I’m fascinated by newspaper headlines. It’s odd, I know. But I actually think they provide insight into our culture and the times in which we live. In particular, I’m amazed at the proliferation of words like “shocking”, “scandalous”, “explosive” or “sensational”. Everything, it seems, is ‘breaking news’, which we must simply must read. And I get it; newspapers get paid when people read the news. But it speaks to something deeper that the tactics employed (and which presumably work) to make this happen are to titillate and sensationalise. The ordinary reporting of the facts is no longer enough (if it ever was); we need a side of scandal and sensationalism. The tragic result, however, of engorging ourselves on a diet of the extraordinary is that we no longer have an appetite for the ordinary. And Christians are certainly not immune.
This is why I was so encouraged recently by an article from John de Hoog, lecturer at the Reformed Theological College. I’d like to share part of it with you:
It’s very easy to be dissatisfied with the “ordinary,” with still being “somewhere in the middle.” We live in a day that likes to focus on the extraordinary. Experiences have to be life-changing and edgy, your personal approach to life must be innovative and original, you must take up the latest ground-breaking exercise routine or diet or spiritual practice so that you can take yourself up to a whole new level… There is little room for the ordinary in a day when we must make our mark and leave a legacy.
But God commits his work to ordinary people and commands us to use ordinary means. Ephesians 6 calls upon God’s people to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Ephesians 6:10). Paul goes on to say that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (vs 12). Paul is calling people to spiritual warfare! You might expect such a conflict to issue in a battle cry for the super-spiritual, for highly advanced Christians using exceptional weapons of specialized destruction, spiritual equivalents of laser-directed, rocket-mounted ballistic missiles.
But look at the means Paul urges us to take up. It’s the whole armour of God, but it consists of such ordinary things! Truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, salvation, the word of God, with all prayer and supplication. I say “ordinary things” not in the sense that any of these are worthless and commonplace. Far from it, each one is a precious gift from God. By “ordinary” I mean that each one of these is part of the “ordinary Christian life.” Every single Christian, no matter how young or how mature, can take up these parts of the whole armour of God every day to be involved in God’s purposes. Spiritual warfare is the province of the “ordinary” Christian life. God has done an extraordinary thing. God the Holy Spirit has invaded the life of every single Christian, given us faith in Jesus Christ so that we have received him as the treasure of our lives, and set us in the direction of sanctification.
How extraordinary! Ordinary people have ordinary jobs. But as the Reformers saw so clearly, everyone has a vocation that has dignity and worth in God’s eyes and that can be used to make a gracious difference in the lives of others (that’s the definition of “ministry”). Every Christian can be “full-time” for the Lord no matter what vocation.
How extraordinary! The ordinary Christian church is a community in which ordinary people, using ordinary things like speaking and prayer and music, and meals and visits and gardening tools and dollars, can be about the work through which God pours out his mercy and grace on his people.
How extraordinary! Through ordinary conversations God changes people’s lives and draws them to Christ. The boots of the gospel of peace tread down the serpent (Romans 16:20; think Genesis 3:15) as the gospel frees people from his control. But who wears these boots? Ordinary Christians.
Be encouraged, my extraordinarily ordinary brother or sister.