One word can change everything.
Our interpretation can be altered with just a few letters and the way we string those letters together can make an undeniable difference in the impact they have.
For years, I thought I knew a popular verse in scripture. When I came to it, I quickly skimmed over it and move forward because I didn’t think there was anything new for me to digest.
Last week, I realized how how wrong I was. Two words jumped off the page of my Bible.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 NIV
Yes, the “in” and the “God.” When I recited this verse in my head, for years my memory recalled this:
“All things work for the good of those who love him…”
The problem is, it’s not the things that are working for our good. It’s God in those things. If our focus is not on him and our walk is not with him, every horrible, tragic event certainly won’t work for our good.
Trials will surely crush us and throw our lives into a downward spiral if God isn’t at the center of it all.
Jesus is the eye in the midst of the storm, where our calm and our hope remain secure.
Last week, I shared how in the midst of the news that 21 brave Christians were murdered in Libya, God was breaking my heart over the division of the church. And while this is a problem which exists worldwide and has no easy solution, I believe there are steps we can take as believers to embrace unity.
I am convinced that in the middle of heartbreak over what extremists are doing, God is working. He is working in and through these tragic events, and in the hearts of those who love him.
Can one person actually make a difference? I believe so. Here are some simple steps to promoting unity not only in your own church home, but in the church as a whole:
- Avoid gossip and assumptions. When we don’t know the reason for something, we love to assume we have the answer based on what we’ve seen and heard. Here’s an idea: if you have a question, ask the person in question. You will never know the real story unless you go to the source.
- Talk to someone you don’t know. Some of my best friendships have been formed as a result of approaching someone new. Our first impressions of people are often far from true, and often what we perceive as being standoffish is a person simply waiting for us to make the first move.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. I have known many who have left a church because they did not agree with every single detail of a pastor’s teaching. The truth is, if you keep this mindset, you will be continually disappointed. Your pastor is learning and growing just like you are. If your church is preaching the Gospel and truth about how to receive salvation, you can afford to disagree on secondary issues.
- Pray for your church. Pray for its leaders. Pray for its body and each member. Pray, just as Jesus did, that you will be one in Spirit and purpose. This is the most important but easily the most overlooked step we can take.
- Contribute. We are a body. If one part is not contributing his or her gifts, the entire church suffers. Find the area where you thrive and get involved. Not only will the church benefit, but you will as well.
Friends, God is moving in the hearts of his people. The question is, are we going to take steps forward or move back?
My prayer is that the loss of 21 courageous men will be a catalyst for believers everywhere to embrace what is truly important.