I am currently on a 30-day short term mission trip to Mongolia. This is day 7: Today was a crazy day. Today, God continued to teach me, in a resounding way, that "the greatest of these is love". And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians chapter 13:13 NIV)
For a long time, I understood this verse in word, but not really in deed. But the verses that come before it made absolutely no sense to me:
"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians chapter 13 verses 1-3 NIV)
How, I wondered, could someone do all the things mentioned in these verses without the love of God in them allowing for them to do it? Aren't God's power and love directly connected? I've found that it's very possible to pursue God's power without knowing much at all about his love. Of course, for God, the two are intimately connected, but that is not always the case for us - his children.
This year has been a journey for me in understanding and appreciating love. The patient kind. The slow kind. The kind that does not have immediate results. With an engineering background and a highly-performance driven mindset, it was easy for me today chase after God's power, thinking it alone was most effective in setting people free and ultimately, doing His work.
All the while, in my personal walk being most radically impacted by those who chose to love me through things, for the long haul, without immediate results. I often tell the story of Joy, the first woman who discipled me. Month in and out it seemed like nothing she was doing or saying was having any effect, but she loved me and stuck with me through it all. I know that had she not done so-- had she just waited for a display of God's power in my life and then left when it did not come after over a year of meetings -I would not be where I am with the Lord today.
It was her love, her patient, dedicated, quiet, selfless love, that pulled me out of the pit. The same is true of Jesus. Yes, his power is wonderful, and has the ability to fill us with wonder and awe, but it is His love that saves us. It is His love that brings us home.
Today was about love
Today was all about love. During team time Clint shared a word with us about our hearts being fertile soil that God has tilled all year. Fertile soil accepts seeds and takes them deep. Seeds grow and produce fruit. Fruit is eternal and brings God glory.
I've been struggling a lot with feelings of ineffectiveness. Yes, I know that I'm the seed sower and only God can bring the increase. But I also know that certain Christians are much more effective on the ministry field. So what gives? What can I do to become one of those Christians? The kind who see healings every single day...*cough* Josue *cough*
Well I realized something this morning in my quiet time. It's that "A person can receive only what is given them from heaven." (John chapter 3 verse 27 NIV) John the Baptist says this to his disciples when they question his supposed "decreasing effectiveness" after Jesus makes his way on the scene and begins his ministry. As much as I may desire to be effective for God, I can't determine that I will or won't be. And I'm not called to. I can only do the "good works, which God prepared in advance for [me] to do." (Ephesians chapter 2 verse 10 NIV)
I have to trust and believe that God wants to work through me. I also cannot pursue effectiveness as my goal, because where is the love in that? My goal always should be love - to love God and people better. In that way, I don't get caught up in measuring effectiveness and from that, two good things happen. 1) when the miracles come, I don't take credit for them in my heart and 2) when they don't, I don't get discouraged.
If I can believe, really believe, that God wants to and will use me in mighty ways, all the little seeming failures along the way will not perturb me. The one question I can ask myself is "did you love?" If the answer is yes, then, well done. Jesus is pleased.
For us performance-oriented people, this can feel a little bit like a cop out. "That's just a nice something you tell yourself to feel better about your ineffectiveness". I know that thought pattern well because I believed it for so long. But here's the thing about that. Heaven's principles are different that Earth's. And believing a cynical lie about the way things work in God's kingdom (i.e. That you can push yourself into effectiveness) isn't going to bring you any closer to that goal.
God is in control of the growing and the harvesting. So if you want to be more effective, perhaps spend more time getting to know Him for who He is, understanding his ways, and being content with just that. Because until you are, you will only ever be a passionate servant. He desires you to be a son.
Tina Hakimi is an Arizona-raised, Sydney-based writer working to complete her doctorate in Vision Science at the University of New South Wales. She is passionate about the Word of God, scientific research, and how the two serve to strengthen and affirm one another.
Tina Hakimi's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/tina-hakimi.html