemingly innocuous conversation with a clerk at a gas station into a presentation of gospel truths. I have served with a young woman named Molly who was able to relate to seemingly all people from any walk of life and get them to understand the message of the gospel. I have been around men and women who are able to sit on a plane, a bus, or an Uber and have gospel-centered conversations with strangers. It’s impressive and cool, but sometimes discouraging.

In his book, Surprise The World, Michael Frost shares how many people in our churches feel discouraged by the evangelists in our midst because God hasn’t wired all people to be like the Billy Grahams of our age. Frost goes on to say in the book that God has a two-fold design for evangelism. God has called all to be evangelistic, but only some to fulfill the role of evangelists.

In my life, I’ve felt the pressure to be more evangelistic than I am prone to be. I led trips to Portland and Phoenix, spending a total of around 20 months in urban church-planting environments. Yet if I’m honest, I never felt like an evangelist. I did not find myself comfortable in that setting, equipped to function in such a role. I had many nights in those cities plagued with the questions of why I hadn’t done more. When in Phoenix, I lived with a friend named Marcus who made it a point to have conversations with neighbors, while I floundered in such conversations. I knew the Scriptures, loved teaching them, but actually opening up and talking about the gospel with strangers was exceedingly difficult.

Was my faith not strong enough? Why was I so bad at evangelism? These types of questions haunted me.

In his book, Frost looks to Colossians 4:2-6 as a picture of the twofold ministry of evangelism:

“For evangelists, Paul asks for opportunities to proclaim the gospel clearly (verses 3-4). But he doesn’t suggest the Colossians pray as much for themselves. Rather, evangelistic believers are to pray for the evangelists’ ministry, to be wise in their conduct toward outsiders, and to look for opportunities to answer outsiders’ questions when they arise (verses 2, 5-6).”

So in the mind of Frost, God uses those called to an evangelism role in the church to be vocal, traveling ministers of the gospel. The rest are to be wise in their conduct and ready to answer the questions of those around them who are not walking with Christ. That is where Frost comes up with the name of the book: Surprise the World. The actions of first-century Christ-followers was genuinely surprising to all who encountered them. It was their actions, rhythms, and habits that led into conversations.

Some of us are gifted orators and apologists, whom God can use to have on the spot conversations with non-believers about the good news of His Son.

The majority of us however, are to surprise the world around us with the rhythms, habits, and actions that we take. When this happens, we can vocalize why we do what we do. Here’s where we as Christians get it wrong. If we’re honest, few of our habits are affected by our belief in the gospel.

Frost puts it like this:

“If we’re trying to live questionable lives, then cutting the lawn, saying hi to the neighbors, washing our car, walking the dog, and driving to the office every day is hardly an intriguing lifestyle.”

Living the American dream with a bi-weekly church attendance and occasional Bible reading is not living in such a way that surprises the world. We’re no different than our neighbors who believe in morality if that’s the case.

That being said, in the ‘radical Christian’ age that we live in, where crazy acts of sensationalized missions brought about by guilt seem to be the rave, we need to step back and remember that ordinary acts of kindness, love, and Christlikeness is likely more appealing to the non-believer than our profile pictures from Africa or Asia. God alone deserves glory and honor and praise, and I believe that many of us are using and abusing the message of Christianity to make a name for ourselves, to be ‘world-changers’, and to leave a legacy. That is living for your own glory and it is a travesty in our current church climate. My life on earth is NOT about my desire to be remembered. It should be about Christ and God’s ultimate glorification in me.

Here are some examples from lives of those around me that are the middle ground between living a life of suburban bliss that doesn’t awaken neighbors to their need for the gospel and a life of radicalized missions that makes life about our own glory:

My father’s friend Michael who in the face of impending death due to cancer was able to live a life of joy, hope, and trust despite what was an unfair diagnosis and circumstance that ultimately led to his passing.

My friend who lives with a faith in God that is greater and stronger than any earthly circumstance that she has had to walk through in her life, including poverty, and how she has opened up her home to foster and yet remains trusting the promises of God in this season as well.

My friend Donovan who has nine children. He lives with a joy that is tremendous and he lives with a commitment to Christ and family. His devotions with children as opposed to aimless media consumption each night shows in the lives of his children and it is definitely surprising in this day and age.

My friend Sarah who manages the local Boys and Girls Club. It is a humongous task that she undertakes, dealing with the pains of seeing kids struggle with sin and being in the midst of suffering and yet at the end of the day she is able to say that Jesus is still on the throne and in control.

