You’ve got to hand it to the Apostle Paul. Once he met the Lord, he devoted himself completely to the work to which he’d been called; and in so doing, he became a model of what it looks like to be “sold-out” to Jesus. In fact, intoday’s New Testament lesson, we find him offering an example of that commitment; and in the process, he invites us to examine the depth of our own dedication.
“I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:22-24)
If we’re honest, of course, very few of us will ever be called upon to face “prison and hardships” because of our faith. And if we were, many of us might legitimately wonder whether we would prove to be equal to the challenge. However, while all of us have the same call that Paul did — “the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” — what if the way in which we embrace that calling need not look the same in our lives as it did in Paul’s?
I’ve just started reading a book by Michael Frost titled, Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Highly Missional People. In it, he suggests that while all of us are called to the task of evangelism, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re called to be evangelists. Paul and others like him — in both the early church and the church of today — were called to a special ministry of boldly declaring the gospel to outsiders. But as Frost points out, several passages (see for example Colossians 4:2-6 and 1 Peter 3:15-16) suggest that the call of other believers looked a bit different. In Frost’s words…
Believers were to pray like crazy and to conduct themselves, in word and deed, in such a way as to provoke unbelievers to question their beliefs and enter into dialogue…If all believers are leading the kinds of lives that evoke questions from their friends, then opportunities for sharing faith abound, and chances for the gifted evangelists to boldly proclaim are increased. In brief, our task is to surprise the world!
Michael Frost, Surprise the World, p. 7.
Now, just to be clear: Frost is not “letting us off the hook” when it comes to deep commitment. But his reflections do beg the question: What kind of life do we need to live in order to inspire curiosity in our friends? What kind of life will “surprise the world”? And that’s the question that the rest of Frost’s book seeks to answer.
For today, I simply invite us to live with the question: What kind of habits would we need to cultivate in order to become the kind of individuals (and the kind of faith community) whose everyday lives attracted the attention of others (in a good way) and make them want to know more about the good news of God’s grace?
May God’s Spirit guide us to discern the answer to that question — and to “surprise the world” in whatever way the Lord has called us.