Man, this month sure feels a lot like January, 2014 did! We had to cancel that first Sunday morning worship service last year because of crazy cold temperatures -- but this year, those crazy cold temperatures (-30° F with the wind chill) came on Wednesday instead of Sunday, so we were able to get together to worship this week just fine.
But I remember that the horrible weather on January 6 last year made it all that much scarier when my brother experienced his heart attack and had to somehow get to the hospital. This year, the cold temperatures on January 6 just meant that my kids got to stay home from school the next day, so that’s a mundane-sounding praise right there.
Actually, we shared lots of different praises this weekend at our annual Testimony Sunday that we always begin the year with. It’s always such a quietly poignant service, not only because it’s great to hear what God’s been doing in people’s lives, but because it’s such a powerful ministry for people to get up and share these praises within the community of the church family -- especially when, like this year, the praises were being shared by an entirely different cross-section of FCCers than those who had shared last year.
One person got up and shared how her Small Group (which she thought would fall somewhere between vaguely pleasant and totally pointless) ended up changing her life in truly meaningful ways -- and gave a much more effective commercial for joining a Small Group than I ever could from the pulpit. Another person got up and shared a testimony about how God had used his witness to his family in ways far more powerful than he had ever imagined -- and gave a much more effective commercial for outreach than I ever could from the pulpit. In the same vein, another FCCer shared about how a recent shopping trip for a pair of boots had become an unexpected opportunity to share the Lord’s faithfulness to someone who had always been closed to hearing anything about God. I myself shared about stepping forward to reach out to someone about being involved with God, only to be pre-empted by their statement that they had just invited someone whom they’d recently met to join them at church with us.
The truth is, over and over this year, we saw how God had gone before us in ways that we not only hadn’t imagined, but couldn’t have imagined. It’s not our responsibility to make opportunities to be ambassadors for God’s glory -- it’s just our responsibility to see every day as an opportunity to be ambassadors for God’s glory, and to simply step into the situations that God has prepared for us in advance to be a part of.
Another person got up and shared how hard it is for him to get up in front of people -- and thus, how much of a blessing it has been for him to be so loved and encouraged by his church family in doing so over the years.
Perhaps that’s a quiet encouragement to each and every one of us, reading this right now. We can see hard times and hardships as something to be feared and avoided, or we can see them as things for God and our brothers and sisters to love us through as we grow because of them. If He so gently and thoughtfully orchestrated the buying of a pair of leather boots to bring someone closer to Him, then how faithfully will He go ahead of you in the everyday difficulties of your life?