home > Pastor’s Desk > 2021 > February >  ORDINARY AND NOBLE

ORDINARY AND NOBLE

Anthony (Tony) Robbins is perhaps the best known motivational speaker in the world. One of his catch-cries is “Why live an ordinary life?” Since I assume that he is asking me, I will humbly respond to Mr. Robbins (albeit very belatedly). I wish to put in a good word for the ordinary and feel reasonably qualified to do so. In answering to “Mr. Motivation” I would also like to address all those others who have subscribed to his ideas such as, “You can do anything … You can be who you want to be … Nothing will be too hard to achieve if you just work hard and put your mind to it.” Because I think none of those statements are true. I do not, however, want to be a dream-crusher or sound like I am an advocate for mediocrity. I am not. But I do want to take this time to pastor people to approach life with a sense of reality about what is possible and why this is so. And I suspect in so doing I may be able to help many people who feel like nobodies or even life-failures.

¶ First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior
First Timothy 2:1-3

 

ADJECTIVES BECAME TITLES

You might remember from Primary School that an adjective is a word that ‘describes a person, place, or thing (‘nouns’).’ At some early point in British history, the King decided to use certain adjectives that could have fairly been used to describe any deserving person and ascribe these words to a new class of people – the aristocracy (which adopted another ordinary adjective “peers”). Words such as noble (a good and virtuous person), sir (a man worthy of honour), lady (a woman worthy of honour), earl or duke (a leader of people), became titles that seemed to suggest that only a select few were now worthy of these adjectives.

¶ For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.
First Corinthians 1:26

 

YOU DO NOT NEED A TITLE FROM THE QUEEN

You may never be honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List but that does not mean you cannot live an honourable life! Your parents may not have been of the noble class, but that does not mean that you cannot be a noble person — one who is good and virtuous.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Second Peter 1:5-8

To live a noble life does not mean that you have to do something particularly extraordinary Mr. Robbins. In fact, it seems that history reveals that by far most people who did live a good and virtuous life lived ordinary lives. But when I say ordinary, do think unimportant or even of no consequence. Recently I had a long chat with a lady in our church who told me that after she was married, she spent a deal of time caring for her sickly mother-in-law. She shared how she nursed and cared for her mother-in-law willingly and gladly. She was even there when her mother-in-law died peacefully. After her death, this lady was then, with her husband, charged with the care of our her disabled sister-in-law who had multiple health issues throughout her life. Without complaint, she told me, she tended to her sister-in-law, and cared for her needs. It largely required twenty-four- hour-a-day attention. She battled exhaustion and fatigue for several decades as a result, and even though her sister-in-law’s various medications often effected her demeanour, this lady continued to show patience and care. As I heard her life story, I considered that she had made sacrifice after sacrifice to care for her in-laws. I wondered how many others would have been prepared to enter a marriage involving so many sacrifices. But as she drew her story to a close she stated that all of this was her delight. For her, it was not a sacrifice, it was a privilege. Her life has not been a case-study in national or international political leadership. Her life has not been one decorated by Olympic Gold Medals. Her life has not been honoured by the Nobel Committee. Her name has never featured in Australia Day Honours Awards. She has lived what many might consider to be an ordinary life — a life where you care for those you take responsibility for and show kindness to them even when that kindness is not always returned and must sometimes seem tough. But she has lived a noble life (you may have noticed that I deliberately referred to her as a lady). And truth be told, down through the ages, there have been hundreds of thousands of others who have “given up their lives” to serve others whose names and stories will never be recorded in any history books or be the subject of a major Hollywood movie.

But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.
First Thessalonians 2:7

 

DISCIPLES OF CHRIST ARE NOT CALLED TO CHANGE THE WORLD

What did Jesus train and commission His disciples to do? We might answer that it involved preaching the gospel and making disciples and if we do, I agree. This is what Jesus modelled to them. After Jesus ascended, His disciples eventually left Jerusalem and were led by the Spirit into various parts of the world and from the pages of Scripture, we never hear of them. What we do know from tradition is, with the obvious exception of Judas Iscariot, they were each faithful in fulfilling what Christ had commissioned them to do. And with the exception of John, they were each martyred in doing so. Their stories are largely lost and untold to the usual annuls of the histories of the great. But their stories were never lost or unknown to the One from whom all true honour derives.

