My past three blogs have summarized and expanded on Beth Moore’s teaching at the “Living Proof Live” event I attended in Stockton, CA recently. So far, we’ve been examining the acrostic A-D-V-A-N-C-E that focuses on Philippians 1:12-30. My previous posts have highlighted the first five points:
A– A Kingdom is coming
D– Dare to advance it
V– Vie fiercely in prayer
A– Add traction to your action
N– Never take a “no” from the devil
This post explores the two aspects of the next point:
C– Cease the policing and the pacing
This teaching is based on Philippians 1:15-18
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.
Beth focused on the tendency we have to question the motives of others and to decide who is sincere and who isn’t. She emphasized that it is God’s responsibility to figure people out, not ours. Sometimes we size people up to make sure they do spiritual things “our way” and we miss out on the new things we could be learning from them. We become so focused on our “brand” of Christianity and our little faith community that we can become ingrown.
Back in my college days I was involved in a vibrant campus ministry. It was biblically solid and intent on sharing the gospel with others. Every spring, this group encouraged the students to be part of its summer outreaches. I prayed about it each year, but felt led to serve in other ministries over the summer. Some of the students and leaders were disappointed by this and even questioned my spiritual maturity.
One fall when we returned for classes, a guy in the group approached me. He’d attended a Christian camp as a counselor with his home church and heard I’d served at another location of the same ministry. He was excited about the ways he’d seen God at work there and wanted to know more about my involvement with the camp. The suspicion with which he’d viewed me had ceased once he saw that the place I was serving was “legit.” He, and others like him, had been policing me and questioning my maturity because I was involved in a ministry they didn’t know. I was relieved when he recognized its worth, but also hurt that I’d been judged for so long.
If I’m honest, there are times when I’ve been on the other side of that equation. When I encounter a fellow believer who doesn’t know the same Christian buzzwords, who hasn’t read the same books or embraced the same ministries, I can be a bit suspicious, questioning the validity of his or her faith. However, when I take time to get to know the person, I’m often humbled to discover a deep faith that just looks a little different than mine from the outside. It makes me want to give people the benefit of the doubt more and to judge less. I’ll rely on God to give me the discernment I need instead of policing them with my human wisdom.
I’ve learned a few things about pacing from watching snippets of NASCAR races with my husband and sons. If there is a safety issue on the speedway during a race, a pace car will be sent out on the track to lead the other cars. The pace car drives at a safe speed and the race cars stay in their positions behind it. Once the problem on the track is cleared, the pace car exits and the cars pick up the pace again. The race resumes and cars are free to pass and drive at any speed.
Imagine if the cars continued to drive at the same speed once the pace car left the track. It wouldn’t be much of a race if the vehicles weren’t doing what they were created to do: drive fast.
When we fear breaking pace with others to follow God’s call, we become a bit like race cars that drive like they’re following a pace car after it’s left the speedway We limit our spiritual growth and miss out on the ways God wants to stretch us and use us when we try to keep pace with others. There are seasons when our gifts, vision and goals may align with others and this can be a rich, rewarding experience. However, we can also get so comfortable with a group that we fail to see when God is calling us in a different direction. Sometimes He beckons us to claim new ground for Him, but we hold back on advancing because we don’t want to break pace with a group we love. It feels awkward or painful to move forward without “our people” beside us. However, if God is calling us in different directions, we need to break pace and trust Him. When our focus becomes sticking with certain people instead of following God’s call, we limit opportunities to grow and to advance the kingdom of God.
For me, this has been a significant area of growth over the years. As God has led me in new directions, there have been challenges and painful moments, but I’ve seen Him at work in exciting ways. My faith has grown, my trust in Him has deepened and I’ve been blessed to maintain cherished friendships and connections to different ministries even as I’ve expanded into new areas.
It boils down to this simple truth: when we fix our eyes on Jesus, we won’t be as worried about policing or being policed. When we are more concerned with keeping pace with Him than with others, we allow Him to use us to advance His kingdom.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)
The song “Fix My Eyes” by For King and Country inspires me to cease the policing and the pacing. Click on the link and let it do the same for you.