by Lindsey Funtik, Coordinator of Volunteer Ministries, Ashland First United Methodist Church, Ashland, Ohio.
Here's a shout out to all my fellow seminary students: Greek, amiright? Despite the fact that I love and work with the English language as a craft, I have never been particularly good at language learning. French class was a blur and Arabic class was a fight and Biblical Greek was no different. It was never for lack of trying, but for some reason my brain always struggled.
Thankfully, I had an amazing professor, Dr. John Byron, who not only made Greek class a safe place to learn, fail, and grow together, he also made it fun. Somehow, in the midst of laughing and complaining and watching the occasional Monty Python clip, we learned how to read and write Greek. Before I knew it, Dr. Byron had tricked us into being able to translate 1 and 2 Thessalonians, which was a feat I never really believed feasible for me. Helping students slowly reach further than they ever thought possible is the sign of an incredible instructor. Ashland Theological Seminary is so very blessed to have John Byron now serving as the dean.
Recently, I felt the Lord asking me to return to Thessaloniki. If I'm being honest, I had not returned there with any intentionality since finishing that final translation project because, let's be real, my brain needed a break. After a tough few weeks during which I felt 7 shades of exhausted, I sensed the Spirit specifically drawing me to 2 Thessalonians. I only had to read the first chapter (zero in on verses 11 and 12) to hear a bit of what God was trying to say to me. The Message translation hit home in a special way. It reads:
"Because we know that this extraordinary day is just ahead, we pray for you all the time–pray that our God will make you fit for what He's called you to be, pray that He'll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with His own energy so that it all amounts to something. If your life honors the name of Jesus, He will honor you. Grace is behind and through all of this, our God giving Himself freely, the Master, Jesus Christ, giving Himself freely." (2 Thess. 1:11-12, MSG)
The NIV translates the bolded section as "God may make you worthy of His calling". Although both the team behind the NIV and Eugene Peterson did a much better job of translating than I did, it was good to be reminded of these words once again.
I desire to be a good Christian. I think anyone that follows Jesus desires to be a good Christian. But I will confess that sometimes I just feel like I'm falling short. Some weeks I only get into the Word a day or two rather than my goal of every morning. I get so caught up in my own ego that ministry can become about performance rather than living and working in the Kingdom of God. I have every intention of walking through my day in an attitude of prayer but before I know it, the day is over and I just want to eat mini marshmallows on my couch and zone out. Recently, I've been begging God to make me more wholehearted and soft as the world tries every day to make me grow in bitterness and cynicism, but I can still be so bitter and cynical. In short, sometimes I just don't feel worthy of my calling.
But here's the kicker: we are not worthy of the calling to be in relationship with God. We are broken and the stain of darkness should disqualify us from approaching the Divine throne, but God's work in Jesus has cleared the way for the broken to be made whole and for light to fill the darkness. We are not worthy, but He has called us worthy. This is a fundamental piece of the Christian confession of faith and often the first piece that we forget. I do not have to fight to be worthy of this calling, because that's a lost cause anyway. Thankfully, however, Jesus took this lost cause and called me His own. Now, I am worthy.
But taking that first step in deciding to walk down the road of discipleship is just that, a first step. We have believed the testimony about God in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit and, though we are called worthy, it's not time for "happily ever after" quite yet. I love that Paul's prayer for the Thessalonians was that God would "make them fit for" what they had been called to be. And how can we be made worthy? I think that it comes as God forms us into people who are more and more Christlike. After all, if it is Christ whom we follow, shouldn't the apprentice resemble the master? As we live into the truth of our worthiness in Christ, we begin to look more like Jesus. This is the Spirit's work, but we can participate in the process.
For example, I was recently in the throes of watching a TV show which failed to elicit any compassion in my heart for any of the characters. They were all extremely cruel to each other and, though it certainly made for good drama, it ultimately just continually made me mad. I recognized that anger as something that was weaseling its way into my brain and I felt the Spirit asking me to stop watching, so I did. Was this particular act of watching this show bad? I don't think so, but it was taking me further from the truth of who I was in Christ, a child of peace and kindness and compassion, and so I chose to live into my true identity rather than be swallowed up by something that did not matter in the slightest, but which hardened my heart in a strange way.
This is a small example, but in the end, keep showing up to the table of the Lord, every single day, and trust that He is the one who is making you worthy. He is the one shaping you into the mantle He has placed, in His great love, upon Your shoulders. But listen to the Spirit when you hear the voice of God guiding you into the Christlikeness that is the goal of all believers. You are worthy, and He is proving that to us more and more every day.
I leave you with a benediction: May the Lord fill your good ideas and acts of faith with His energy. When people look at you, may they see Jesus. May you daily come into the presence of God and recognize just a bit more of yourself in the Lovingkindness that peers back at you. May we all, by the power of the Spirit, the grace of God, grow to be more and more worthy of this immense and beautiful calling.
Cross-Posted from "Reflections on Faith, Words, and The Holiness of Today"