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September 28, 2018Evangelism & Discipleship

Why Our Spiritual Formation Isn’t Just for Us

As we reflect and discover our Story of Now, we recognize the message of love and hope that God has given us to share with others.
Why Our Spiritual Formation Isn’t Just for Us
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Imagine if you were talking with someone and having a normal conversation. As you’re sharing about a difficult project at work, or a conflict you’ve had with a friend, that person suddenly recites a quote from Shakespeare: “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not seek revenge?”

You’d struggle to see how a Shakespeare quote made any sense to the conversation. It would seem as though that person were trying to take the conversation in an unnatural direction. Even if the friend had told you that he was once a theater major and loved the works of Shakespeare, it would still seem awkward.

When it comes to sharing Jesus, many Christians feel like what they have to say is about as relevant as an awkwardly-recited Shakespeare quote spoken unnaturally during a conversation.

Most Christians have seen models of sharing Jesus that feel like scripts to rush through rather than a conversation with a friend about what it looks like to follow Jesus daily. But what if talking about Jesus moved beyond scripts and stories about his presence in our lives and was instead woven into our normal conversations?

All of our stories begin with Jesus.

When we cross from spiritual death to spiritual life our chapters play out like a full-length feature film that all leads back to him. Yet it’s in the daily grind where we can tell our Story of Now with people far from God. We share snapshots of what life with Jesus looks like.

Imagine if you weren’t a Christian and all of your friends were sharing snapshots of Jesus in their everyday lives. They would begin to see a diverse and personal picture of Jesus in the real lives of their friends.

In John 1, we see a compelling picture of what it looks like to invite friends to come and see Jesus for themselves. It is significant that each man has a different interaction with Jesus and each man describes him differently to their friends.

Andrew sees that Jesus is the healer who could take away the sin of the world.

Peter sees that Jesus has power to give a new name and new identity.

Nathaniel sees Jesus as the Son of God who could peer into his soul.

The men have reflected on who Jesus is to them; they have seen how he meets them in their questions, longings, and doubts.They are bringing their little piece of a story to help their friends see a bigger picture of Jesus in the mosaic.

If we can’t see or describe where Jesus has been at work in our own lives, how can we invite others to come and see him?

If you had to describe Jesus to someone today, who would you say he is? Where is he showing up your life in unique ways that speak to your heart? When we want to introduce someone to a friend, we say something like, “This is Ericka. She is a dentist, but is also a fantastic painter. She always encourages me when I’ve had a rough day.”

This is two sentences! But you know enough about Ericka to be intrigued to ask her questions and get to know her for yourself.

When we know who Jesus is to us, we can introduce others to him. As we reflect and discover our Story of Now, we recognize the message of love and hope that God has given us to share with others. It’s these stories that help us connect with hurting people in our broken world.

Our reflection on where Jesus has been in our own lives should birth connections as Jesus fills our hearts with love for him and for others. We move from “Where is Jesus with me?” to “To where is Jesus with me and the people around me?”

Reflection played a significant part in Jewish culture and in the lives of the men in 1 John. It was built into their lives through practicing Sabbath, temple teaching, and praying through the psalms of David, where they saw an example of someone who laid his life bare before God. David’s psalms gave the disciples permission to be vulnerable before God—to be angry, depressed, joyful, and to not hold back before him or with other people.

When I was doing research for my book Beautiful Feet: Unleashing Women to Everyday Witness, I was curious to learn more about the power of our stories to enact transformation in the lives of others.

Even secular authors point to what Jesus models throughout Scripture. In their book The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future, authors John Gerzema and Michale D’Antonio write that “vulnerability today is the most important agent of change management.”

If people far from God aren’t hearing about how Jesus is meeting us in our places of vulnerability, then they aren’t seeing what following Jesus could look like in their own brokenness.

Connecting with others means we need to pause, listen, and empathize.

Jesus did this throughout Scripture. He stopped and listened to the woman at the well and saw her in her places of pain and vulnerability. But he also came to her vulnerable, asking for a drink because he was thirsty.

The night before he was crucified, he asked the disciples, “Please, stay up with me to pray. I’m going through some of the worst moments of my life.” As we reflect on our places of weakness, we see more of Jesus and who he desires to be in the lives of others.

When we’re brave enough to go first to tell others “I am in pain, but Jesus is there with me,” it helps others to come and see that Jesus can be there with them too in a real and personal way.

People far from God are longing for hope, waiting for someone to stop and see them and acknowledge their suffering. As we interact with friends and neighbors we hear things like:

  • “I’m struggling because I just found out my dad has cancer.”
  • “I’m feeling a little raw because I got in a fight with my husband and we’re still working through things.”
  • “Someone made a racist comment to me yesterday and I’m feeling really angry.”

Spiritual formation is never just meant for our own edification; it’s meant to help us to reflect on the power of Jesus in every area of life so that we would know that he is present and real.

When he shows up, his light casts out the darkness. He shapes our hearts so that we can connect with people around us who need hope, power, and a God who loves them no matter who they are or what they’ve done.

Our quiet times, worship, and prayers aren’t simply for us. They are the places where we find the Stories of Now how Jesus is changing us. They are the stories of hope that help us invite others to see that there is a Savior who while we were still sinners, died for us.

Jessica Leep Fick innovates new training and outreach tools for women to share the gospel globally as the evangelism resources director for Stonecroft Ministries. She is the author of Beautiful Feet: Unleashing Women to Everyday Witness and co-host of the Ears to Speak podcast. She lives in Kansas City with her husband and two sons where they kayak, build elaborate Lego creations, and eat delicious BBQ together.

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Why Our Spiritual Formation Isn’t Just for Us