The Good Life in the Last Days by Mikey Lynch
Serve God Contentedly
As I sat in the pew, silently praying for one of our link missionaries along with the ex-missionary who was leading from the front, I was feeling fairly peaceful. I was finally coming to terms with the idea that my husband and I were just not called to the mission field or to full-time ministry, and that was ok. It didn’t mean we were second-rate Christians. After all, there are people right here in Sydney who need to hear the gospel, aren’t there? Our own families, to name a few. So God is calling us to stay here and raise our family and work at normal jobs. Fine. Good. The prayer finished, but before she left the front, the ex-missionary suddenly chimed “But you’ll never, never know if you never, never go!” In an instant, all my doubts & insecurities, guilt and discontentedness came flooding back in. I was a second-rate Christian after all!! Not brave enough, not passionate or sacrificial enough. Not really doing anything important.
Now, this sister in Christ had no intention of causing such inner turmoil for me. She probably didn’t think too hard about that line. After all, there are many people groups in the world who desperately need to hear the gospel, and people need to take it to them. The problem wasn’t with her, it was with my baggage! What I am deeply grateful for, in Mikey Lynch’s book, is that he is building such a complex, nuanced picture of the way in which the Christian life is lived out in all our diverse circumstances, and really pushing us to see past simplistic dichotomies to understand how we can embrace this calling in the particular kind of life we have been given. “Fundamentally we are also all living the same Christian life: loving God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength, and loving our neighbour as ourselves; we are simply expressing it in different ways.” These words are balm to my soul!
In Chapter 6, Lynch calls out false guilt for what it is, “pointless and crippling”. But because of the strong work he has done in chapter 5 in pulling together a Theology of Sacrifice which articulates what it really means to be blessed, we can see this false guilt in the context of the very real call not to live for fleeting, worldly desires but to go after the blessing that is really worth having. So we can clearly perceive the difference between guilt that comes from a real inner conviction of our sinfulness, and the guilt that comes from a misplaced perception of what we need to do to be an ‘ideal’ Christian. It was so helpful to focus on ‘realism not idealism’ – to be reminded that God is interested in actual day to day godliness, not in people either being puffed up with pride or incapacitated with self-loathing for failing to fulfil an ambition that was never prescribed by the gospel.
During some very formative years as a Christian, there was a very strong push in Sydney for people to go into full-time ministry. Accordingly, the question we were urged to ask ourselves was not “Should I go into paid ministry?”, but “Is there a reason I shouldn’t go into paid ministry?” This implied that paid ministry was a given, and you basically had to opt-out, rather than opt-in. At the time I imbibed it without question, and am still personally feeling the effects, 20 years down the track. For this reason, I found myself cheering in the section in Chapter 6 which discussed the mentality of ‘letting people off the hook’. I heartily agree with Lynch’s conclusion that ‘the diverse gifts given to God’s people is a good thing that should never be undermined by zealous vision casting that implies there are different classes of Christians.’
Similarly, his section on singleness and marriage was something we all need to hear. It’s great that in recent times we have started to see more literature and conferences which specifically address singleness and encourage Christians in how they can live a single life to the glory of God. Perhaps because most Christians will marry, or perhaps because of a backlash against Catholic priestly celibacy and the association with sexual misconduct, in the past we may have inadvertently put marriage and family life on a pedestal in evangelical circles. I found Lynch’s realism around the difficulties of marriage and the unique advantages of singleness to be very refreshing. Yes, for many people, choosing a single life is making a sacrifice for the sake of the gospel (remember my friend Troy). But no-one can fully understand the turmoil that an unhappy marriage can bring until they’ve been inside one. Even a happy marriage still brings much frustration and limitation, as well as many benefits. Lynch challenges us that, because of our time & place in salvation history, we should re-envision how the ‘single life can be embraced as more ‘normal’ in a whole new way.’
I love that, through all of these discussions, Lynch continually emphasises that there is no right or wrong for many of these decisions. It’s complicated, and each person needs to develop the confidence to work through the complications and make decisions which draw God’s Word together with a realistic knowledge of oneself and one’s motives and limitations. Even then, it’s still difficult. We have such freedom in Christ, and yet - how I wish there was an equation for making right choices in this life!! If that were the case, though, I suppose it would negate the need for a deep trust in the Lord, that whatever He brings us to, he is able to sustain us through it. “I can do all things through Him, who gives me strength.”
I’m only up to the end of Chapter 6, so two more to go! Already this book has spoken so much into my present situation and mindset – especially the idea of contentedness. “The great truth of contentment in our calling is to realize: this is it. Our current circumstances are not an interference in our lives. This is our calling right now. Serve God contentedly in the midst of it.”
Meet Kristen Butchatsky
I am a wife to Pete, a mum of three girls, and a music teacher. I am a long-time member of the wonderful church family St Aidan’s Anglican in Hurstville Grove, having come to Christ through a youth group ministry at age 14. I love singing, reading (obviously!!), walking my dog, Ned and going to see plays, movies and musical theatre.