your efforts are not in vain

I want to tell you how one mission trip transformed me.  God used a great pain in my life back in 2006, and He healed me in my brokenness over time. I wish I could say that I felt this great calling to go into the world, I followed it and everywhere I walked God blessed it, did miracles, and opened doors that were incredible. 


In reality, I was numb.  My father had just passed away in February of 2006.  I was a pastor who was supposed to care for people.  I couldn’t feel.  I wanted to care.  I was in a fog of hurt.  I missed my dad.  I wanted another day to sit in the same room with him.  I wanted another day to discuss the weather, sports, or what the kids were doing.  In my brokenness, all I had was silence.  


Two months later, I was in Norway when my wife felt that God was laying Africa on her heart.  I didn’t understand it at the time, but God was going to use Africa to heal me. 


Three months later, I met a friend at a 4th of July parade that asked me if I wanted to go to Swaziland, Africa with him?  My wife overheard and said, “What Africa?  Yes, he wants to go!”  In reality, I didn’t want to go.  It was the last place I wanted to go.  I wanted Laura to go.  She had the dream and felt the burden, but I had the passport.  Three weeks later I am the one on a plane to Africa.  All the while, I was asking, well really praying, “God, why do you have me on this plane?  I don’t really want to be here.” 


I had decided on this Africa trip that I wasn’t going to hold any children in my arms.  I wasn’t going to fake that I cared or even wanted to be there.  I definitely didn’t have any emotions to give.  What I did decide was that if a child came up to me, I wouldn’t ignore them.  I would take this as God leading the both of us.  The picture above is a little girl and me.  We couldn’t speak the same language but we both had the same Father. 


For me, this little girl was God beginning to allow me to experience his Kingdom differently.  God pursues us, even when we don’t want Him to.  God uses us to pursue others.  This is how His Kingdom works.  I held this little girl for two hours.  I prayed over her, I sang to her, and I told her my heart hurts and that I’m sure hers might also.  We both could somehow come to God and let him bring healing.  Our team left after three hours or so.  Until this day, I don’t know her name and I haven’t seen her since. 


God used a little school called “Comfort Place” to comfort me.  He used an upside down box with the word “Kentucky” on it to speak to me in my despair.  He used a little home with 13 kids sleeping on a double bed with no blankets to break me.   God let me see people hurting worse than I felt to wake me up.  It was like He was taking a spiritual defibrillator to wake up my soul and shock me back into reality.  You know when the doctor says, “Clear!” and then this enormous shock takes place, and you wait to see if your heart is working. He used it to “re-start” my heart.  Is God using anything in your life to restart your heart?  What are you numb to?  One of the amazing things in God’s Kingdom is that He is healing us while we are being used as healing agents for Him.  That’s God’s Kingdom, His Good News.  Everybody gets healed.  Everybody is in process needing His restoration work.  We are ALL broken, until He comes in. 


I was flying back on the plane trying to process all that I had experienced.  There were two phrases going through my mind, my heart, and my spirit.  The first was, “It would have been better for me not to have seen than to see and do nothing.”   The second was, “Beyond Survival.”  


I was responsible for what I had experienced.  A new burden, one that I didn’t go looking for, was laid on my heart.  Proverbs 24:12 states, “If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?  Does not he who guards your life know it?  Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?”  I couldn’t pretend I didn’t see it.  Both God and I knew what I experienced.  He directed it.  He used everything in my life up to that point, all of my brokenness, to get me to this Kingdom place.  


Eleven years later, I have two Swazi children living in my house, my son and daughter.  I am experiencing God’s healing through them, and they through us.  God’s Kingdom is tangibly felt.  


I don’t know if you noticed or not, but we live in a world that is broken.  Do you feel it? Our systems of life are broken, we are all broken, and there is an evil one who seeks out to use this brokenness to destroy us (John 10:10).  We all face death, disappointment, betrayal, abandonment, despair...the list could go on and on.   Jesus on earth ushered in a new Kingdom that will bring in healing and reconciliation.  His Kingdom repairs, renews, revives, restores and refreshes.


Friends can disappoint.  Finances can fail.  Nothing is truly sure and secure except what is invested in God’s Kingdom.