These are just a handful of friends who have surprised the world with the way that they live for Christ here in Vernon, Texas.

You may not be a gifted evangelist. That’s okay. Because you have been called to be evangelistic. Surprise the world with the love you have for Christ.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Prayer & Community

The themes kept appearing incessantly throughout the week. They came from my own lips in the midst of Bible studies, and they came from the lips of local church planters of many different backgrounds and ministries. They showed up in D-Now teachings and Skype conversations. It was as if God was divinely orchestrating the entire week so that I would be able to undoubtedly grasp that without these two things, I could not successfully stay afloat in ministry in Phoenix.

Prayer and community.

I’m sitting in my apartment on an immensely rainy day, and these two things have not left my mind. For the past nine days I’ve had the privilege to host a team of nine students from my Alma mater, Oklahoma Baptist University. In the midst of walking with them this week and simply doing my best to paint a picture of what ministry in the West is like, the importance of prayer and community kept reverberating through my mind and heart. There is so much power in both of those practices and having the team here affirmed how beautifully refreshing practicing them can be to the heart of a Christian.

obu
So thankful for this team from OBU and the work they did in the city this past week!

There’s two ways of going about life on a normal week.

The first way of going about life is isolation. Yes, I may go to church with brothers and sisters in Christ, I may live with one of my closest friends, I may do fun activities and engage in conversation with my peers. Yet I can still be tremendously isolated by my failure to share what my deep-seated questions and pains may be at that time. I’ve looked my roommate in the eyes when he’s leaving the house, all of me wanting to scream out my need for prayer and encouragement, but my desire to stay comfortable and not admit weakness keeps me silent. I have the sovereign Lord of all willing to listen to my humble cries for help yet I can in my isolated state keep laboring through the darkness unwilling to seek the light of Christ through the practice of prayer.

That way of life is dark, depressing, and ultimately not how God designed us to live. But there is another way to go about everyday life in a missional mindset. That way of life is saturated with prayer and community.

A life saturated with prayer and community is the blessed life. Community is what the church is all about. It can definitely happen through functional and organized church events. Yet most of my growth and support in the context of community has happened on a random Tuesday when my friends ask me how I’m doing and I say “not so great”. For goodness sake, we were designed to need each other and we shortchange what God has given us through His church if we don’t place ourselves in the vulnerable position of community.

Prayer is too often my last resort. How silly and prideful of me. Prayer should be our first step of faith when faced with any circumstance. Prayer doesn’t have to be in a specific posture or location. Prayer is reliance on God, and prayer has transformational power. I’ve seen it change the hearts of others, I’ve seen it change the circumstances that I’m in. But more often than not, the transformational power of prayer happens in my own heart. When I praise God for all that He is, confess my sins and shortcomings, and give thanks for all the blessings He’s given me this day, I can’t help but have a heart that is changed and more in love with God.

I’ve been reading some of the short letters at the end of the New Testament and I’ve found encouragement to keep striving to implement both of these practices. There are many verses that combine both practices: deep community and prayerful posture.

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. – 3 John 2

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; – Jude 20-22

John practiced praying for his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. He prayed not only for their spiritual health, but also their physical health. As followers of Christ we are to pray in the spirit, building each other up in our holy faith. We as followers of Christ are to also have mercy on those who doubt.

That final verse has been the most beneficial and impactful to me in regards to living in Christian community. I’ll honestly say that I’m not entirely sure the exact context of “have mercy on those who doubt”. Yet I imagine it has implications on how Christians should treat each other.

I’ve been following Christ since I was seven. Despite this, I doubt.

In certain seasons of my life I struggle with doubt in regards to certain things. Not necessarily in regards to mental doubt, but emotional doubt. I used to have a lot of fear in regards to confessing my struggles in doubt to my brothers in Christ. Yet it has been so true in my life that when I confess my anxieties and faith struggles that the mercy of my brothers drives me to remembering the promises of Scripture. We all need community to encourage us in our faith. We all get down and discouraged, we all need affirmation of the truths of God’s Word. We all need to be shown mercy and grace.

If we as followers of Christ are going to stand for Him in the coming days, we must be a people of prayer. If we as followers of Christ are going to stand for Him in the coming days, we need to be in a community of brothers or sisters in Christ who daily point us to Him.

Prayer and community.

I can’t exist without them.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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