Responding to God’s invitation: Part Two
Church leaders tell me, “There is little hope for our church. We are small and only getting smaller.”
In response last week, I shared a parable Jesus told about sending invitations to a great feast, and the people invited didn’t come. In other words, we the church, receive an invitation to God’s feast, and we are expected to respond. If we don’t, the implication is that God will invite others, and we will miss out.
But how are we to respond when we are so limited? What does God expect? The “feast” describes God’s invitation to the church to go out into the world and be the church in the community and around the world. Our response should be to say “Yes” with faith, knowing that serving God is more important than our occupation, our family or anything else. We say yes, knowing there are obstacles but trusting God for answers, resources and courage to enable us to do far more than we ever imagined.
Can it be that simple? Yes. Our church was growing and active in the community, but we were not a mission-oriented church. Several members traveled to Jamaica offering medical aid and construction help and brought back their stories of lives changed. We were becoming eager for more opportunities.
That same year, we stepped out in faith to help another church after a tornado destroyed its building. One of our members led a community effort to help it rebuild. Today its new building stands as a testimony to what one individual, one church and one community can do to help others.
“For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the gracious privilege of sharing.” (2 Corinthians 8:3-4)
“The gracious privilege of sharing.” Is that what God’s invitation is all about? What have I learned? Don’t get discouraged and quit. Pray for guidance and wisdom. Find something you can do and do it. God wants you to think bigger.
In December of that same year, a massive tsunami swept the Indian Ocean. Eleven countries were struck by enormous waves with a loss of life estimated in the hundreds of thousands. Our church raised money, but we wanted to do more. How could we become more directly involved? We asked several church leaders to find a project. They visited “Gleaning for the World,” an aid agency in our area that specializes in getting equipment and supplies to other areas where needed. The Rev. Ron Davidson, the CEO, suggested two possibilities which we accepted.
The first project was receiving a tractor-trailer load of used hospital linens at our church where volunteers sorted and boxed garments to be shipped to third-world countries — some impacted by the tsunami. The second request was to sponsor a ship heading to tsunami-damaged villages in Sri Lanka. Loaded with 40,000 pounds of rice, enough to feed 150,000 people. Again, we accepted.
Then Rev. Davidson asked: “Would you go with me to Sri Lanka? You could see where the rice is delivered, assess the damaged area and look for opportunities to help in other ways.”
The gracious privilege of sharing is what God’s invitation is all about. Don’t get discouraged and quit. Pray for guidance and wisdom. Find something you can do and do it, and God wants you to think bigger. God wanted me to think bigger. And in the process, I was being asked to take a few risks.
As followers of God we are judged not by church attendance, Bible study, hymn singing or the size of our offering. Pursuing these aspects of our faith are designed to enable us to become better Christians. But we will ultimately be judged by how generously we respond to the world around us.
What could I say but “Yes.” Days later, I obtained a passport, received shots and began a series of flights that would last 26 hours, taking us to the other side of the world. A guidebook describes Sri Lanka as, “The Teardrop of India: a tear of sheer joy frozen in mid-air.” I was about to embark on a mission that would change my life, my church, my view of ministry and my perspective of our world forever.
God challenged me and our church to think bigger, and miracles followed. Can we say “yes” with faith to God’s invitation knowing that serving our Lord is more important than our occupation, our family and even our very lives? Yes we can. We say “yes,” trusting God for answers, resources and courage to enable us to do far more than we ever imagined.
God is also sending you an invitation: How will you respond?
Next Week: God’s Invitation and Sri Lanka
Rev. Larry E. Davies can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.