I want to encourage you with a verse written by Paul.  It’s an exhortation for you and I to embrace.


“So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong (steadfast) and immovable. Always work (labor) enthusiastically (abound) for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless (in vain).” 1 Corinthians 15:58.



What Makes Us Movable?

Fear – Sometimes we are afraid of others:  what they think of us, what they may say about us, what they will do to us.  We feel we will be rejected and what we offer will not be accepted, so we stop. How much do you care about what other people think? How about the fear of failure? Fear can come in a lot of forms: Fear of missing God's will, Fear of messing up the lives of those you love,  Fear that God won't provide.  What do you fear?

Apathy – We have tried to do good and it wasn’t received.  We feel it doesn’t matter.  We haven’t seen any improvement.  No one seems to care so why should we.  It feels like a waste of time.  There is a lack of purpose and meaning. So we become indifferent and suppress our emotions.  We display an absence of interest.  Are you apathetic?  Have you stopped caring about God’s Kingdom work?

Fatigue – We are tired of doing good.  We are not just tired, we are exhausted. We feel we have sacrificed and sacrificed and now we are in a state of weakness.  We don’t want to do it anymore.  We are tired of giving up for others.  We are burned out with nothing to give.  We have stopped.  Period.  Are you tired of giving?

Selfishness – We see others benefiting from not giving or sacrificing for others.  They are experiencing the “good life” while we are run down and feel like we are continuing to lose.  We have paid our price, and it is time for someone else to pay.  We are going to meet our needs now above others.  We will take care of ourselves ONLY.  Does this describe you?

Sin -  Sin can cloud our ability to hear from God and cause us not to seek after what He has for us.

Despair – Are you a part-timer?  Someone who is tossed around, not focused, springs up quickly, but when it gets hard, fades away? We get real excited and emotional about an idea or vision until we experience the work and pain to accomplish the goal.  So we quit. We give up.  Despair sets in. Keep at it.  Be Immovable.  Don’t quit!


How can you and I live out Paul’s exhortation?  How can we be immovable?  Here are three thoughts.


How Can We Be Immovable?


I. Be Strong and Immovable...

Immovable means you don’t get knocked over by sudden blows. Keep your balance. Stand strong and unshaken when the rains come down and the floods come up and the winds blow and beat against your house. Be like a boulder that can’t get washed away. Be like a tree that can’t get blown down. Immovable is a word implying testing and opposition. Don’t give in to the allurements of the world or the temptations of the Enemy to unsettle you. Don’t be shaken by the trials of this life. Be patient and persevering whatever the calling God has placed on you.  Your strength can only be found in Him. 


II Work Enthusiastically for the Lord...

Fill your days with things that count for Christ and God’s Kingdom. When you go back to your work do not see it as simply a way by which you earn your living. It has been given to you as an opportunity for you to have a ministry in which you witness, you demonstrate a changed life, a heart at peace, and love pouring out of your heart to those who, like you, have struggled and lost frequently in the rat race of life.  Tap into the real spring of life.


III. Embrace that NOTHING you do for the Lord is ever useless....

Sometimes we sit at our desks and think no one sees our work. Perhaps we take care of crying babies. Or we live the best Christian life we can—without anyone noticing. Often our work is “behind the scenes.” But if that is what God has called us to do, we need to work with all our hearts. As part of our calling to love others deeply (1Pe 4:8), offer hospitality (1Pe 4:9), and use our gifts to serve others (1Pe 4:10), our task is to work with God’s strength to bring praise and glory to God, not ourselves. The important thing is that God likes what He sees.


What areas of your life do you desperately need God’s Kingdom healing touch?  What areas of your brokenness do you think God may use to extend His Kingdom through you?  Ask Him to do it.


Hebrews states, “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (Hebrews 6:10)


God uses everything in our lives for His Kingdom’s sake, including our brokenness.  He is using mine.  I believe He will use yours.


My dream is to help you live out your calling and thrive.  I believe that your best days are before you…not behind you.  We all need a little coaching, encouragement, wisdom, and help from time to time.  We can’t accomplish our goals in isolation or always on our own.  We need each other.  Remember, you are not alone. It’s time to thrive.  Let’s do it together.  Click here to set up a Discovery Coaching call.