i have a gift. i call it the gift of small audience.
There was a time in Cape Town a few years ago when i was one of the 5 or 6 speakers youth groups and Christian school groups would call on for talks and camps and it felt really good – like i had huge opportunity to make a difference – to impact hundreds of young people across Cape Town and beyond as the opportunities came.
At the same time i was running a youth group that consisted of maybe 1 to 8 people. Who mostly just stared at me a lot.
That didn’t always feel that good… or that successful at least. Something along the lines of “a prophet is unwelcome in his own town” or something like that which you cling to when things don’t look at that successful. [Maybe you’re just really bad at running youth groups? Nah, sh! It can’t be that.]
When you live in a world and system which judges success in one way [usually numbers, big events, wide reach, that kind of thing] and you see life happening in another way, you suddenly end up as lonely contemplative prophet sitting under a tree by yourself wondering where all the crowds are.
You know someone else who had a small audience? Jesus. That’s right. Oh sure he pulled in the crowds when He was multiplying bread and fish, turning water into exquisite wine and raising the dead… but when He started talking about His Kingdom and what it meant to be a follower… suddenly, crickets.
NO, I’M NOT SAYING I’M JESUS [just so we’re clear]
When the Kingdom message became one of enemy love… or when Jesus spoke about denying yourself, taking up your cross every day and following someone who is not you… when the stories were about the hated Samaritans being the example of Love well demonstrated or about everyone hating you because of Me or selling everything you have and giving it to the poor and then following… well then the crowds started to thin. Drastically.
And when Jesus was arrested and being associated with Him might mean joining Him in the crucifixion, well even His closest friends were nowhere to be seen [those that weren’t denying they knew Him at all]
‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.’
Just yesterday i was listening to someone give a talk to a group of media people. He knew my parents well, but i didn’t even know if he knew me or not. Suddenly, in the middle of his talk, he mentioned my name and said some really encouraging stuff about some stuff i had been writing/saying in the nineties. i was blown away.
The immense power of words of encouragement or affirmation from an unlikely source. “Just keep on doing what you’re doing. Don’t worry about the response.”
Truth in Love. That is what we are called to. And it is such a delicate balance to get right. To be fair, through my life i have probably erred on the side of Truth more often than Love, although i think a do a lot better these days. A lot of other people tend to err on the side of something that is mistaken for Love which might look like reassurance or comfortability or compromise or a number of other things.
i’m not sure what i’m trying to say here. i certainly am not fishing for a bunch of people to jump on and tell me how well i’m doing at life so please don’t do that. i do want us to be aware of how powerful positive words and affirmation can be in the lives of those around us and so where there are other people you know who maybe speak a Truth in Love that is not popular or well received, please find moments to appreciate them and quietly cheer them on.
i also want to encourage you if you are someone who is desperately seeking the Truth of life and following Jesus, but feels like you’re swimming against the current, to keep going. Don’t compare yourself to the people around you – compare yourself to the Truth Jesus taught and lived and called us to. If it doesn’t involve denying yourself and choosing to die daily to self and actively follow Him, then it’s probably not Truth.
While i believe the majority of people are on the wrong path [read Matthew 7, it’s something i feel Jesus believed as well] i am well encouraged by the so many people i know in Cape Town, around South Africa and all over the world, who are genuinely wrestling with Truth and actively trying to follow Jesus in ways that cost them time and money and reputation and make things harder and uncomfortable and confusing and messy.
God sees you.
He knows you.
Don’t give up.
Forget looking for the signs that the world holds up of success. But listen for the sounds of the Kingdom. On earth as it is in heaven.
Be aware of those who are hungry and thirsty and lonely and in prison and in danger and marginalised and Love them as best you can.
Always remember that it is always about Love – that is the greatest commandment.
Where a prophet comes in, i think, is when there is a need for someone to look at the way things are presently in the world [and in the church] and come to the conclusion that, “This Does Not Look Like Love” and “What Are We Going To Do About It?”
Well? What are you presently doing about it? With your time, with your money, with your life in general?
Run strong, my friend, and swim against the tide…