I’ve had my share of time in big airports. I’m not a big fan of travel, especially when I’m stuck in a car, bus, or plane. However, when I’m in a new place, I’m even more dependent on others’ directions than usual. Major airports may be huge, but the good ones have lots of signs (in multiple languages), pointing me to the right terminal, the right transfer bus stop, and even the correct restroom.
As I go from sign to sign, making my way among roller bags and strollers, sometimes the directions are a little ambiguous or confusing, and my stress level gets even higher. Eventually, I find either another sign confirming that I made the right guess, or I find myself in a back hallway, having taken a wrong turn. (One of my biggest fears is that I’ll walk out through the exit next to a security checkpoint, and find that I have to wait in line and go back through the screening all over again! On the other hand, in Frankfurt, even if you don’t go the wrong way, you’ll still probably get screened again at least once before getting to your gate.)
In our lives, when God does something generous, kind, or miraculous through us, we have a choice. In these opportunities, we get to decide what sort of direction we will give to others. We can:
- Take credit ourselves. This is like a sign pointing to ourselves. Like a “You are Here” sign without a map to provide context, this doesn’t actually help anyone. I’m not saying that we can’t politely accept compliments for doing what God has directed us to do, or in using the talents that He has provided, but pointing back to ourselves for God’s work doesn’t help anyone – not even ourselves – in the long run. (See Acts 12:23 for an example of someone taking this to an extreme, when someone accepted “credit” for supposedly being a god. Paul and Barnabas did just the opposite in Acts 14:14-15.)
- Minimize the results in an attempt at modesty and change the subject. This often feels like a better solution than the first option. Feeling a sense of humility, we downplay God’s work so that we won’t be given credit for His accomplishments. I am tempted to do this often, but – like a sign pointing to nowhere – it sort of wastes an opportunity. There is a better way.
- Take the opportunity to tell people about God’s power, grace, and plan. If, 1) we believe that God is the source of all that we are, have, and can do; and, 2) we want more people to experience that blessing, God’s more dramatic interventions into our lives give us a “teachable moment”.
As Paul wrote:
So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31 NLT
While the third option is often the best solution (if we put on our “church hats”, and pick the answer that we know is right, even if we don’t always feel like taking that path), it definitely takes some courage. It may take some preparation (see 1 Peter 3:15), and it may feel awkward. However, the true miracles in the Bible – or “signs and wonders” -weren’t arbitrary demonstrations of God’s power. They served to prove a point: whether they confirmed the validity of the message spoken by a person (through whom God worked a miracle), or served to demonstrate the nature of God (for the education of those who learned of it). If God steps into your life – or the life of someone around you – in a dramatic way for others to see, don’t let that sign lead to nowhere (or to be ambiguous).
Consider the third chapter of Acts, where God had used Peter and John as the conduit for healing a man who had been unable to walk for decades. Faced with the opportunity to take credit themselves, or to sneak away, Peter and John instead used the chance to tell the people (who were genuinely interested, upon seeing this event) about Jesus.
I like how Peter points out the obvious to the crowd – he and John were clearly not capable of performing a miracle like this on their own. However, remember that they were at the temple, where the worshipers should have known of the numerous miracles that God had performed for His people, the Israelites.
Peter saw his opportunity and addressed the crowd. “People of Israel,” he said, “what is so surprising about this? And why stare at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or godliness?
Acts of the Apostles 3:12 NLT
So, keep your eyes out for God’s work in your life. For those who are paying attention, God’s intersection with our finite world makes an impact that is difficult to ignore. When you have the opportunity to be part of this, be bold and take the opportunity to explain why it happened. It could be at one of those times when people (who would love to see more of God’s work) are ready to listen.
Pray a little prayer before you respond in situations like this, draw on the power and direction of the Holy Spirit within you, and be a sign that points towards the destination that people need to reach: a life spent with God!