11 Ways to Discover the Extraordinary Power of Being Ordinary
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2014 29 Oct
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Michael Horton’s new book Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014).
Whenever you can do something big to serve God or go on a radical adventure with him, you likely feel important. Such extraordinary experiences seem to validate the fact that your life really matters.
But what about life’s ordinary moments, which happen much more often? The mundane routine of living day to day may seem like nothing special because it doesn’t feel exciting. But it’s in the midst of the ordinary that God grows you most powerfully into the person he wants you to become.
The ordinary becomes extraordinary when you approach it with faith, inviting God to work through you in every moment you live for him. Here’s how you can do so:
Accept the circumstances into which God has placed you. Recognize that God has called you to do what’s right in every situation you face, and when you do your best to live faithfully in all circumstances, your life makes a significant impact over time in God’s kingdom. If God calls you to do something adventurous like building wells in Africa on a mission trip, go do so. But realize that the ordinary ways God calls you to respond with faith – such as working diligently to earn money for your family, helping your children learn something new, doing errands and household chores, praying for your neighbors, and participating in a local church community – are just as significant as the more adventurous opportunities to serve. Realize that what matters most to God isn’t what you’re doing, but how you’re doing it. Be encouraged that whenever you do anything at all with faithful love for God and the people he has made, God is using your life to accomplish important purposes. Be willing to say “yes” to God wherever he has placed you.
Realize that ordinary doesn’t mean mediocre. God’s call to embrace the ordinary aspects of life doesn’t involve settling for mediocrity by doing less. It actually means doing more, with excellence, but investing in things that you’re tempted to give up on when you don’t seen an immediate return on your investment. Far from giving up your God-given passion, embracing the ordinary means tapping into that passion to foster deeper growth in grace, more effective outreach, and a more sustainable vision of loving service to others over the course of your lifetime.
Check your motivations. Reflect on what’s really motivating you to spend your time and energy engaging in spiritual disciplines and serving people in need. Are you pursuing these noble activities because they make you feel important and radical – or because you want to express your love for God through them? If you discover that you’re motivated by a desire to justify yourself through your activities, you won’t be satisfied with what’s ordinary, even though God is working through ordinary moments in your life. Confess any misguided motivations you have, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you focus simply on pleasing God.
Grow in maturity through time and community. As you mature spiritually, you’ll develop a greater appreciation for how God works through the ordinary moments of your life. Time and community are two key elements that God uses to help you grow: committing time to your activities long term without getting restless and giving up on them prematurely, and submitting to the accountability and encouragement of other believers in a local church community.
Shift your focus from extraordinary breakthroughs to ordinary disciplines. Rather than expecting that you have to wait for some kind of next big thing to see God at work powerfully in your life, expect God to show up powerfully as you engage faithfully in ordinary spiritual disciplines (like prayer and Bible reading). Deal wisely with your church’s ordinary traditions by refusing to idolize or ignore them; instead, respect them but evaluate whether or not they’re still truly meaningful for you – if so, practice them to draw closer to God.
Trade selfish ambition for a passionate drive. Let go of ambition to build yourself up by doing good work in attention-grabbing ways. Instead, focus on passionately using the talents God has given you to help meet the needs you care about the most in the world through ordinary work, which will maximize your impact over time.
Aim to be a servant, not a star. Don’t worry about trying to gain recognition for your personal talents in ministry (such as your engaging speaking skills or charismatic leadership). Instead, focus on faithfully serving people throughout life’s many ordinary moments – as Jesus himself did, during his time on Earth.
Develop contentment. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you learn to notice and be content with the ways that God is constantly working through your ordinary efforts to live faithfully day by day. Recognize that your calling isn’t really your own, but God’s power at work in your efforts, as you cooperate with him and help fulfill his redemptive purposes in the world.
Become an ordinary hero. While God may sometimes call you to do remarkable acts of heroism, most often God will use your faithful efforts doing your daily work to make a significantly positive impact on others around you. By simply being faithful to the work God gives you to do each day, you can become just as much of a hero as you could be by doing something dramatic.
Practice spiritual gardening. The way people grow spiritually is like how plants grow in a garden. Rather than expecting fast and dramatic spiritual growth in yourself and other people (which is unrealistic), be patient and diligently work toward slow and steady growth. As you personally engage in spiritual disciplines and keep loving and serving others, God will bring about beautiful growth in all of your lives over time.
Focus on people rather than causes and projects. Although God does urge you to support causes and projects, his main concern is how well you love and serve people in the process of working on those efforts. Don’t let yourself get stuck daydreaming about ambitious causes and projects in the abstract, without actually following up on your ideas. Instead, get to work serving the real and specific people whom you encounter on a daily basis. As you keep dying to yourself and inviting God to work through you, you’ll do extraordinary work in ordinary ways.
Adapted from Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World, copyright 2014 by Michael S. Horton. Published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.zondervan.com.
Michael Horton is the author of more than 30 books and is a professor at Westminster Seminary California. He also hosts the White House Inn broadcast/podcast, and is editor of Modern Reformation magazine.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. She produced a site about angels and miracles for About.com. Now she writes about the power of thoughts on her “Renewing Your Mind” blog.
Publication date: October 29, 2014