“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17
“Whatever you do” and “do everything” clearly cover every aspect of life. What did Paul have in mind here? For the average Christian, whatever that may be, what is the “whatever and everything” of life?
The mistake we typically make is to limit “whatever and everything” to the realm of “highly spiritual events” in which everything that happens every day must be by the hand of Almighty God. I once heard a minister say quite seriously that God told him that morning what kind of cereal to eat. In an effort to duplicate that kind of devotion some Christians try to see God’s hand in finding a good parking place, for example. We might want “whatever and everything” to be suffused with deep spiritual meaning and messages. A professor once told that a minister he knew that spoke as if he could not walk down the hall of his church without having six highly significant spiritual encounters. That sounds laudable, but is that really what Paul had in mind?
We want “whatever and everything” to be awesome (the most overused word in contemporary Christian vocabulary) and miraculous, and may even be guilty of trying to manufacture that. Thus, I want my sermon to be a tour de force, my column to be insightful and inspiring, my devotional to be so deep as to cause all heaven to pause in wonder. Why? Because “whatever and everything” is a call to supernatural excellence!
This approach to living the Christian life fits perfectly the post-modern mindset. Post-modernism is slippery, but it appears to me to be a mood. People today want feelings and emotions. Form and substance are secondary to experience. Thus, a post-modern wants the “whatever and everything” to be highly charged. The effect this shift has had on churches and Christians is profound and beyond the scope of a Monday morning devotional, but suffice it to say that in spite of all the recent (last 20 years or so) efforts to “make the church relevant” we have fewer Christians and arguably a dumbed down discipleship that results from wanting “whatever and everything” to be awesome.
Try to live the Christian life this way and at some point you will soon feel defeated and frustrated. Rather than “whatever and everything” being numinous and divine, you probably will find Monday morning to be rather ordinary. Too many Christians are then beset by a despair of inadequacy. Have you failed in some way? Of course not.
God did not make you to live every day on the Mount of Transfiguration. He made you to live in the afterglow of events like that. God has a habit of showing us great things, and then asking us to faithfully guard the memory of those events without expecting a daily duplication of the earth shattering miracle. Thus Israel remembered God’s deliverance from Egypt while they walked in the wilderness for forty years. They waited 700 years for a messianic prophecy to be fulfilled. The goal was to live each day with simple faith.
While weeding his garden one day, St. Francis was asked, “what you do today if you knew the Lord was returning tomorrow?” Francis replied, “I would finish weeding my garden.” He apparently saw glory in the ordinary but did not rely on a feeling or emotion to validate his genuinely spiritual outlook on life.
That is the kind of day-to-day faith you need. You do “whatever and everything” faithfully and gratefully, without complaint or a nagging suspicion that your “whatever and everything” is insufficiently spiritual. You live each moment under God’s careful watch and His tender care, not under His merciless evaluation. In every task you have God as your companion, and you do each task well. In this way, you will live the ordinary life extraordinarily well.
The truth is, we spend a great deal of our time living ordinary lives, but believing that as God powerfully demonstrated His faithfulness in the past, He will quietly demonstrate His faithfulness today, and tomorrow, and every day. So go to work. Take care of your family. Enjoy your recreation, your meals, your sleep. And give thanks to God in the ordinary “whatever and everything.”
Dr. Terry Ellis
March 27, 2011