“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)
As Jeff says frequently in his sermons, “God loves us enough to meet us where we are, but he also loves us enough to not let us stay there.” He wants to transform not only our eternity, but our lives here on earth. He wants us to experience Him in the full abundance and joy that comes as we grow in wisdom and understanding. He wants to show His glory, through us, to those around us so that all may come to Him.
Daniel 12:3 states, “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.”
So what does this mean for each of us who love the Lord? It means we get to participate in God’s story. We get to learn to let the Lord of Lords be Lord of our lives. We each have the opportunity to be someone He can use to further His purposes. Many times, serving others in ways that are intimidating or unlikely at first glance is one way God makes us shine even brighter for Him. This was true for Richard Schell, a long-time Chase Oaker, as he stepped out of technical and behind-the-scenes volunteer roles into a face-to-face role in the Student Ministry at theWoodbridge Campus.
Richard and his family first visited Chase Oaks Church nine years ago. Their experience was every pastor’s ideal. Their very first Sunday, they were welcomed by a couple who also invited them to their LifeGroup. They immediately felt a bond and became members of that LifeGroup. When the need arose, Richard became the group’s Connection Champion. During his four years in this role, he quickly realized that not all connections happen quite so easily. Richard’s experience as a software developer and process manager gave him the know-how needed to provide Chase Oaks with an online tool that could help those looking for a LifeGroup find one in their area more quickly. As a result, the LifeGroup Locator was created and has made a great difference in the way Chase Oaks is able to provide its attendees ways to connect.
On the surface, this technical type of service for Richard seems like the perfect match for him. Most of us would see that as finding a “sweet spot” or a best fit in our service. Many of us might even stop there and box ourselves into one type of service. But God doesn’t want us to put our light in a box. He wants us to let our lights shine in multiple directions—not just one.
Richard explains that matching his God-given gifts and talents to opportunities of service has been less about the pursuit of a perfect match and more about his willingness to obey God and join His work. Our Christian faith begins when we learn of the gospel of Christ and believe it. We proclaim our belief that Christ died for our sins, conquered death and rose from the dead in order to make a way for us to have a direct and close relationship with God. At that moment, we are equipped with everything we need to live a godly life. A nurtured faith relies on learning God’s Word, prayer, community and worship.
As we engage in all of these in greater measure, we “learn our sinful boundaries and our areas of freedom,” as Richard says. Knowing these helps us discern and willingly make the “next, right, God-honoring, others-focused step” in our faith journey regardless of the role, title or typical expression of that work.
For example, it would have been easy for Richard to pigeonhole himself into other technology-driven areas of service, but through learning to let God express Himself through Richard’s areas of freedom, Richard has been able to experience God in ways he may never have imagined.
When Chase Oaks was preparing to open its Woodbridge Campus, Richard and his wife attended a meeting for those looking to help make Woodbridge a reality. Before the meeting, Richard figured, given his technical abilities, he would help on the Production team in some way. After the large-group presentation and discussion, everyone was asked to choose a ministry area to help. While his wife’s desire to serve Kidzone was affirmed right away, Richard wasn’t quite sure which area to choose. So he didn’t immediately go to the Production tables. Instead, he hung back with others who weren’t sure. As he watched the Production tables become crowded with prospective volunteers, he became concerned, maybe even a little anxious, uncertain what God was up to. However, he was confident God would make it clear.
After all, in Richard’s six years of faithful participation in Bible Study Fellowship, an extensive group Bible study program, God’s Word was illuminated. Adding God’s Word to his involvement with Christian community through a LifeGroup and serving in both professional and volunteer roles, Richard learned there was more than just technical ability at the core of his makeup or God-given design. He had the ability to lead a given effort, especially in a situation that served to fill a void. His “areas of freedom” gave him the assurance that he did not have to already know how to do every aspect of the opportunity at hand, as long as he could identify some core aspects that matched his abilities. He learned that any opportunity to serve is not about the individual doing the service, but about what God is doing and the needs at hand. He learned to wait for God to show him the void He had for him to fill.
As Richard shares, “Faith in action does what it did not once do.”
So it became no surprise to him that God would present a void in a new area of service. As Richard watched volunteers crowd the tables of other ministry areas, he saw two large tables pushed together with just four people at them. He saw the void. He saw need. He found himself willing to make the next, right, God-honoring, others-focused step. He walked over and sat down at those almost empty tables.
Richard may never have expected to be a Student Ministry Group Leader, but God had equipped him with the core abilities of the role. He saw potential and stepped into it. Since then, he has learned that he is very capable, even gifted, in making biblical principles understood in an approachable way.
Richard is thankful for any discussion and engagement that comes from the youth he leads. He also experiences moments of joy when the light of understanding shines bright in a young person’s eyes. That joy multiplies the hope that Richard holds onto as he takes the long-term view regarding his interaction with his charges, hoping that one day, one thing he said will illuminate God’s truth when they need it. That hope is worth all of the extra effort it takes, at times, to do the parts of this role that may not be quite as easy.
That is the beauty of willing obedience—there is always joy to be found that will hold up hope. May we trust that God knows what He’s up to even when we are not sure of a best fit and that we too will find joy in our next, right, God-honoring, and others-focused step of faith.