Your Heart Chooses Your Role in the Story
What role do you play in the Christian story of your life? If you honestly assessed your life as a uninterested observer, how would you describe yourself? The Bible says that you will stand before the Lord and give an account for your life. Some believe this will take the form of a sort of movie version of your lifetime as viewed by God. They theorize that Jesus will show you a visual depiction of your every moment, word, thought, and deed and reward you according to what is shown. The picture is much like an Olympic medalist on the podium watching the replay of their event before getting their medal. Though I am not sure I totally agree with this idea, it brings up a question that can help you jump start your faith, if you let it:
Who Do You Want to be in Christ?
If you watched that film today, The Story of Your Christian Life, what would it show you? What would your role be? Would you take a main role like a hero or a villain? Would you be the unnoticed extra on the fringes of the shots not adding anything other than filling a seat? Remember, this is God’s view of your life rather than your own. His focus is not on your work, sports, or possessions. His eyes are always fixed on building the Kingdom of God.
You only have a short time here to serve Jesus. 70, 80, or 100 years seems like an eternity when you are young. So many people have told me they will serve Jesus when they…retire, make enough money, or reach some other measure of security, Yet, as they get older they never quite get around to the “serving Jesus later”. There is always something more important in their hearts. There are also many who were taken home to the Lord well before they expect to. Jesus still loves them. They do get to heaven and to live eternally. But they are background players in the work of God’s church in this lost world.
What is your current role in your life story?
Choose Today Whom You Will Serve
We all want to be the hero of our narratives. No one sets out in the Lord determined to be lukewarm. Yet, if you look at the sad reality of Christian history, most disciples choose roles that are so much less than they could be. Christians who were truly dedicated to Jesus have always been a tiny minority in the world. They have also been greatly outnumbered in the church. For every hero like the Apostle Paul, there were many more Caiaphas’. He chose his role as the villainous High Priest who conspired to kill Jesus over money and power rather than Jesus. For every quietly faithful protagonists like Timothy, who served with Paul from a young age fighting against the current of his time, there are many more disciples who treaded water in their faith. They are going nowhere or turn away when times got hard, but never make the decision to dig into their faith. There is nothing new in this disparity in numbers.
Remember the words of Jesus:
Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38
The harvest is plentiful. This means the crop has grown well and is ready to be gathered in. The harvest was the highlight of the year for agricultural communities. An abundant crop meant celebration, security, and blessing. But the joy only came after the wheat or barley was brought in. The harvesting itself required intense labor, a lot of work done quickly. The workers needed to be willing to drop whatever else they were doing when the fields were ripe and immediately go into the fields. They then stayed in in the field until all the valuable fruit was safe. It was back breaking and labor intensive work. It also was the very life of the community. It fed them, sustained them, and brought great rejoicing when it was completed.
Jesus applies this picture to the world. He says there is a spiritual bumper crop in the field just waiting to be brought it. Time is limited in which to harvest the fruits of His labor. There are abundant opportunities for Christians to work for Jesus and bring in the harvest. Like farming, it requires many hands and, yet, people are not showing up. The laborers are few.
Who are you in the story? Who do you want to be?
If you are imagining your story played before you and don’t like what you see, there is great news. You can change your role, if you want to. No matter what you have been up to this point, you can follow in the footsteps of Paul, Martin Luther, or John Bunyan. Your role can be that of the Christian version of the knight in shining armor. All it takes is a decision on a simple question:
Who do you love?
Is it that simple? Yes, the Bible sets out that your choice in what or who you love leads your actions. What you value above everything else dictates what motivates you, your decisions, and even what brings you happiness or sadness. Change your heart and your life will follow.
Jesus replied, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. John 14:23
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21
Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it flow springs of life. Proverbs 4:23
If you decide for yourself that you love Jesus above anything else, your behavior will follow. You live out of the overflow of your heart.
