“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” - Galatians 6:2
December is always one of the most demanding months of the year for us at InterVarsity when it’s an Urbana year. Our Urbana student missions conference in St. Louis, December 27-31, 2015 is filled with all kinds of opportunities to challenge students and others to join God’s global mission. But it’s also a lot of work that comes at the time of year when we typically want to rest and celebrate.
When I face challenging times, or when I anticipate that an ordinarily demanding time will be even more demanding, there are several steps I have learned to take that make a challenging and demanding time an opportunity for God to work in me and in those God puts in my path.
Let me walk through a few of them with you and encourage you to join me in taking these steps together this December in the spirit of the one whom Christmas is all about. They aren’t rocket science, but if you will join me in taking them you may remember this December as one of your best ever.
- First, let’s lean into our spiritual disciplines more purposefully than ever. God wants to do amazing things in and through all of us as we finish the year. Satan will want to do everything in his power to block God’s purposes. As Peter wrote: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” ( 1 Peter 5:8). That means:
- guarding our daily quiet time of prayer and Bible reading.
- praying regularly for ourselves and others.
- getting to church each Sunday to worship God with his people.
- reminding ourselves when we are tempted to feel overwhelmed of all the ways God has been faithful to us individually and as a movement.
- Second, be slow to anger and slow to take offense. When I am tired and feel stretched to the limit I have a propensity to take something that someone else does or says as much worse than they intended. The author of Hebrews wrote: “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:15).
- Third, let’s purpose together to outdo each other in the way we serve each other. When we see someone else not able to get all their work done, let’s find ways to help them rather than to criticize them. Let’s do it with a perspective that gives life and hope to the person we are helping rather than with a perspective of obligation or reluctance.
There is a section of the book of Philippians that’s easy to overlook, where Paul writes about his love and affection for Timothy:
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon. Philippians 2:19-24
Timothy came into Paul’s life and ministry at a point of great sadness for Paul. He had just had a conflict with Barnabas that was so bad that Paul and Barnabas had separated over how to treat John Mark, who had abandoned them on one of their missionary journeys. Barnabas wanted to restore John Mark and Paul was not ready to do that. Barnabas had been the one who validated Paul’s conversion when none of the other Christians would accept it. Barnabas was Paul’s closest friend—his partner in mission. Now Paul was alone. He meets Timothy, invites him to become his partner, and Timothy jumps right in.
The circumstances were different, but I had a very similar experience this past June. I was fifteen minutes away from giving the closing talk at our Orientation of New Staff (ONS), sitting with our Cabinet, telling stories, and laughing.
My sister-in-law, Lois, called me on my cell phone. As I listened, she poured out the news through her tears that my only brother had just died after a yearlong battle with cancer. Somehow I got through that talk that night. But as I finished I realized I had nothing left, and I was supposed to give two more talks the next day.
I turned to Kim Porter and said, “This is not fair but could you do those talks?” Kim had every reason to say no. As vice president and director of Learning and Talent, this was an intensely busy time for her.
Kim immediately said, “Don’t give it another thought. I’ll take care of them. Go to Rockford and take care of your sister-in-law and your two nephews. They need you now and you need them.”
In that moment, I experienced what I am sure Paul experienced with Timothy. A burden had been lifted off my shoulders and was being carried by my sister-in-Christ, Kim. I could go to Rockford with Mary Beth, my wife, and know that everything else had been covered.
Let’s be like that for each other and for our Lord all through this month:
- Let’s guard our disciplines as we head into the spiritual battle.
- Let’s be slow to anger and slow to take offense.
- Let’s be eager to pitch in and serve each other.
- Let’s outdo each other in practical love and service.
As we do that, God will be glorified and his purposes will be served.
This article is transcribed and edited from a talk given in a chapel service at the National Service Center. To listen to the entire message, subscribe to InterVarsity's podcast, or download directly: http://intervarsity.org/sites/default/files/podcast/15/12/2015-12-09jimlundgrentistheseason.mp3.