Many years ago, I was walking home at night from university when God revealed a small part of His heart to me.
I had been praying for many years that I would find purpose in what I was studying, that I would be able to pursue my vocation after university with passion. I was studying a Bachelor of Law and Commerce (Accounting) at the time. The revelation was simple: that He had a heart for corporations and the people that work in these large institutions. He cares about them as individuals, but also how they use their abundance of resources for the benefit of others.
After university, I decided to pursue a career in accounting. I can’t say that I am particularly passionate about numbers, but I do enjoy a good spreadsheet now and then. We, accountants, are often labelled as “bean counters”. I can honestly say I have never physically counted any beans as part of my work!
Fast forward a few years to now, and I continue to walk this path, yet I am not sure where it is leading. Life has actually been quite normal, with some significant ups and downs. I have not miraculously ascended the corporate ladder on eagle’s wings. I have not had the privilege of leading anyone to Jesus nor have I caused my firm’s leaders to repent, turn from their ways and give their wealth to the poor. Jesus continues to show me that we are on a journey which He is renewing every day. I walk this journey faithfully alongside the community He has placed me in. My measurement of ‘success’ lies in my heart: do I love Him? Is He my Teacher? Is my heart’s cry to be more like Him? The overflow of my heart hopefully produces fruit that others can enjoy.
Viewing my discipleship as a journey rather than an end destination has been incredibly helpful and liberating for me. It has helped me submit to His authority for the future and have peace about the present. I do not need to force success or holiness. He is calling me to love my family, friends, and community and lay down my life for them every day. I definitely fail in this all the time, but I am on a journey and I know I am being renewed.
Abide in me
Let these branches bear
You fruit Abide in me,
Lord Let Your word take root
Remove in me
The branch that bears no fruit
And move in me,
Lord As I abide in You
(The Sower’s Song, Andrew Peterson)
Earlier this year I felt the Holy Spirit’s prompting to ask my firm if I could write an article for Easter in our national daily news feed. My ambition was to write something that was culturally sensitive but honourable to the Gospel. The firm said yes, and I was given five days’ notice to write a short piece! The drafting went through various iterations, with each version resulting in the Gospel being more and more diluted. Many times, I felt like throwing in the towel as I felt inadequate, and the end product looked much different to my hope at the start. Whilst the final draft was relatively humble, Jesus graciously reminded me to take a step back and look at the journey. He had called me to write an article and I obeyed. During the drafting process I was able to share my heart for the article with two of my un-churched colleagues. Despite my feelings of inadequacy and fear for what people might think, I learned to trust Him more and accept whatever the outcome.
I believe Jesus used the article as an encouragement to other Christians. In our industry, it is easy to feel alone in our faith. The timing of the article also coincided with the launch of a national prayer group, which I was not aware of. The group was able to add online commentary to the article to invite others. Since Easter, around 20 to 30 of us continue to pray together virtually. We have a common focus: to pray for the leaders of our firm, our colleagues and each other. Connecting with other Christians at work through prayer has been a prayer of mine for many years. It seems unnecessary that it took an Easter article for this to occur for me, but His ways are mysterious.
I believe community is essential in helping us follow Jesus and becoming more like Him. Whilst community is commonly found with our family, friends or work colleagues, for most of us, church is our most regular expression of community. Lately, the Holy Spirit has often been speaking to me about the following question: How effectively are we as a community (myself included) supporting each other on our discipleship journey?
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul uses the familiar analogy of the body to illustrate the functioning of the church community and our role as members. God uniquely grants us gifts, which in this passage include: Apostles, Prophets, Teachers, Miracles, Healing, Helping, Administrating and Tongues. Paul says that we are all members of one body and we each bring a set of unique skills and spiritual gifts, which we are to exercise as part of our participation in the community. Our gifts are given to us by the Holy Spirit and are used to edify others. If all members of the body don’t participate, the body cannot function properly. This seems to be a statement of fact, not an ideal.
So, what does this mean for us individually? Jesus promised us that if we place our faith in Him, we would receive the Holy Spirit. We now have direct access to Him, and He has given each of us a calling. Our vocation is to join Jesus in the work of the new creation, to spread God’s love and invite others to accept Him as their Lord and Saviour.
I believe Jesus calls each one of us to use our gifts and talents for this purpose. The combination of our historical experience and our spiritual gifts make us unique and allow us to offer something to our community that no one else can. The first disciples came in many shapes, sizes and personalities, and so do we. This variety is incredibly important in helping our church community flourish, but also to reach all aspects of our society. In my experience, being comfortable with our gifts requires an independent self-assessment outside of what other believers sometimes tell us we should or shouldn’t look like. We are not all preachers, prophets, or worship leaders. Sometimes our gifts might serve those outside the church better than those inside. I believe it is important that we know what our gifts are and try our best to steward these faithfully.
Paul warns us that the parts of the body that seem weaker or less honourable we are to elevate and give greater honour. This is indeed what God has done for us. In my view, the church as an institution has an incredible opportunity to provide the platform to enable this. We have to ask ourselves: How effective are we in encouraging and enabling the full expression of the gifts of the people in our church community? Is there an overemphasis of some gifts versus others? What real or perceived barriers exist that discourage us from being participants rather than attendees? These are not easy questions to answer and no answer is perfect. Jesus seems to have left it up to His followers to decide for themselves what works best.
Whatever our method or structure, community is essential for us to fulfil our vocation of following Jesus. It is in the context of this vocation that our gifts must be exercised for the benefit of ourselves, the church and the wider community. We all need community to build us up, encourage us and spur us on in our journey. Our suburb, city and nation need a community of love to which they can belong and participate in. In the words of Romans 15:5-7: May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.