“Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.” (2 Corinthians 11:23)
It’s that time of year when I begin to get a lot of requests to be a reference for resumes. Students ocmign home from college looking for summer jobs. Or High schoolers doing the same thing. I’ve filled out several references for people as they’ve applied to get into some sort of higher education. Or for those going on mission trips as they have background checks completed.
And I’m almost always happy to do so, as long as I know the person. It’s nice to be able to share something positive about someone. It’s an honor to be asked, when you consider all of the people they know. And it’s a good feeling, knowing that what you do may help set the course of someone’s future.
I don’t know that I’ve ever turned down anyone’s request. There are times when I suggest there might be some people who know them better, but if they insist I will always do something to the best of my knowledge and ability. I always try to be honest and not pad their resume if at all possible.
Recently, I began thinking about our spiritual resume. If someone asked you to prove your faith in Christ, what would you put down? What proof do you have that Jesus has made any difference in your life? Who would be on your reference form?
There are several things we could put down, I suppose. The day we accepted Christ at a youth camp, or in church. We could point out the regular attendance we have in worship. The Bible studies, or Sunday School classes we attended. We could point out the percentage of Christian music we listen to against the rest of our favorite music. We might point out the nice collection of devotionals we’ve acquired over the years. The local and international mission trips. We might note the lack of dust on our Bibles. The several clever Christian t shirts we have. The daily meme we put up on social media that have to do with faith and encouragement. We might even point out that magnetic fish we put on the back of the car, which has witnessed to thousands of people one road ways. We could point out we’ve never failed to get our minister a nice gift during Clergy appreciation month (It’s October, by the way).
As far as our references go we could list our pastors, Our youth minister, that dear Saint of a Sunday School teacher we had when we were in fifth grade. I don’t know about you, but if my fifth grade Sunday School teacher wasn’t qualified for sainthood before, she certainly was by the time I got through her class. The list goes on and on. What would your resume look like?
In 2 Corinthians, Paul begins to put together his spiritual resume. It seems some people have come to the church in Corinth and are offering a watered down version of the Gospel. Perhaps not even presenting the Gospel at all. And to counteract this Paul shares his resume and why they should trust him.
But he doesn’t list all of his accomplishments. He doesn’t mention the many churches he has planted. He doesn’t cite his intellect or his widely acknowledged leadership in the church. Instead of drawing attention to what he has done, he focuses their attention on what he has experienced. Paul talks about the times he has suffered for the gospel. The times he has been in prison, the times he has been beaten, shipwrecked and bitten by snakes.
As far as his references, we see no mention of Peter, James or John. Instead Paul talks about his enemies, those who wished him harm, who did hurt him. Paul talks about how he returned love and race to those who harmed him.
When asked to prove his path, Paul says, “You want to know if my faith is real, don’t look at what I’ve done, but look at how Christ has shined through my life during times of adversity. If you want to know if my faith is real, don’t ask my friends. Ask my enemies if they saw Jesus in me.”
Our true witness to the reality of our faith never comes out of our accomplishments. The witness to the truth of our faith comes out of our experiences and how we allow Christ to shine through us. Our references to the truth of our faith never come from our friends, but from those who oppose us. What do they say about us?
Look, “doing” is great. Don’t stop all the things you do to grow in your faith. Just don’t forget that in the end, it’s the life you live that will speak volumes about your faith, but good and bad. Its the people who oppose you who may have the greatest word of truth about who you are when they see Christ in you.
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><