Here I am, a teacher, 10 days into my summer vacation, and bored to death. Sure, there’s plenty that needs doing around our second story apartment. I could work on laundry, vacuum, or organize files, but that isn’t TEACHING. Maybe I just like to talk, maybe I just like to be listened to, but I feel that this void in my day won’t be satisfied until I’m attempting to communicate a basic biological concept to a large group of “selfie”- taking, message-sending, FlappyBird- playing teenagers.
Yes, a few of them are thinking about snogging someone in the hallway after class and haven’t REALLY heard a word of my lesson. Yes, several of them are trying to sleep. And, yes, MOST of them are texting behind their books and under their desks. Some of them mutter rude things about me under their breath. Some will storm out of the room exclaiming that my class is “Stupid and pointless.”
But… if there’s one kid… Just ONE student who truly cares about the subject at hand and has been impacted by the day’s lesson on taxonomy, then it has all been worthwhile. Of course, the Board of Education would disagree. They’d wag their fingers at me and administer a verbal lashing about 100% proficiency, test preparedness, and college readiness. At the end of the day, however, even they must realize that not all students will be reached. Some simply refuse to care, refuse to listen, and refuse to learn. Even more common are the students who enjoy the lesson but refuse to be told what to do in their time outside of class, for example, study.
As I was sitting around in my pajamas this morning, wondering what to fill my day with, I was reminded that my purpose as a Christian is much greater than my role as a science teacher, though the mission field resembles a high school classroom in many ways (Matthew 28: 19-20). From a different angle, Christians have a lot in common with high school students when it comes to hearing and obeying instruction from God.
Since humans debuted in the Garden of Eden, we’ve been the problem kid in the class, specifically doing that thing we were told not to do (Genesis 3: 6). In those days, God found many ways to communicate with us, whether it was a booming voice from the sky (Matthew 3:17), a dream (Genesis 37), a burning bush (Exodus 3), or writing on a wall (Daniel 5). He elected prophet after prophet, presented sign after sign. Yet, the Old and New Testaments are full of examples of God’s kids doing exactly the opposite of what He told them. There are numerous examples of God’s kids not taking His advice and not heeding His warnings.
Today, we have a book – A divine, holy book in which these verbal and non-verbal God to human exchanges have been documented, and yet, we stray. Like an ornery high school student, we shoot that paper wad even after being told to throw it away. We sit in class and listen, but then don’t do our homework. Our eyes glaze over during lecture and we daydream about making out with our crush in the hallway after school.
As adults, I think it’s safe to say that we have many more distractions in our lives than a high school student during finals. Sure, we have phones, and games, and computers, but what probably dominates MOST of our time is worry.
“Have I paid all of my bills this month?”
“How will I find a sitter for tomorrow afternoon?”
“Should I take this job six hours away from family?”
“What if I can’t take care of mom’s medical needs on my own?”
God now has to break through our seemingly impenetrable technological, cultural, and emotional walls and speak over political activists, TV ads, radio stations, and self-doubt.
As a teacher, there have been innumerable instances in which it would have been SO much easier to walk out of my classroom and call it quits for the day, as opposed to expending all of my energy and enthusiasm teaching what should be an “engaging” lesson to a group of apathetic, ungrateful kids.
How must our local missionaries and ministers feel about us? Does your preacher look out from his pulpit on Sunday mornings at a dead-eyed congregation and think “It’d be easier to give up”? Do the missionaries with the prison outreach program feel like quitting when their message is received as a joke and their warnings are not heeded? Unfortunately, I imagine the thoughts have crossed their minds, as it occasionally does in mine. The thing that keeps the tired teacher going is the same thing that motivates these folks to press on – the idea that if there is even one…. Even one individual who really hears my message, then my efforts have not been wasted.
The fact of the matter is, sometimes, we do give up. We do quit. We lay down our divine purpose for the same reason that a high school student pulls out his cell phone during a lecture. The human race is flawed and sinful. We will never obtain perfection. We know this. God knows this.
Will He give up on us?
No. The same God who brought the Israelites out of slavery, across the desert, and eventually, into the Promised Land, is the same God who governs us today. The God who sacrificed His son for the salvation of the people He loves, is the God who is watching over us. The God who gave us the Holy Spirit for conviction, teaching, and correction, is the God who is guiding us.
My goal in writing this was not to shine light on our childhood idiocies and shortcomings as God’s kids, but to, hopefully, renew and enhance your gratitude for our persistent, unrelenting, and patient God. I hope it will encourage you to keep pressing on toward your divine purpose as a follower of Christ (Mark 16:15).
The Bible says, “If someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins” (James 5:20, New Living Translation).
Now, I don’t want to focus on the debatable aspects of this verse as far as salvation is concerned. I think we would all agree that this verse encompasses the mission of every Christian, which is to save lost souls. What I want to point out from this passage is that James does not say, “You must convert every person you speak to.” He does not say, “You must bring a minimum of 10 sinners back.” James is clearly referring to “A sinner.” Now, does this mean that after one successful evangelical experience we should pack up our bags and call it a day? No! This is a lifelong process.
In many cases, the person sharing the gospel and planting “the seed” will never find out if that person they spoke with ever repented and started following Christ. Likewise, I can tell a student over and over that ATP is the energy currency of our cells and that it is produced in mitochondria. I can have the student write it 100 times on paper, recite it in front of his friends, type an essay on the concept. When the test comes, he may still miss the question. However, in 3 years, when that student is taking intro biology at a university, the light bulb might turn on and he’ll wonder why he didn’t grasp this concept long ago.
Do your job as a follower of Christ. Plant seeds, spread the gospel. You never know what impact you will have on a person. Let your purpose drive you and let the thought of just one soul be your motivation.
You never know who is listening and who is watching. That kid in the back of the classroom who appears to be sleeping may actually be absorbing your words into his brain like a sponge. He may mull them over for the days to come. He may pass the test.
“Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.” – 2 Timothy 4:2-5 (NLT)