By Lisa Huddleston
“Then He went up the mountain and summoned those He wanted, and they came to Him. He also appointed 12–He also named them apostles–to be with Him, to send them out to preach, and to have authority to drive out demons” (Mark 3:13-14, HCSB).
My pastor has been leading our congregation through the book of Mark for the past several weeks. As always Pastor Jim’s verse-by-verse teaching leaves me with plenty to think about between Sunday sermons; but, this week in particular God has summoned me to come nearer, to look and to listen closer, and then, I am sure, to respond.
When he taught the verses above, Pastor Jim noted an interesting progression: Jesus called those he wanted to join him to be with him before he sent them out. Being before doing. It may just be a sign of our busy times, but that really resonated with me. Even though this is far from the first time I have heard this concept, it is still an illusive idea. I find it difficult simply to be. Don’t you? Isn’t it easier to do than to be?
I have two friends who are currently involved in what I see as “radical” missions. One is already on the continent of Africa. The other will soon leave for Borneo. Their trips are purely for the sake of evangelism. I don’t think there are buildings to construct or water purifiers to donate or medical procedures to execute or even Vacation Bible Schools to perform. They are simply going out as ambassadors of Christ. They are representatives of his being alive in them. And that sort of freaks me out.
Don’t get me wrong. I strongly believe in the doing of faith as well the being of it. The book of James makes it pretty clear that faith leads to works, and the rest of scripture concurs that God cares greatly about the welfare of people. We Christians should do good work! No doubt. But we should first of all be with him, be in him. And that being is what we should be sharing–even when we are working.
And that is my struggle. The being. In this morning’s reading, John Stott declares, “Nothing keeps people out of the kingdom of God more effectively than pride or self-sufficiency” (Through the Bible, Through the Year). So I wonder which one it is today–pride or self-sufficiency? Both? And isn’t one just another name for the other?
Is doing taking the place of being in my life? Am I too proud to accept grace? Am I still trying to earn God’s or man’s approval? Is that why I don’t see demons being driven out around me? Has doing without being led to cynicism and at times even despair? Perhaps so. But God never quits. He reminds me that miracles still happen, and he sends me firsthand accounts through people I know (even though my logical heart tries its best to reject those reports). He keeps me from settling into complacency with a holy discontent that never lets me rest too long. And he never lets me go. When all else fails–even my faith–he is faithful to be who he is. I Am Who I Am. The King of Being.
How do I respond? Do I follow the apostles’ lead and go up the mountain to be with Christ? And what does that even look like today? I’m not sure–but I am looking and listening now and throughout the day. And perhaps that is the best response I could have.