I was frustrated today. Not for any particularly good reason, but I realized on one of my million trips to or from getting pool water that what we were doing today was “just” fixing the LIA-Jamaica driveway. Which is neat and all. But on Tuesday we helped build a house for an old Deacon. And yesterday we helped build the training center at Pastor Reid’s church which will teach skills to students and empower a community.
But today? Just a driveway. A little frustrating. But why? And I realized it’s because there’s no flash. It’s just a driveway. It won’t change anyone’s mind or win anyone over to faith. But it will, in a small way, help LIA in Jamaica with their mission. It’s maintaining a facility that works to empower and help the world’s most vulnerable people.
As I was walking I was reminded of a parallel idea. Nobody wants to pay the church electric bill. Nonprofits can raise money to go start new programs, and do cool, new things that they’ve never done before. But trying to get funding for the electric bill? Ain’t gonna happen. That’s not … cool. Who wants to say they paid the electric bill when you can pay for something flashy and cool?
But the church has a mortgage. The electric bill needs to be paid. We pay janitors to fix the leaking pipes. We do things and even give up our hard earned time and treasure to do the work of the church. Sometimes that means funding and starting flashy new programs. And sometimes it means paving the driveway or paying the electric bill. That’s why God prescribed the tithe. So the church could keep on keeping on without worrying about raising another round of money.
Here’s the other thing I think God brought to mind: the Church has been around for 2,000 years. It started with 11 disciples who all worked diligently and faithfully. There was no great pay off. No ribbon to tie off what they did. And no gold watch to celebrate retirement. They died, all of them heroes, all of them without any idea what would be purchased through their blood.
They died hoping and praying that God would come through on His promises and that their lives were not a waste.
They got the unbelievable privilege to see Jesus in the flesh, but we get the inconceivable honor to see what Jesus did with their sacrifice.
We get to look at 2,000 years of history. And we get to see that when Jesus said that when He is lifted from the Earth, He would draw all people to Himself.
Two thousand years of history and one simple fact: Jesus. Was. Right.
Two thousand years of one generation after another faithfully bringing, baptizing and sending. One generation after another laboring for the Lord.
We’re Christians only because those 11 trusted Jesus, spent their lives, and died only hoping that Jesus would do what He said He would.
In the intervening years, generation after generation did the same. Many were killed for daring to worship the name of Jesus. But all of them lived their lives with faith, doing what it takes to keep the message growing and spreading. Most of them we will never know on this side of heaven who they were, or their names, or their stories.
All of the faithful died without knowing what the payoff was going to be. Paul died in a Roman prison without knowing that one day:
- Billions of people would call on the name of Jesus and worship Him.
- “The blind see, the deaf hear, the crippled walk again.”
- There are now hospitals nearly everywhere on earth, named after Christians, because it was the Christians that thought that everybody has worth and dignity as people made in God’s image. It’s the Christians who pushed to heal all people, and to ensure that everyone is treated as valuable because we don’t believe a person’s value derives from their “contribution to society.”
Faithfulness. It’s what God has called us to. And the reality is that we will one day see a payoff for our faithfulness. Don’t bet against God. I have little doubt that the enemy would have whispered into Paul’s ear as he lay dying that Paul was a fool for believing all this Jesus stuff. That Rome would conquer and crush this little movement and Paul’s life was useless.
No doubt he has told the same lie over and over and over again to every generation since.
Would Paul be amazed that The Roman Empire is now literally ancient history? And that the Church continues chugging along? Would he have ever guessed that families the world over would name their sons Peter, Paul, James, Andrew and John? And that, at most, sometimes we might name a dog after Nero?
Look. I know. It’s hard. It’s a driveway. It’s the electric bill. It’s the fiftieth time you’ve told that student Jesus loves them. And they don’t care.
But man. The payoff? Yeah, you will never live to see it. But that’s ok. Because you would Never Ever Ever believe God did THAT with what you gave.
So keep on trucking. We have it on very good authority that God’s going to do something very big even if we never get to see it on this side of eternity.
This post was adapted from my journal entry made on July 13, 2017. Written just before going to bed in Mandeville, Jamaica after a long day of “just” pouring a concrete driveway and “just” keeping a few exhausted American teenagers from killing each other after a long week of hard work away from their families. And in the constant back and forth of retrieving water for concrete under the hot Jamaican sun, God reminded me that the entire Church history is built on small acts of faithfulness. From people who did things I will never hear about, whose names I will never know. Like paying the electric bill. Or paving the driveway. Or telling some disbelieving teenager that God loves them. And that disbelieving teenager eventually became a fully believing adult who told another disbelieving kid the same thing that they heard. Repeat, repeat, repeat, thousands of times over hundreds of generations until I was the disbelieving kid who heard. All the small things of faithfulness really do add up.