By Elizabeth Prata
Believers are ordinary. We serve an extraordinary God.
He might use us in extraordinary ways, but we’re all flawed, sinful, ordinary people. He used ordinary grandmother Lois to raise up young Timothy. He took impulsive sons of thunder James and John and made them evangelizing Apostles. He used fishermen, (Peter, Andrew) sellers of purple (Lydia), teenagers (Timothy, Jeremiah, Mary, David), murderers (Paul). He used ordinary people going about whatever they were doing at the time and transformed them into vessels of activity for His glory.
“God reigns through the stumbling, hobbling service of his people and the rage and malice of his foes to establish his eternal purpose for this world.”~Derek Thomas, “What is Providence?”
Yet there are some who believe that we must be extraordinary in order to make an impact for the kingdom. The movement of a few years ago when the books Radical, Crazy Love, Wild at Heart came out made many people think that they were ineffective unless they made a big and splashy move for the faith. This is not true. Mary and Martha were simply hospitable. Dorcas sewed. Susannah donated. Acts 4:13 says Peter and John were uneducated and untrained.
If you, dear reader or listener, feel marginalized, helpless to DO for God, ho-hum ordinary, then rejoice. Our persevering faith in ordinary lives is just as valuable to God as a martyr uttering eternally known last words. Just as important as the luminary you read about in the Bible. Just as impactful as the hero on the mission field.
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42).
What the Spirit inspired Luke to write was not just the extraordinary means of glory we see occasionally in Acts, such as miracles or healings, but the ordinary means of bringing God glory by a consistently faithful church, as seen in the verse above. They devoted themselves to teaching and gathering and prayer. The extraordinary events died away as the miracles ceased, but the faithful never stopped gathering, learning, and praying.
Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, (Acts 2:46).
Note that. ‘Day by day’. The ordinary Christian life is one of persevering in spiritual disciplines day by day, accruing spiritual interest in the bank of heaven. I’m sure your parents taught you that putting 5 dollars a week into savings eventually yields dividends. They did not teach you that putting gluts of huge amounts into your bank account in spurts yields dividends. The way to save is to be consistent over time. It’s the same with the spiritual life. Add to your spiritual treasury day by day.
I’m looking forward to meeting these heroes in heaven but I’m just as eager, if not more, to meet the unknowns who brought God glory with their words or their lives.
Here are a few resources to help quell any anxiety anyone might have that their life doesn’t count, just because they are not running barefoot to Bali getting martyred with arrows from cannibals or leading big conferences in arenas filled with thousands of adoring fans.
Here is Michael Horton, who wrote a book called Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World. His book blurb reads as follows:
Radical. Crazy. Transformative and restless. Every word we read these days seems to suggest there’s a “next-best-thing,” if only we would change our comfortable, compromising lives. In fact, the greatest fear most Christians have is boredom—the sense that they are missing out on the radical life Jesus promised. One thing is certain. No one wants to be “ordinary.” Far from a call to low expectations and passivity, Horton invites readers to recover their sense of joy in the ordinary.
If you don’t want to read the entire book, here is Michael Horton with an article on the subject of Ordinary at Ligonier: The Ordinary Christian Life
John MacArthur with a sermon called “The Ordinary Church“. Excerpt: “It was Finney who decided that religion, to be valid, had to have some kind of high impact, high energy emotional element. It was about methods, feelings, experiences, sentimentalism, and it all trumped sound doctrine and theology. Gradual growth, by the normal ordinary means of grace, prayer, the study of the Word, fellowship was exchanged for a radical experience, the anxious bench, and there was introduced into the evangelical world a restlessness of those looking for something extreme.“
Other material that pushes back against the big, splashy, ‘change the world’ mantra are:
Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson. D. A. Carson’s father was a pioneering church-planter and pastor in Quebec. But still, an ordinary pastor…
Essay An Unremarkable Faith – “Meet Larry, a thirty-six year old Science teacher. Larry married Cathy 12 years ago. They love each other and enjoy raising their two sons. Larry’s life wouldn’t hold out much interest to the average citizen. His Facebook account doesn’t draw many friends and nobody ever leaves a comment on his blog. In fact, most people would summarize Larry’s life with one word—boring. But not Larry.“
Ordinary Christian Work, essay by Tim Challies. “The questions every Christian faces at one time or another are these: Are Christian plumbers, cooks, doctors, and businessmen lesser Christians because they are not in “full-time” ministry? And what of Christian mothers and homemakers? Can they honor God even through very ordinary lives? Can we honor God through ordinary lives without tacitly promoting a dangerous kind of spiritual complacency?“
Dear Christian sister, if you’re at home with the kids and don’t have as much time to engage in the world with other adults or to get out and about apart from errands, what you are doing is ordinary but extraordinary. It’s ordinary to repeatedly do laundry, dishes, dust, vacuum…mundane, even. But the raising of another human being, flesh-wrapped soul, a gift from God, is extraordinary. The dividends of all those loads of laundry, all those piles of dishes, all those prepared meals is the potential that you are laying the groundwork for another soul to be added to heaven. Extraordinary!
I hope this essay encouraged you.