I think of the hundreds of thousands of pastors who have never been household names, or achieved international accolades, or whose stories have filled the pages of biographical books, yet have served Christ and His Church faithfully free from scandal. These ordinary pastors are not “losers”.  These ordinary pastors have fulfilled a noble task nobly. Their lives highlight that God does not call each believer to be someone who changed the world; rather, God calls each believer to make a difference in their world — which includes their friends, their family, their church, and their community. 

¶ The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.
First Timothy 3:1

I have been around long enough, and attended more church conferences than I care to count, and I have often seen pastors leave these events feeling inadequate, and as if their ministry was ineffective because some international keynote speaker told them to do something extraordinary. This is sad.

This coming week, I will be conducting the funeral of a young pastor. He never pastored a big church. He never considered himself much of a preacher. He never wrote a book (or read very many either). He was never a featured conference speaker. But he was faithful – and together with his wife they touched the lives of people who once thought their lives had no hope, but found hope and transformation in Christ. 

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Second Timothy 4:7-8

 

MR ROBBINS, HERE’S WHY AN ORDINARY LIFE IS WORTH LIVING

Ambition can be good. Striving for continual improvement can be good. Wanting to be the best can also be good. But these all come at a cost—and often a too high of a cost. God does not necessarily call us to live extraordinary lives (in the sense of achieving fame, fortune, or power). God calls most us to be faithful—a faithfulness that often seems small. We can, however, strive to be the best that God has potentialled us to be. And if, along that journey, we are kind to others, humble instead arrogant, caring instead of indifferent, dependable and reliable, we may indeed run the risk of having others (like Mr. Robbins) think of us as ‘ordinary’ — but I think we should see this as a high compliment indeed when it means that we have lived faithfully to do the ‘little things’ that God has called us to. But in reality we will not just be ordinary, we will have attained the elusive honour (even if the Queen never notices) of being ordinary and noble.

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ … And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25:21, 40

Your pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

5 Comments

  1. Elizabeth Weller

    Thank you so much for your Pastor’s Desk message this week Andrew!
    Often I struggle with the thought that I’m not “doing enough”, not “changing the world” in any way. Your message really struck home – it doesn’t matter that I’m not an overseas missionary or a female Billy Graham. So long as I am living a life that is faithful to God in thought, word and deed and doing this to the very best of my ability, looking to Christ to enable me, this is what the Lord wants for my life and this is what will make an impact on my family, friends and community to lead them to Jesus.
    You are right – living an ordinary life is actually a privilege, so long as we are living it for God!

    Thank you so much, you have lifted a burden from me that I’ve been carrying for quite some time.

    God bless you,
    Elizabeth

    Reply
    • Richard Brunning

      Well said Elizabeth. That’s me too.

      Reply
  2. John Sands

    Encouraging to many

    Reply
  3. Richard Brunning

    Thank you Andrew, that’s mighty good teaching and encouragement. Praise God for the insight he gives you to share with us.

    Reply
  4. Linda Jackson

    This resonated with me too, particularly First Timothy 2:1-3. I often feel I should be doing more with my life. It is encouraging to be reminded that an ‘ordinary’ life is pleasing to God. Thank you for these words Andrew, as ever plenty of wisdom and food for thought.

    Reply

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EVEN THOUGH IT’S UNFATHOMABLE, UNSEARCHABLE, AND UNCOMPREHENSIBLE, YOU STILL NEED IT!

Jesus Christ Himself was the ultimate personification of wisdom (1Cor. 1:24, 30), yet He Himself, when He became incarnate, had to ‘increase’ in wisdom. And chances are that if Jesus had to ‘increase in wisdom’ then so do we! In God’s unfathomable wisdom He permits us to learn how to increase in wisdom by learning from our mistake and failures. Yet, there are times when, as James the brother of Jesus wrote, that God gifts wisdom to His children. This may not be a ‘Matrix type’ of human-software update, but it could come to you in way you did not expect in response to your prayer for God’s wisdom where you have a “light-bulb moment”. And when you experience one of those rarer moments of ‘received’ wisdom (where God gives us wisdom), it might be time to implement some wisdom from the life of Daniel, who, when it happened to him, he gave God the glory for it.

