Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert? The answer can greatly affect what living in a missional way means for you in practice.
Those of us who are introverts will often prefer to recharge our batteries by spending quality time alone. So we may look at extroverts as having an advantage when it comes to investing in other people.
When you hear Jesus’ command to “love your neighbors,” do you immediately imagine your energy being drained away by too much time spent with other people?
You are not alone. Some of us genuinely need to be alone more than others in order to feel healthy. And yet Jesus has given us all the same mission. He has tasked us all with carrying his invitation to the people in our lives.
Here are some warning signs I notice when I’m struggling with this tension:
- I head for the corner when I walk into a crowded room.
- I skip checking my email inbox because it feels like people are clamoring for my attention.
- When someone wants to talk to me, I feel impatient.
- I spend my moments of solitude endlessly scrolling my social feed.
These are signs that I’ve lost the energy to engage the world around me in a way that honors God and loves others.
So we need a plan that allows us to listen to what God is saying to us, because God has designed us very specifically as individuals.
My plan involves knowing when there’s something I need to set down, or something I need to pick up.
Setting down my own effort
When I’m tired of investing energy in other people I hear a condemning voice in my head. People become obstacles. Opportunities become burdens.
And then my MissionHub app reminds me of someone I said was important to me.
“How did it go taking that step with ______?”
I did not take that step. I forgot. My good intention remained only that. I put myself before the person I wanted to take a step of faith with.
So I tell myself what a crappy person I am and throw my hands in the air. I decide either it’s too hard or I’m too tired.
Spiraling into self-condemnation is all too easy for some of us. But I’m learning to stop, take a breath and remind myself of what is true.
I tell myself the following four things:
- God loves me.
- He proved it through his actions.
- Jesus says he’s praying for me.
- The Holy Spirit is ready to help.
None of those things depend on my effort or lack of effort. None of them.
Sometimes I need to say these things to myself more than once. But as those truths sink in I gain the energy to move back out into the world.
Picking up God’s gift
Do you have a big question that shapes how you think about yourself?
My question is, “Am I useful?”
How I answer this question affects how I view my worth and where I stand in the world. When I feel productive and helpful, I’ve earned my place. When I do not feel productive and helpful — what’s the point of being here?
Whatever benchmark you and I naturally use to ascribe ourselves value, it probably needs recalibrating on a regular basis. We do this by rehearsing truth back to ourselves. This is laying down what we think of ourselves, and picking up what God says.
Here is a truth I try to pick up as often as I can:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
At our worst, Jesus gave himself completely for us. Nothing you or I do earns his favor. He loves us because he loves us because he loves us.
But there’s more we need to pick up.
“I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2–3)
This has been one of the most powerful Bible verses in my life.
What Paul, the writer, says here is incredible. If salvation is by Jesus, why do we think we can just take over from there and do life ourselves? If we could not save ourselves, we certainly cannot perfect ourselves.
Trying to earn salvation for ourselves and others drains our energy in a big way. Bringing those bad habits to an end is a big part of regaining the energy to engage our world. Our call is to live in the freedom of God’s unearned favor, mercy and love.
So set down a way of life that can only drain you and pick up truths that bring your spirit the energy it requires.
3 steps to getting back out there
1. Recognize the moment
I want to believe I can do more than I’m actually capable of because I feel more valuable that way. But there is such a thing as grasping for more than God is asking of us.
The needs of the people around Jesus never stopped. But he always knew when to walk away from everyone and just pray for hours.
Other times, Jesus goes on healing sprees. We see him patiently comfort some people, and brutally confront others. Was it all just arbitrary according to how he felt in the moment?
John gives us a clue in his Gospel.
Jesus is telling his followers that an end is coming. He’s delivering his final instructions when he says the following.
“I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me” (John 14:30–31).
How did Jesus decide what to do and what not to do? He only did exactly what the Father commanded him.
But he is God’s Son. How is that even possible for us?
2. Remember who does the work
Earlier in John 14, a confused and nervous group of disciples ask Jesus why he says he’s going away. Jesus says he will not leave them on their own. The Father is sending someone to help. In fact, his name is actually “the Helper.”
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:26–27).
We will never be as close to God the Father as Jesus is. But these verses assure us that the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit give us the ability to do the things he wants us to do.
With the Holy Spirit’s help, we pay attention to the Father’s ability to save more than our own desire to save the world.
Jesus says it even more clearly a few verses later.
“If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
3. Refresh your energy with the stories of others
We’ve set down our own exhausting spiritual performance issues. And we’ve picked up God’s gracious offer to be part of what he’s doing in the world.
What’s left for us to do now is look around and celebrate what God does.
Almost everyday I open MissionHub and scroll through the Celebrate feed in the MissionHub Global Community. I see a long scroll of the names of other people using MissionHub to take steps of faith around the world.
I do not know these people or what steps they took. But I do not need to know these things in order to thank God for what he’s doing in these lives.
A prayer for you and me
There’s a risk MissionHub can become a to-do list for missional tasks. Do not let it.
Instead, treat it as a list of people in whose lives you want to see God work. Or think of it as a guest list of people you want to offer God’s invitation to.
I recently heard this great prayer of invitation.
“Loving God, give me your loving heart for the people around me.”
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Note: All Bible references in this article are from the New International Version.