Jesus in the Marketplace
I’ve experienced some real changes in my life. I grew up on a farm outside of the town of Deer Creek (population: about 100), then attended Oklahoma State University (population: about 20,000). I went from life on a farm to the corporate, cubicle-filled environment where I work as a civil engineer today. Throughout these changes I’ve noticed something: the world doesn’t quite look the same from here in Oklahoma City as it did when I was a child in Deer Creek. And it made me think how the world today does not look at all like what it did when Jesus walked the paths of Galilee.
Both are obvious observations, I know. But this has me thinking how changes in the market place affect how it looks for Jesus to show Himself to the world today, and how some things must stay the same despite the changes.
Different People, Different Parts to Play
For example, I’ve been thinking about how God used some of the characters in the Bible in vastly different ways. Some characters span multiple books and years, some are mentioned only once or twice. But each person is used by God in God’s story. Take Abigail for example. I wasn’t familiar with Abigail’s story (1 Sam 25) until recently—what a story! And what an example of wisdom and grace she was. She kept a king from a grievous sin. And not just any king, but King David, from whom Jesus’ mother descends.
Then there’s Paul, who wrote half of the New Testament and planted much of the 1st century church, and Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, whose work was used to support the church Paul planted in Philippi. These two are fascinating to look at together: Lydia was converted when she received Paul’s presentation of the gospel, and then her home was thought to be one of the primary meeting places of the early Philippian church. In recent years, I have fallen in love with Philippians 1:3-5, where Paul must have had Lydia in mind as he gave thanks for Christian partnership in the gospel. Some believe that the letter to the Philippians would have originally been read to a gathering of believers in Lydia’s home.
I believe that these words in Paul’s opening remarks to the Philippians in Lydia’s home are the very embodiment of what we ought to think about each other in the church:
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
Whatever our circumstances and however God is using us in His story, may we be thankful when we remember each other. May we pray for each other and pray with joy because of our partnership in the gospel.
A Prayer for Gospel Purity
As the world changes and as “our world” changes, the gospel does not change. This has been one of my greatest challenges in being in a corporate American workplace. How can the gospel of Christ connect to the people that we work with? How can we even talk about it when it’s often not welcome? How do we convey that the gospel is Good News to a world that despises what Christians represent? Because of these questions, I pray:
God, please help us, your church. Please give us wisdom. Help us to love as you have loved. Help us to bring Good News, not condemnation. It is not “Good News” that we are sinners before a holy God, but it is such Good News that you have saved us from wrath and that you are sanctifying us through Christ. God, help us not to dilute the Gospel nor change the Gospel. And please bring many more to yourself, to a God that loved His creation so much that He would rather endure His punishment Himself than lose those that He loved. I pray that many would look back at the story and see it in a new light—seeing God’s goodness from the beginning. I pray that we would have answers for the tough questions of the Bible—we are not unaware of them. God, for your namesake, show yourself Good, Great, Glorious, and Gracious. Amen.
Longing for the Promise
God has promised that all nations will be blessed through Jesus. And the knowledge of the glory of God will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. This isn’t a stubborn belief in a conviction that I just won’t let go of. It’s a trust in a story and Person that I have found to be true.
I don’t say this while ignoring all the evil and suffering in the world. I can’t act like it doesn’t exist because I’m not immune to it. My biological family has been shaped irreversibly by the ongoing change that has occurred in my mom, but this doesn’t change God’s promises and His goodness. It does, however, remind me that this world is broken and that we were made for something different. When I begin to think otherwise, it’s not long until I have a phone conversation with my mom and find myself longing tearfully for Christ to return and restore all things.
Our God is aware of all these pains and He is working His story. If we could see it, and taste it, we would know just how great and glorious He is. All things are to Him, and through Him, and in Him all things hold together. And for His name’s sake, He will bless all nations, and His glory will cover the earth.
Be Encouraged and Pray
As I sit in a cubicle writing this, I know that these words are the farthest thing from what most of the modern marketplace thinks. I am painfully aware of this every day. But I know that I am not alone in the marketplace. I have seen God working and I know that He will continue to work. He will work his story that he has planned before I was born—not the story that we would daily plan for ourselves and for our own glory.
So, as you look at Jesus’ life and hold it up next to your daily life, be encouraged by this: while the ways that Jesus did His marketplace miracles in the first century are vastly different than the Holy Spirit’s working today, God is most certainly on the move in the marketplace. And pray this: God, please give me your eyes so that I may see where you are at work; help me to know your will and how I can join you in it.