Well I am back from spending 2 weeks on the other side of the world, and it was awesome! I tried foods I swore I’d never try (if you ever come across a fruit called durian, run far, far away as fast as you can) and I saw things I never dreamed of seeing. It was a fantastic mission trip in which God taught me a lot, and I am so glad that I went!
You know, mission trips are a funny thing. We go on them for a variety of reasons, but those reasons generally have something to do with obedience. We’re responding to Jesus’ Great Commission, or we’re challenging ourselves to leave our comfort zones for the sake of Christ, etc. But whatever the reason, we can always come home and pat ourselves on the back for acting in obedience to God. The trip may have been hard at times, but gosh we sure are good Christians for raising all that money and going overseas to speard the Gospel! God is surely so proud of us!
But as I look back on this trip, I feel quite the opposite. Yes, I went overseas and made some sacrifices to do so. Yes, I acted in obedience for the sake of Christ. Those are all good things. But this whole experience has showed me something about God and about myself that I cannot allow to be overshadowed by my valiant gesture to go a mission trip. What matters even more than sweeping acts of obedience and giant stabs at faithfulness is what we do in between.
Yes, I went on a mission trip. Hooray for me! But how did I treat my fellow teammates every day of that trip? How did I respond to others when they were getting on my nerves or I was exhausted from traveling? When I wasn’t in “ministry mode” with non-Christians, how did I carry myself when I let my guard down?
Not so good.
You see, I can be a totally awesome Christian for about an hour or two. When I’m meeting with non-Christians and sharing the Gospel, I can be so sweet and kind and sincere and loving. It’s really impressive, and I look like a really great disciple of Christ!
But those short acts of obedience pale in comparison to the larger picture of my faith. While God does ask us to make incredible leaps of faith, our lives are not defined by leaps, but by the accumulation of thousands of tiny steps. I may do something tremendously obedient every now and then, but those occasional gestures will not determine the overall trajectory of my life.
Picture it kind of like this: Say that you’re walking on a hiking trail attempting to find your way back home. You think you’re going in the right direction, but then you take a wrong turn. It may not be a major wrong turn–just a small enough turn to take you off the trail. Then you take another small, wrong turn, and then another, and then another.
Hours later, you realize the mistake you’ve made–you are WAY off the trail. So what do you do to solve the problem? You establish the right direction, and then head that way.
But say, for instance, that you decide to fix your problem by taking one running leap as far as you can in the right direction. Do you think that that one giant leap will fix your problem? Just because you made a giant corrective turn towards your destination, will you no longer be lost? No! Because you’ve just spent hours and hours going the wrong way, so it will take hours and hours of tiny steps back in the right direction before you have found your way home.
It is the same with faith. Obedience is not defined by the giant leaps of faith, but the accumulation of a million tiny ones. While I know God is pleased by my decision to go overseas, as well as my obedience in heeding the call to ministry, those actions are small in comparison to the day-to-day living of my life.
Do I pray every day? Do I spend time in the Word every day? Am I kind to my family, my roommates, or the people I don’t like? Am I intentional about sharing the Gospel here? Am I intentional about meeting new people and fostering Christ-centered friendships here? Do I gossip? Do I watch trashy t.v.? Do I exclude people because I’m too lazy to work toward a true vision of the Church? Or do I guard my tongue, watch what materials my mind consumes, and work to build up the Body of Christ in every way I can?
If you can’t answer all of those questions in a way that you know will please God, then you cannot deceive yourself into thinking that one mission trip, or even a career as a minister, will overcompensate. It is the small steps, not the large ones, that define us. That is the difference between selective obedience, and total surrender. So no matter how you spent your summer this year, and no matter how you intend to serve God this coming year, don’t forget to look at the small stuff. In God’s economy, that is what He’ll be looking at, so it’s time we measure obedience on His terms.