What are your initial reactions and thoughts when you experience inconvenience?
Granted, you probably would answer, “It depends on what it is and how my day has gone.” While that may be true, feelings of frustration, anger, impatience, and jadedness are all too common when inconvenience becomes an intruder. Just recall how you feel when you are forced to stand in a ridiculously long line while ten other cash registers stand vacant of employees. We all experience inconvenience, and we all respond to it.
As I reflect on unexpected twists and turns to a process that I had blueprinted to go a certain way, I find that my heart condition in the midst those situations is less about God’s kingdom and more about my kingdom. Of course, it doesn’t always seem that dramatic. However, my kingdom surfaces with justifications for my attitude, thoughts, and behaviors; it further compounds with explanation on why I feel stressed or anxious; and it all drives me further from embracing my identity as a purchased son of the Most High. With that said, I want to explore a concept that God has been massaging into me lately.
What if God allows us to be inconvenienced in order to advance his kingdom?
As my family enters yet another season of transition overseas, I have been meditating a lot on this idea of embracing inconvenience. Perhaps learning how to cope with and become more expectant of inconvenience becomes part of the package for those who move abroad, but inconveniences are not limited by geographical locations or cross-cultural experiences. Regardless of where we live, we are confronted with inconvenience. To cope, we tend to craft systems, routines, and procedures to avoid the known inconveniences and tolerate the unforeseeable ones. As followers of Jesus, I think we can do better than avoiding or tolerating inconvenience. I suggest that the mantra of “embracing inconvenience’ has positive dividends for all who call on Jesus as Lord.
The apostle Paul was no stranger to inconvenient moments. In fact, Paul references an extensive resume of inconveniences (2 Cor 11:23-29). Let’s take a look at just one example: imprisonment.
The context of Paul’s Roman chains leads us to consider how Paul didn’t avoid inconvenience, in fact, it seemed that he sprinted into it. Paul declared his decision to travel to Jerusalem, though he realized hardship awaited him (Acts 20:22-24). As predicted, Paul’s travel to Jerusalem led to an intense beating at the hands of the Jews and an arrest by the Romans, followed by a spur of the moment request to address his assailants and proclaim the gospel. Before nearly receiving a second beating at the hands of Roman guards, Paul makes an appeal as a Roman citizen, to which he had previously only used as an after effect (Acts 16:16-40). Paul’s Roman citizenship puts him on an eventful trajectory to Rome followed by a series of trials with Roman leaders. At the conclusion of it all, Paul finds himself on house arrest in Rome for two years. Instead of sulking in prison, Paul leverages this opportunity to compose letters to the churches he planted during his missionary expeditions. You can read Acts 21–28 for the full story.
Where the Kingdom Advances
So, what if God allows us to be inconvenienced in order to advance his kingdom? This becomes even more possible when we think of God’s kingdom advancement including both the heart of the believer and the heart of the unconvinced.
Christians affirm that God’s rule and reign should be central to our lives. Yet to walk in that reality moment-by-moment is challenging. Our personal kingdoms can too easily get in the way of God’s kingdom advancement in our lives. Our flesh-torn perspectives contribute to the battlefield of setting our minds on things of the Spirit (Rom 8:5-6). In addition, society pressures us to adapt to the most efficient, time reducing methods. When our formulated agendas are squashed or altered, negative responses reveal the root of our heart conditions. A paradigm shift of embracing rather than rejecting inconvenience can turn an extra half-hour in traffic into a worship opportunity; it can turn an unexpected hospital stay into a moment of meditation; it can redeem the hundreds of correction moments with our children into God-conscious moments. You see, avoiding or tolerating inconveniences is not the same as embracing them. Embracing inconvenience turns any situation into an opportunity for the gospel to take deeper root in our hearts.
Additionally, by embracing inconvenience you may find yourself on the cusp of a missional opportunity that wouldn’t have been available otherwise. Paul’s life is a testament to this reality. In the midst of being beaten and harassed, he had the awareness to request an opportunity to share the precious gift of the gospel to the people who he could have easily justified as being undeserving. Furthermore, what did Paul, perhaps the most dynamic church planter that has ever walked the planet, do as he was confined to house arrest? He embraced the inconvenience and adopted the posture of an advocate and shepherd. Paul used his imprisonment as an opportunity to write letters that would be circulated for thousands of years. Paul’s kingdom was aligned with God’s kingdom so that believers as well as the unconvinced might know the beauty, worth, and satisfaction of Jesus!
Inconvenient Good Works
God has prepared and established good works for us to walk in (Eph 2:10), and perhaps some of those good works are directly connected to inconveniences and our willingness to embrace the Divine Orchestrator’s preparation. We have a choice when we are faced with inconvenience. We can fight inconvenience and tighten with pride and attempts of control, or we can submit to a lifestyle of walking by the Spirit, especially when that means embracing inconvenience.
The next time you encounter the ugly monster of inconvenience, don’t avoid him, shun him, or tolerate him. Embrace inconvenience and ask yourself, “How can I leverage this moment of inconvenience to advance the gospel in my heart and in the hearts of those around me?"