PART 4: THE FRONTLINE CONCERN
Paul, writing to the Ephesian church, brings his letter to an end by giving them instructions about the best ways to live. In chapter 5 he challenges them to live by following the example of God, keeping away from wrong living and rather living as “children of the light” (verse 8). So, he encourages the Christians here to live wisely and to
“[make] the most of every opportunity” (verse 16)
This is a real help when it comes to answer what, to many, is maybe the major question of their life on the frontline:
“WHAT should I be doing on my frontline? I can’t do everything – how do I know what I should do?”
So we pray and we meditate and we look around at the needs on our frontline…and there are just SO many…
But maybe working out what God wants us to do is easier than that. Maybe it’s trusting that he will lead us where he wants us to go and will make clear what he wants us to do. In fact, maybe he will make things so obvious that we can’t miss them. That would be great. Maybe we just need to hear the cries of the world around us to know how best to offer the good news to people. Maybe we need to develop our alertness to the promptings of God, who we believe is at work in his world, bringing new creation out of the spaces where previously there were only signs of despair.
Maybe we just need to respond to what is in front of us, assuming that God can use us there… And maybe that is what it means to live a life of faith, becoming aware of the Holy Spirit’s leading.
So maybe the answer is that of Paul – Take every opportunity…like Peter and John did at the Gate Beautiful.
So, first let us look at a Biblical example of taking the opportunities that we are provided with as we live “life on the frontline”…
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer – at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
6 Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognised him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. (Acts 3: 1-10)
Peter and John were really on the frontline…probably in more danger than we at first realise:
- They were going to the Temple to pray…sounds rather nice doesn’t it…until you remember that the Temple is the ground of those who were their greatest enemies – the very priests and teachers of the Law who had put Jesus to death just a few weeks ago. They were totally anti-the disciples of Christ. Peter and John were putting their lives on the line!
- This is right at the Gate Beautiful – the very entrance to the Temple. And they were there at the busiest time of the day. Huge crowds of people going in and out. Everyone was going to see what was going on. That’s good, isn’t it? A real witness? Well…yes…but also a real danger. This is going to be VERY public – right in the faces of those who wish to silence them and do them all kinds of harm besides.
- And what they were offering wasn’t actually what the cripple wanted. He wanted money – instant gratification. They were offering long-term benefits.
- And WOW! What a benefit! They healed him in the Name of Jesus…and then “all hell broke loose”! The man who had been healed “held on to” them (verse 11) and many others came running to see what had happened. And then, along came the Captain of the Temple guard and the Sadducees and they seized Peter and John (Acts 4: 1-3) and put them in gaol till the next day and then subjected them to interrogation before reluctantly letting them go. Their lives really were on-the-line but was the risk on the frontline worth it? Yes, it was! For we are told that “many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand” (Acts 4: 4).
Peter and John did not know what they were going to be asked to do on the frontline – they seized the opportunity (“carpe diem”). They didn’t have to struggle and strain about what they were called to do on their frontline – it was right there in front of them!
Well, if this is the case for them, then it is the case too for us! As you live on your frontline just take every opportunity to do life for God whatever situation you find yourself in.
There is a marvellous, and very simple, testimony on the video which shows what taking every opportunity looks like. Take time to consider how God has just used circumstances that have provided opportunities for you to serve on your frontline.
When I look at my life – times of struggle and confusion as well as clarity and ease – I see that this is so true. As a young teacher, fresh out of university, I was convinced that I had an academic pathway laid out before me: history teacher to head of department, faculty and on and on and on. God had better ideas. In the time prior to Children’s Acts or Safeguarding guidelines I found myself dealing with the most horrendous of child abuse situations. Although I supported the teenage boy successfully, I didn’t support the boy correctly (not that anyone knew what was the correct or incorrect way in those days!) and I was interviewed by the police who, while praising me for what I had achieved, wagged their fingers at me as to the way I had done it…and all this in the presence of my headteacher. I thought my career was over! Far from it. Serving God on this frontline actually opened up opportunities for me – the Head called me back in, thanked me for what I had done, and set me on a career path that led me into Special Education and working with teenagers who were “socially, emotionally and behaviourally disturbed”. The rest, as they say, is history…
Looking back, I see the hand of God – my Commander on the frontline – in opening up the direction that He wanted me to serve. All my best-laid plans came to naught – He knew where, and in what area, He wanted me to serve.
Am I suggesting that we should just sit-back and do nothing and just wait and see what God will do? Not at all! We have our part to play – we need to wait on Him, spend time listening to Him and asking Him what our place of service should be. And, as we have seen, all ties in with, and returns to, this:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3: 5-6)