SCARED, SCARRED, SACRED

The gospel offers hope and healing for those who have been violated — those who were once scared (for good reason), and who have been scarred by the hurt they have endured — have found redemption and a sanctuary in the sacred community of God’s redeemed.

ORDINARY AND NOBLE

Ambition can be good. Striving for continual improvement can be good. Wanting to be the best can also be good. But these all come at a cost—and often a too high cost. We can, however, strive to be the best that God has potentialled us to be. And if, along that journey we are kind to others, humble, caring, dependable and reliable, we may run the risk of having others think of us as ‘ordinary’ — a high compliment indeed — but in reality we will not just be ordinary, we will have attained the elusive honour of being ordinary and noble.

NO BONZAI CHRISTIANITY

Bonzai trees are amazing. The Japanese discovered that they could trick a big tree into thinking it was always meant to be a very, very, small tree. They would take a cutting of a maple or oak tree and coax it to form its own roots and then plant it into a very shallow glazed earthenware pot. Each time it developed a shoot they would prune it back appropriately. Once the root system was developed, they would upheave it out of the pot and trim its roots back before repotting it back into its shallow pot. They would then repeat this process over and over and over until the miniature tree resembled its fully mature huge relative — except in miniature form. At some point the bonzai tree becomes convinced that it was always meant to be a miniature tree. Again, I think there is a spiritual parallel to draw from this process of bonzai tree making…

BODY BUILDING

It’s only in the last few years that we have felt the Lord lead us to adopt a theme for the year. Last year, before many of us went into lockdown in our homes, we had felt the Lord put on our hearts the theme, Welcome home. This year, we have felt the Lord lead us to focus on the theme, grow. The word grow conjures up different emotions in me. There was a time, quite early in my pastoral ministry, when it was recommended to me that I engage a ministry coach. It was my desire to do all I could to see our little church at Legana grow. The ministry coach agreed that this should be my focus. It just so happened that at this time I was in the throes of my doctoral studies. 

DECONVERTING FUTILITY

Over the past couple of years there has been several celebrity Christian leaders, including pastors and performing artists, who have walked away from Christ in what they call deconverting. They have offered various reasons for their deconversions, including – How could a good God allow evil and suffering in the world? The Bible cannot be inspired since science has disproven it. Why would God create people just to damn most of them to hell? Christianity is arrogant in claiming it is the only true religion! Sometimes these deconversions take years to come to the surface as these various doubts simmer and brew. Sometimes these deconversions are prompted by a tragedy. My guess is that being a ‘Christian celebrity’ also complicates things because the nature of celebrityness is often marked by social disconnection and loneliness where the opportunity to unburden a soul of its doubts isn’t freely available or welcome. This is why the stories of three Christian celebrities in particular is all the more remarkable.

But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.
John 20:31

DO NOT DESPISE PROPHECY DESPITE 2020

I believe in prophecy and I believe in prophets. But based on what I know from Scripture both are rarer than many would have us believe. I suspect though that there a lot of Christians who used to share my acceptance of the validity of prophecy and prophets — who no longer do due to the events of 2020. One of the many reasons I believe in prophecy and prophets is the teaching of Scripture. I will use one particular two-verse passage to bookend this week’s pastor’s desk to make my case.

Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.
First Thessalonians 5:20-21

THE EASTWARD SPIRIT

THE EASTWARD SPIRIT

THE TRUTH AND LIES ABOUT YOU

Three events have provoked me to consider one of the greatest privileges that God has given each of us. The first was the movie, Wonder Woman 1984, the second The Tasmanian Law Reform Institute’s ‘Conversion Therapy Discussion Paper’, and the third, the rescue of Nigel Fox. 

THE SURPRISING CHARACTERISTICS OF SINLESSNESS

As we consider the marvel of the first Christmas, we consider that Jesus the Christ was born and lived as a sinless man. What we learn reveals to us that ‘normal’ human behaviour may not be sinful.