Church

Shaped by Faithfulness

Shaped by Faithfulness // Leslie Ann Jones

Last week on Instagram, I posted a quote from Katie Davis Majors' new book Daring to Hope (releases Oct. 3), and I just can't seem to stop thinking about it.

"Surely, faithfulness is not a one-time act, not a decision or a destination, not something to eventually be attained. Faithfulness is what we repeatedly do. It is a habit formed of long, hard obedience in the quiet. Faithfulness is dropping milk through a syringe for hours into a mouth that could barely swallow in the middle of the night. Faithfulness is pursuing that resistant teenager again (and again and again) even though she yells and hurls ugly words. Faithfulness is in chopping carrots and folding laundry and all the things that go unseen and unnoticed. Faithfulness is in a million tiny decisions and a million small surrenderings—submitting with a simple, 'yes, Lord,'—that create a lifetime of obedience in the extraordinary and in the mundane...⠀

...Faithfulness is what we repeatedly do, whether or not we are seeing the results. Faithfulness is when we repeatedly pour into hard people, when we continue to serve in hard situations, when we intentionally choose to lean into Him in our difficulties as well as our joys. Faithfulness is a habit formed in our hearts when no one is looking, when the day is done and the stars creep out and our call isn't easy, but we don't turn away.⠀

And ultimately, faithfulness is truly and fully found in the One who pursues us though we thrash against Him, who sits with us as we wait in the silence, who fulfills all His promises with a Yes and Amen in life everlasting."

—Katie Davis Majors, Daring to Hope

As I mull over Katie's words and consider how very unfaithful I can be at times, I'm learning that faithfulness is hard because it's a long-haul kind of process. We don't always see the results immediately, and the rewards aren't always tangible.

But that doesn't mean it's not worth it.

It's the faithfulness itself that shapes us. The repeated action that becomes a habit that becomes a way of life. Before we know it, that thing that we've been doing every day is part of us, and we are different because of it.

When it comes to Bible study and prayer and church, we may not feel warm and fuzzy, or anything at all for that matter, in the moment. We may not always experience a spiritual high, gain a life-altering insight, or feel especially close to God. But He is there, nevertheless, using our attempts at faithfulness to make us more like Him day by day. He is, after all, as faithful as it gets.

As we come, morning by morning opening the Word and sitting for just a few minutes in the stillness, Truth sinks in. It becomes the background music in the soundtrack of our lives, and it comes to mind throughout the day—as we wash dishes or drive to yet another soccer practice—and in that simple way, we are transformed. It's not exciting. It's not flashy. But it's good.

For the past month or so, I've been faithfully washing one load of laundry each morning. The girls get on the bus. I finish my first cup of coffee. Sometimes I pray, but, let's be real here, sometimes I just catch up on Instagram. Either way, when the coffee is finished, I get up, collect the previous day's clothes, and toss them in the wash before I head to the office with my second cup of coffee, Bible, and journal. When the clothes are all done, I fold them and put them away (well, usually, anyway), and that's it.

I'm not even kidding when I say that it has changed my life.

I used to spend weekends buried beneath mountains of laundry. It always seemed like a daunting task because there was just so much of it to tackle at one time. But when I do a little bit every day, it only takes a few minutes, and I actually enjoy the process. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment and makes me feel that even if nothing else gets done for the day, I've at least accomplished this one small thing. It's not exciting. It's not flashy. But it's good.

It's the same way with matters of faith. When we go for a long time without opening our Bibles or spending time in prayer or going to church, it becomes a thing. The longer we stay out of it, the harder it is to get back into it.

We think we need to somehow make up for the time we've lost or that we have to have the perfect conditions (a quiet house, worship music playing softly in the background, candle flickering gently nearby) to come near once more. But because we're busy and life is crazy, that perfect moment never comes. We put it off and put it off and put it off just like I used to put off the laundry. And it never gets done.

We can be so silly sometimes.

You don't have to have a perfect moment to return to the Lord. It's as effortless as letting your eyes drift shut and whispering a prayer. It's as easy as opening your Bible and quietly allowing it sink in to do its work. It's as simple as getting in the car and driving to church on Sunday morning. And then doing it again, and again, and again until it becomes second nature. We're shaped by faithfulness. It's not exciting. It's not flashy. But it's good.

Faithfulness is a choice that we repeatedly make. It's not a one and done kind of thing. It's choosing day by day, moment by moment, to do what's best, even when we don't feel like it. It requires tending. It must be cultivated and babied and nurtured. But if you keep at it long enough, it will grow stronger, and it will end up changing you into the person that God intended for you to be all along.

And the best part is that when we choose faithfulness, we show the world what God is like. He gets all the glory. And that's what it's all about.

My prayer today is that the Lord would cultivate a spirit of faithfulness in us. That He would grant us grace in our endeavors and that at the end of our days, He would find us faithful.

Until next time, grace and peace.


Win a Copy of Daring to Hope


I'm giving away a copy of Katie's book on Instagram! Daring to Hope is a sweet, sweet message of choosing hope and practicing faithfulness when life doesn't go the way you planned and God doesn't answer prayers the way you expected. It was good for my heart, and I'm certain it would be good for yours as well. You NEED to read this book. Click through to enter. Good luck!


