Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The hidden potential of the ordinary

Our family’s been enjoying some pretty delicious bread baking experiments lately, researching how to make the best and most nutritious types. In the days of the Bible, bread wasn’t like the bland unhealthy stuff we find at the supermarket, but was so wholesome and full of nutrients, bread alone could sustain a human life for a long time. After all, Jesus called Himself the Bread of Life.

Try to eat a cup of whole grain flour, and you’ll barely be able to swallow it, much less get any nutrition from it. But add it to some water, and allow the natural yeast in the air to begin fermenting it, and something miraculous happens. It releases an abundance of proteins, B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, selenium and more. What seemed like a worthless pile of powder turns into a life-giving substance only when it begins to ferment—to rot! Then that life-giving dough can be baked and eaten. That flour wasn’t worthless—nutrients were hidden there all along. It just had to go through a rotting process to become transformed so all that goodness could be released. What does this have to do with us?  

How much is hidden within us? How much potential for growth and change and miracles is lying dormant inside of us? If you notice the way God performed miracles in both the Old and New Testaments, He always used ordinary things, and at least one of His servants to partner with in that miracle. Jacob and his faith in God used striped sticks in a water trough to strengthen his herds, Moses used his rod, Joshua marched in a circle, blew trumpets and shouted to tear down Jericho, Gideon used torches, clay pots and more trumpets to throw his enemies into confusion, Jesus used mud on a blind man’s eyes and took a little boy’s lunch to feed 5000 hungry men. God wants us to see that what we already have is enough for Him to do an amazing miracle. Our little dream, our little family, our little computer on it’s last leg, our little bank account, our little prayer group is enough for Him to unleash a hidden greatness for His honor and glory, but something has to die and rot for that to happen, and that something is usually our selfishness.

There’s a passage in Proverbs usually considered a warning against adultery. But it’s actually a warning against unfaithfulness to any kind of commitment. It warns us to drink only from our own cisterns, or wells, not to long for the water of others. Where God has placed us, is where He plans to make us grow, where He wants to unleash the inner greatness that we don’t yet see. But if we turn away from our “cistern,” we’ll never experience that joy. Am I saying that we should never give up on a job or business, or even a bad relationship? What I see the Bible saying, is that if we first serve Him faithfully and selflessly where we are, He’ll lead us out of our struggles and misery and into unthinkable blessings. That might mean leaving people and things behind, but only when He is doing the leading and not our impulsive flesh.

Start with what you have, even if it seems paltry, and tasteless, and destined for nowhere. Where God has placed you is where He wants to test your faithfulness. Are you honoring Him by being careful with your motives and desires where you are? Are you serving Him with joy in your marriage, even though your spouse isn’t serving back? Is your workplace being blessed by the best you have to give, as if you were working for Him and not for the ungrateful boss and coworkers around you?  

We live in a selfish culture of immediate gratification that teaches us to give up on things when we don’t immediately see what we want—even commitments. Everything is disposable. But not faith, not obedience, and not the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which includes patience, humbleness and faithfulness. What is it inside of you that is full of hidden potential to bear amazing fruit? What selfish attitudes inside of you need to die and rot so this transformation can happen? Be faithful in both behavior, and attitudes. Believe, and allow God to transform what you may have disregarded as paltry and tasteless, into the very blessings you need.

Drink waters out of your own cistern, and running waters out of your own well. - Proverbs 5:15 MEV
Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.  He who loves his life will lose it. And he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me. Where I am, there will My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.  - John 12:24-26 MEV

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