To know God, and to make Him known. This is the motto of Youth With A Mission, the international missions organization I serve with. Not only is this our mission statement, it is also the first two of our 18 foundational values, “To know God (1)”, and “To make Him known (2)”. I love the simplicity of this direction, because when you boil it all down, it is what life is really all about.
The first step
It was a huge shock to everyone around me, even myself to this day sometimes, when I decided to become a missionary in 2016. Having come out of deep addiction of 6 years before entering 3 rehabs, I was the furthest person you’d expect to see here. Probably the “without a job” part made sense 4 years ago, but not the “without a job because he is a missionary“. Ha! I was totally living for myself, and I was the center of the universe back in May of 2015 before I entered my last rehab. The story goes, I finally brought myself to a point of surrender about four weeks into that program when I felt God’s love for me for the first time. It was game-over after that! I was hooked. I experienced the emotion of “love” for the first time in June of 2015. Prior to that encounter, I was so consumed with myself that I did not ever really love, or allow myself to be loved. Everyone and everything around me was a resource to get me to whatever I was looking to gain in the moment. My self-absorbed lens of life stifled love from every crevice and corner of my life, which God describes as the greatest emotion, even amongst Faith and Hope (1 Corinthians 13:13).
The moment that changes everything
Something changes when we allow ourselves to be stripped before God. No mask, no pre-supposition that I know God already, but real, vulnerable openness to a savior. What I am describing is the moment that changed everything for me. A true encounter with God. I did not understand at the beginning of my walk with God, when the founder of Shiloh Ministries was asked “What is your prayer for every man at that ministry?” She would respond, “A God encounter. More God encounters.” The reason she prays this one thing for everyone is because an encounter is what changes people. One encounter with God can accomplish what one hundred counseling sessions could not. The point is, we serve a powerful God and in order to know him, you must meet him, and this meeting will be the most overwhelming, indescribable moment of life. Being Christian does not mean living by a moral code, or about being principled, but rather allowing the one who created this Law of Nature to reframe all of your life, your very existence.
To Know God
I am grateful to be discipled with YWAM, a mission that understands knowing God is paramount. It has helped steer my natural tendency of becoming consumed with work, or in our case “ministry” focused. Seeking the project, rather than seeking the one whom the project is for, is my first inclination. I am a goal oriented person, so reframing of goals and redefining success are very important components that I had to come to grips with during this journey. Understanding that my identity, who I am, who God says I am (as a child of His) is vital. All else hinges on this realization. A truth I have walked through which no one can discount is this, “you don’t really know yourself until you know Jesus.” Finally understanding that in spite of me, “in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) is a remarkably freeing statement. While I was still self-centered, caring for no one, stealing, and lying–Jesus died for me! He didn’t die for the Anthony that is living now, He died so I would have the opportunity to live now. I love Jesus and do my best to genuinely love the people around me, but he died for the version of me that cared neither for myself, or the people around me. The result of understanding that statement is this, Jesus did not die for me because He knew I would be a missionary, but He died for me because he loves me. He loves me whether I am accomplishing anything for His sake or not. Whether I am still roaming the streets with a pint of vodka in my belt strap, or I am preaching in front of thousands, Jesus’s love for me is the same! It never changes. I am a child of God irregardless, therefore striving to achieve is stripped from my personal expectations because the ultimate definition of success, or what the Bible calls “eternal life” is this, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and the one whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) If you believe that there is something after death, or that there is a heaven or hell, then this verse is the road map from point A to point B. Each time I read this verse it chips away at the block of religion that has crusted up around me through years of never actually encountering and pursuing God for myself. Finally, knowing God, really knowing Him is what life is all about.
To Make Him Known
Now do we just spend our time alone in a room, with a Bible, a cup of coffee, and KLOVE? Heaven’s no! James says, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I’ll show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18). Such a confident statement that my personality appreciates! As mentioned above, I love being active, pursuing, and creating alongside God for His name’s sake. So reading chapters like this in the Bible which promote living a life that exemplifies the relationship you have with Jesus is water to my soul! Prior to coming to YWAM I thought all missionaries were old, white, married couples. I thought the wife wore a bonnet (no slight to bonnet wearers!) and the husband had spent years in seminary and pastoral training. So the thought of becoming a missionary wasn’t in the solar system of my thought process, but boy did all that change coming to YWAM Tyler. I was startled running into a former X-Games athlete, meeting men and women that struggled with addiction, divorcee’s, hearing from people that struggled with eating disorders, vanity, homosexuality, the list could go on. And these were conditioned missionaries that had been around the world several times over, impacting lives every step of the way. Again, a little religion broke off. Then 1 Corinthians 1:27 came alive, “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” That was me! That was these people!? How could this be? It is all possible because of what was described in the previous section, Knowing God is paramount. Out of overflow of intimacy with a living God our life begins to move. You see a true faith—a living faith—has the natural outworking of good works. And good works—no matter how good—can’t produce authentic faith. Faith is always a gift and never earned. It begins in that moment which you will never forget, and works its way out each day.
Why is this important? Why did I write this blog? It’s so we can ask ourselves a few timeless questions that are needed for recalibration from time-to-time.
- Are we living out of religion or relationship? Is it obligation that we are carrying through life living principally, or is it a passionate pursuit of Jesus, really knowing Him, and the by-product is living principally?
- Do we have a ‘works without faith life’, or a ‘faith without works life?’ Both components are required, otherwise the potential is becoming humanistic, or Pharisaical.
- Finally, have we each had this moment where: A.) We really meet God and B.) We allow Him to rearrange everything? If so, does He still have the key to rearrange our furniture?
Until next time.