A Man of Faith
Timothy was Paul’s closest confidant. He was called Paul’s true son in the faith and the only one who had the same mind as Paul. Timothy’s frequent mentions may obscure his imperfect background. Timothy’s parents appear to be unequally yoked. His father was Greek and his mother was Jewish. This was not allowed under the Old Testament Law. Timothy also lived in a Gentile city surrounded by nonbelievers. This mixing resulted in a complicated household with hints of compromise. Timothy would be considered Jewish under the Law. Yet, the Bible says that he was not circumcised as a child as required. This was a huge issue in the Jewish faith as this was the sign of their identify as Jews. It is likely his father’s pagan faith prevented this act of obedience. His father is also not mentioned as contributing to Timothy’s faith or coming to Jesus himself. Those coming from home like Timothy’s know how hard it can be to come to Jesus yourself with an unbelieving parent. It would have been so easy for Timothy to slip into the background of his story in order to not offend his dad. Yet, Timothy’s mother, grandmother, and Timothy himself all refused to fade away. They each made clear decisions to love the Lord their God with all their hearts and this shaped their stories. His mother and grandmother followed God and raise Timothy in the Scriptures.
“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” 2 Timothy 1:5
“You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3:14-15
Two simple Jewish women chose to honor God in a Gentile city, despite the challenges and past mistakes. They picked the role of hero of their story. They also gave Timothy the foundation to do so for himself and he grabbed that part with both hands.
Paul came through Lystra when Timothy was likely still a teenager. Timothy had likely never met Paul before that time. Yet, Timothy made a radical (but logical) choice to serve Jesus for the rest of his life alongside Paul. He chose that day whom he would serve and earned Paul’s description:
But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. 20 For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. Philippians 2:19-22
How did he do it? He loved Jesus more than anything else in the world.
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. Matthew 6:24
Do you see the cause and affect? Do you see the choice? It is right there in the whole chapter of Philippians 2. You have a simple choice. You can be like Paul and Timothy:
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4
For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:20-21
You cannot serve Jesus while loving anything more than Jesus. Seeking your own is not seeking the things of Christ.
Demas has Forsaken Me
A tragic young protege of Paul’s clearly highlights this truth. Demas was initially much like Timothy. He also joined Paul in his missionary journeys. Paul speaks of him in Philemon:
Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers. Philemon 1:23-24
Demas is called a fellow worker with Paul, Mark, Aristarchus, and Luke. This is lofty company. It initially casts him in the role of hero in his story. Yet, it became apparent Demas’ heart was never truly settled in the Lord. We don’t know whether he joined the church because he was lonely, he wanted something material, or he enjoyed the excitement. There are many reasons people do what they do. Regardless, Paul makes it clear there was a huge problem in Demas’ heart. When the road got too rocky for Demas, his heart issue changes his role dramatically:
Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica… 2 Timothy 4:9-10
Ugh, what a tragic verse to read! Demas loved the lies, temptation, and promises of the world more than he loved Jesus. This love destroyed him and seriously wounded those around him.
Demas not only leaves Paul, but the language indicates that he left him in great distress. Paul was in prison facing execution and reliant on Demas for food, clothing, support, and fellowship. Their personal relationship was not enough to keep Demas from abandoning his mission and chasing after the true treasure of his heart. He loved the world and that led him to chose his role: the villain. Can you imagine Demas giving the Lord an account of his decisions?
What would his film look like?
Demas was not alone in his decision. When Paul writes in Philippians above that he has “no one like-minded” other than Timothy, the term used is one of absolutes. There literally is no one else willing to serve Jesus and go like Timothy. Paul wrote those words in Rome, a city that contained the church of the Book of Romans. There was no one else ready to put down their own life and serve Jesus among the other Christians of the city. They were too busy, too fearful, too rich, or too poor. They had to take care of their business, secure their retirement, or work on their education. They had to do what they wanted to do rather than what the Lord called them to. There was something they loved more than Christ and it disqualified them from loving Jesus like Timothy.
Who do Love? Does Your Life Show It?
I do appreciate the Lord’s work in your life. I know each of you face challenges and worked to get where you are now. I know you have people counting on you, bills to pay, and your own fears. More importantly, the Lord loves and cherishes you. He is not a Savior who works through guilt and shame. But Jesus laid out the tragic picture of the harvest with insufficient workers for you for a reason. The world is ready to be harvested. The fruit is plentiful and time is short. The buds are ripe for picking. The stakes are eternal. Yet, those willing to labor to get them into the Lord’s storehouse are few. The sheer numbers are huge. Yet, there are too many who seek after what they love rather than after the things of Christ Jesus.
Which group have you been in up to this point? Timothy’s or Demas’?
Who do you want to be?
The decision is yours alone.