Welcome to the age of doubt and suspicion.
Welcome to the age of "Trust no one." "Cite your sources." "Back up your arguments." "Do your research," because fiction is threatening fact. Fraud is creeping up on faith.
When you want people to be frank, they're fake. You can't find sincerity anywhere. Money is counterfeit, along with everything else.
You discover that the things you once admired were just products of sensationalism. You find out that your heroes were actually hoaxes. You wonder, are there any left whose faiths were not fabricated? Whose convictions were not concocted? Whose religions were not romanticized? Are there any left who have not turned to hyperbole, exaggeration, and misrepresentation to attract the masses?
It's downright depressing. Looking around at the apathy in the church, my head starts to spin. Seeing the indifference in the Christian communities, my soul is weighed down. This continent seems to simply swim with disinterest and detachment. This nation's believers seem completely convinced of Christ during the performance, but completely alienated from Him in their lifestyles. It's as if we've decided to live out our faith when we're on stage and in the spotlight, but disown the cross when the audience does not approve.
Emotionally drained and mentally exhausted, I just want to be removed from it all. I want to be shown faith that's real. Passion that's unhindered. Zeal that burns. Where are the Christians living out their salvation? I want to be there! Where do the children worship with abandon? I want to go there! Where is there persecution? Where are the believers being martyred? Where is it real? Take me there!
But I'm here. In this location, in this century, among these people. This is where I've been placed.
And while I mope around and brood over the tragedy of apathy that has struck the First World, I've noticed a peculiar phenomenon. There are Christians here, like me, who have given their hearts over to God, completely. They, like me, make it their utmost desire to serve Him in every way. They, like me, have fallen in love with the person of Jesus Christ. They, like me, are pursuing a genuine, 24/7 faith. And however similar we may seem... there's one thing that's different about them.
They live above the skepticism.
While the First World seems to spin on a system of lies and trickery, these individuals rise above. While all I can think about during church is the sensationalism and emotional hype, these people still meet with God. While my mind is focused on the dishonesty in those around me, these people still encounter Jesus daily. While my thoughts are centered on those "playing the part" for personal gain, these believers recognize a Truth that is deeper, even still.
And as I watch these believers, I can't help but be convicted. Here we are, amidst a crowd of lukewarm Christians awaiting the emotional high that bright lights and loud music brings, and these God-fearing people are unaffected. And here I stand, angry at the artifice and frustrated with the fraud... and totally losing my focus on Christ.
There are massive things I'd love to change about the way church is run. There are many things that grind my gears concerning the lifestyle of the First World Christian Community. There is so much going on that makes me roll my eyes and sigh in aggravation. But so often, they are secondary. Trivial. And in my seemingly "righteous" anger, I am barred from entering into true worship! Suddenly, I'm on the outside looking in! I can't see past my cynicism, and I can't think past the apathy... but God is calling to me from within those very places!
Philippians 1:15 - It's true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. But that doesn't matter.
Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice.
Regardless of those who are there for a show, and regardless of those who are in it for themselves, God has not grown frail! He is as mighty as ever, and roaring with power! As long as the Gospel is being spread, how can I condemn? As long as I am focused on the Mission in my own life, why should I worry about the methods of others?
In fact, my tendency to fold my arms and scoff, ironically, makes ME the useless tool. I become the mute instrument. If we are God's soldiers; if we are His ambassadors, we are only active if we are aligned with His Will, and His perspective. As long as I stand at the back focusing only on everything that those around me are doing wrong, how can I advance His Kingdom? If I can only focus on others and not on Jesus, then how can I ever hope to be an example to follow? If all I can entertain is my critical, cynical nature, how can I present Jesus as a pleasing, sweet aroma? How can I make the Gospel attractive? How can I win people for Christ?
When I signed on to this whole Christianity thing, I agreed to let Him take control of me. Entirely. I signed over ownership of my heart, soul, mind, and body to Him, to use for His purposes.
So, I want to put myself back in HIS treasury. I want to step back into HIS armoury. I want to be sharpened once again so that I can be a sword wielded by HIS MIGHTY HAND, no longer acting of my own accord.
This world is broken, and it's fading fast. It's crumbling quickly and tearing at the seams. There won't come a day where all is true until we see the New Heaven and the New Earth. There will not be honesty and integrity until the afterlife. But I'm done moping about it. I'm done whining over how things are being done, and complaining about how things are being run.
Because in the end, it will never boil down to me and my opinions. In the end, God is still bigger than the biggest of human performances. Some are genuine, and that's what God desires. Some are flaky, but it doesn't matter. God can still move. He is more clever than the cleverest con-artist. He is more shrewd than the sneakiest swindler. He's smarter than any crook, and larger than any human life. So what am I worried about? Why am I stressed? God is on the move. He's calling the lost to Himself, just as He's done since the beginning.
No amount of misleading headlines and underhanded methods can hold Him back. No amount of corruption and deception can keep Him at bay. He has this crazy thing where He takes the seemingly worst situations, and flips them for His glory. He takes what's impossible, and scores one for His Kingdom. He takes the petty human attempts to thwart His Love, and puts His enemies to shame. He upends the seemingly lifeless, empty moments, and makes a grand appearance to those who are searching. He's higher than the hype. He's the King of the Comebacks, and it's proven in the lives of every born again soul. The effectiveness of the Gospel does not depend on us, but on Him! He is the One who causes it to grow. He's the One who plants, waters, and harvests the seeds. We are merely the gardening tools. The physical equipment designed, built, and wielded by Him.
So what's there to worry about? What's there to fear? He's got this under control. He doesn't need us, but He does want us. He's made us His instruments of peace. Love. Joy. So rather than clamming up in the face of duplicity and hypocrisy, why not focus on living the Truth louder than the lies? Why not prove the Gospel's credibility by living lives that don't need glamour and polish to be convicting?
Ephesians 4:1 - Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.
We don't need to make the calls. We can let go of our cynicism without being gullible. We can let go of our suspicion without being naive. As soon as we turn our gaze inwards and inspect our own relationship and commitment to God's call, we may start to understand and pick up on the beautiful ways that He's working. So let's stop underestimating what God can do, shall we?
After all, we're just the instruments. Not the Musician.