The Mission of Dwelling
Christians live their daily, normal lives going to work and raising up children, unlike ministers and missionaries who preach from the pulpit or go out on missions. Can such ordinary living bring others to know Christ? The answer is a resounding yes. In fact, the number of people who come to Christ because of their Christian neighbors and friends far exceed those who believe as a result of ministers and evangelists. The majority of believers came to know the Lord not through ministers and missionaries, but because of Christians who lived among them and befriended them. The Christian who lives among the people is the most effective channel of the gospel.
The Bible emphasizes the importance of “dwelling”. The Lord dwelt among men: “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” (Exodus 25:8) Jesus dwelt among men: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) The apostles dwelt among men: “So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.” (Acts 10:48) Paul and Barnabas lived in Antioch for a year, and others started to call them Christians. “So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” (Acts 11:26) Someone asked Jesus where he was staying, and he replied “Come and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. (John 1:39)
Brothers and sisters, do not underestimate the power of “dwelling”. Living among the people gives us the opportunity to make friends and build deeper relationships. The disciples were with Jesus every day for three years. They listened to his teaching and saw him in action daily, and their relationship with him grew stronger by the day. Paul lived in Ephesus for three years, and the disciples were greatly built up in their faith as a result (Acts 20:31-35). Superficial greetings and shallow acquaintances do not give us the opportunity to share the gospel. If we don’t dwell among the people, it will be tough for them to know our God. If we live among them and build relationships with them, then they will have the opportunity to know our God.
“Dwelling” is in itself a mission. “Dwelling among the people” is the mission in action. We are not living in Los Angeles awaiting the mission from God, rather, we are living in Los Angeles carrying out our mission from God. Brothers and sisters, do not underestimate what God can do through your daily life. God wants to use your life to display His glory. Just like Elijah, whom God sent to live in Sidon, God has also sent you to live in the place where you currently reside. God wants to use your seemingly ordinary life to showcase His extraordinary ways.
Bread and Oil
When Elijah lived in Sidon, “the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry”, and others came to know his God because of this. If Elijah had merely lived there without “flour and oil”, others would not have known about his God. In the same way, if we just live here without “flour and oil”, others will not know our God. So what is this “flour and oil”?
The flour and oil were the Lord’s supply in a land of famine, just like the manna in the desert. Jesus once used manna as an example to teach about the “true bread from heaven”. He said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:31-35) Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus is the bread of life, and our “flour and oil” is the Lord Jesus Himself!
The bread of life is not religion, but Jesus. Not Christianity, but Christ. Christians are people who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, not an affiliation with the Christian religion. Having faith in a religion does not give life, only Jesus gives life. Religion is dead, but God is living, and the living God dwells among those who believe in Him. The Israelites held on to a religion, but God was not with them. God was only with Elijah. Israel went through years of drought and famine, yet Elijah was supplied with flour and oil. It is the same with Christians. Those who have Jesus receive their supply from the bread of life, but those without Jesus will face the famine of life.
By faith, we trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and our lives are connected to His. When we listen to the word of the Lord and obey His teachings, the Lord is with us (Matthew 28:20). The Lord reveals Himself through our daily lives. This is not to say that we will be perfect and without blemish like Jesus. We will be like those around us, weak in our human nature, but we will be supplied with strength to overcome our human weakness. Others may envy us because we will be able to accomplish some things that ordinary people cannot. They are envious not because we are any better than them. Rather, it is because we are clearly just as weak as them, living in the same circumstances as them, and yet we are able to live better.
Evangelism is not just by words, but also by living. When you are living better than others, others will want to listen to you. If you are living in the same way as others, nobody will listen to you. When food is scarce in the whole land, yet you have flour and oil, others will want to know your God. If you are also starving and without food, who will want to know your God? When we trust in Christ as our Lord, His word remains in us (John 15:7), and we are able to bear much fruit, to be set apart from others. The word of God transforms our former ways of thinking. Our old ways of thinking were dictated by the world, and was in tune with the world, but contradictory to the Lord’s teachings. After we come to know Christ, we pour the new wine into new wineskins, and fill our new lives with the Lord’s teachings (Matthew 9:17), which enables us to live our new lives powerfully. Such power living displays the goodness of the Lord, and attracts the envy of those around us.
- People in today’s world are always busy, tired, and worried about many things. They desire rest. Christians have rest. (Matthew 11:28)
- People in today’s world are insincere and manipulative, yet they desire authenticity. They used to think that honesty and sincerity no longer existed, but among Christians, they finally found what they had long sought after.
- People in today’s world pursue success and worship wealth, but lack self-validation. They look down on those they think are lesser than them, but found that they are also looked down upon by others. They seek to be validated. Christians have found such validation. For in God’s house, even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself. (Psalm 84:3)
- People in today’s world drift along without firm convictions. To them, everything is relative and there is no absolute truth. They are proud of their “knowledge”, yet holding on to such “knowledge” causes them to tire as time passes. They desire stability and find that Christians who believe in absolute truth have such stability. (John 14:6)
- Today’s society is deeply divided. There is racial discrimination. There are barriers between people. There are dividing walls of hostility. People desire to live in harmony with one another. Christians accept one another, and live in peace with each other. (Ephesians 2:14; Romans 15:7)
- Today’s society has a deep rift between the rich and the poor. The rich become richer, and the poor become poorer. The strong are rewarded, while the weak are struck down. When the weak become strong, they in turn strike down the weak, because that was how they were treated when they were weak. When the poor become rich, they in turn exploit the poor, because that was how they were treated when they were poor. People desire not to be exploited and discriminated against. Among Christians, they find righteousness, kindness, and respect.
The power of ordinary living:
- God wants us to dwell among the people, to live an ordinary life powerfully, so as to display His goodness.
- Jesus is the bread of life, and our source of strength. He is what makes our lives attractive to others.