I Timothy 4:14-16
14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
—Dietrich Bonhoeffer LETTERS AND PAPERS FROM PRISON
“I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world. That, I think, is faith.”
Bonhoeffer’s description of worldliness is not the dismal, possibly even evil, description that would have come to my mind. The world is God’s creation. He has not given up on it. We are His people in the world. How did it happen that “living completely in this world” became a bad thing? Maybe it’s time to rethink just what Jesus’ prayer on our behalf in John 17:15 really means. “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” Isn’t that our clue that we should have the courage to embrace our world absolutely?
Life is all about continuing to discover how to live our life in Christ in the midst of life’s duties, problems, successes and failures. It’s the effort that diligence requires that makes our words begin to take on meaning that actually changes us. That change becomes visible evidence to those around us that something special is happening.
Maybe Bonhoeffer got it right that the world is the place God created where “one learns to have faith.” Paul urges us to “give yourself wholly” and persevere in that effort to get it right. Jesus’ prayer should give us the assurance to throw ourselves unreservedly into HIS kind of faith-building worldliness. May it be so Lord.