Producers of Praise, Wanderers of Wonder

"The chief aim of worship is that we be caught up in love, in wonder, and praise of God and finally for a moment forget about ourselves and our trials and our worries and focus on God himself." Ben Witherington III (via leslieannjones.com)

One of the best parts of seminary is sitting under the teaching of world-renowned biblical scholars. It's what I miss the most about my days at Beeson. As a busy mom, I'm incredibly thankful for churches and ministries that provide sermons and lectures online. I spend a lot of time in the car, shuttling the girls around town, and in an effort to redeem some of that time, I've started listening to podcasts while I drive. 

Last week, I planned to run some errands after preschool dropoff, so before I left the school, I pulled up a 30-minute chapel sermon to listen to along the way. It was a sermon about worship from New Testament scholar Ben Witherington III. He shared a story about a little old lady in his home church who could hardly see or hear but persisted in coming to worship anyway. When someone asked her why she continued to come, despite her physical limitations, she had a ready answer.

Y'all.

Her words had tears welling up in my eyes. I sat in the parking lot of Home Depot watching people load up with mulch and gardening tools, and I was completely transfixed by the message coming out of my speakers.

"I'm not here for what I can get out of the service, but what I came to give: my worship to my Lord...I come to worship prepared to give worship though I don't get as much as I used to in that hour."

Witherington goes on to say that when we come to worship looking to get something rather than give something, we're missing the point. We are not consumers of worship. We're producers of it. 

"The chief aim of worship," Witherington says, "is that we be caught up in love, in wonder, and praise of God and finally for a moment forget about ourselves and our trials and our worries and focus on God himself."

I need that. Do you?

I've written before about why we should go to church even when don't feel like it, and this sermon gets right to the heart of it. Church is not about us. It's about God. When I come to church, I come to give time, attention, honor, and glory to the one who has rescued and redeemed me.

When I turn my eyes to him and gaze full on at his glory, everything else seems a bit less urgent and pressing. It's relief. It's surrender. It's getting so lost in him that everything else fades away.

At least for a little while.

People are always looking for an escape from the reality of life. Some find it in music, art, and books. Others find it in travel and adventure. Still others find it in more profane activities like drinking or sex. I've pursued some of those remedies myself, and though they can be quite enjoyable, none of them give me what I actually need. 

What I actually need is to get outside of myself and seek refuge in the Rock that's higher than I. To wander in the wonder of his majesty. I've found nothing more restorative for my weary soul than glorying in the splendor of my Lord, and therein lies the astounding truth. When we give our whole selves to God and honor him in worship, he honors us by giving us the respite that our souls require. 

God demands our adoration and praise. Don't you think it's interesting that the very thing he requires of us is the only thing that fulfills the deepest longings of our restless hearts? 

I've included the video of the sermon below. If you have about 30 minutes, you really should listen to the whole thing, but if you only have a few, fast forward to about the 12:35 mark and start from there. 

Until next time, grace and peace.


Yet I Will Praise Him: Grief, Church, and God

Yet I Will Praise Him. Thoughts on grief, the church, and God. via leslieannjones.com

The past week has been a hard one in the life of our church.

Over the past several days, we watched and prayed as one of our youth faced insurmountable complications from a heart valve replacement surgery. We prayed for a miracle. We wept. We begged for healing. And we waited. 

As we gathered together to worship yesterday morning, we got the news that we didn't want to hear. We stood and sang songs of God's faithfulness with tears streaming down our faces, all the while grieving for the life that had been taken from us.

The ties that bind a church together are sometimes hard to see. Like any family, we have more than our fair share of squabbles, but the thing that I love about the church is the way we take care of our own when it counts. When one part of the body of Christ hurts, we all hurt. We all feel the pain. We all feel the loss.

Yesterday was hard. But it was so, so good to be together while we grieved. To kneel together at the altar and pray for peace and comfort. To stand together and proclaim God's goodness in the midst of heart-shattering grief. To bow together as the tears overflowed.

There's a long road ahead for Cole's family. The days will be long, and the nights longer, but I pray that God would use us, the people of their church, to walk beside them on the road to healing. This is what it means, I think, to bear one another's burdens.

The promise of the gospel is not that we would never know sorrow or pain but that we would never face it alone. The gospel promises that God is not only with us in our suffering, but also that he shelters us in the darkest parts of the storm. I'm convinced that he sometimes uses the church to do just that. It's one of the ordinary means through which God gives us extraordinary grace. 

To say that I'm close to the family would be a lie. I know some of them better than others, but I knew Cole only in passing. What I knew of him made me smile. He was a funny kid with a quick wit who wasn't afraid to use it. Although I don't know them well, I do know what it is to be a mom, and imagining the total devastation of losing a child took my breath away, drove me to my knees, and forced me to cry out on their behalf.

I wept yesterday, not just for the loss of such a bright light, but also because we live in a world where things like this happen. Jesus lived, died, and rose again so that death could no longer have victory over us. But sometimes, as we live and breathe in the space between his resurrection and the time when he will finally make all things new, that promise seems so very far away.

And yet, it's the promise to which we must hold on tight. Without it, we are lost.

The book of Job tells the story of a man who lost everything. In one crushing disaster after another, he goes from being the man who has it all to the man who has nothing left. Somehow, though, he manages to maintain hope. I want to have hope like that. Shane & Shane sing a beautiful song about it. I've included it here so you can listen.

The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Though he slays meyet I will hope in him. (Job 1:21 and 13:15, paraphrased).

Our hearts are broken today, but thanks be to God that brokenness doesn't get the final word. He does. And he has promised to bind up all our broken hearts, to mend the places that are torn, to wipe away every tear from every eye, and to make everything right in the end.

Today, and every day, until that day, I will praise him. What else can I do?

Until next time, grace and peace.