Faith’s Language

By John A. White
Contributing Writer
April 13, 2023

Read more from John A. White
At the end of “Saving Private Ryan,” the elderly James Ryan, turns from Captain John Miller’s grave (played by Tom Hanks) and asks his wife, “Am I a good man?” Sometimes other people, with their unique perspective of our actions, are better positioned to assess the incongruities between what we think about ourselves and behavior (Romans 7:1). Although the answers can be disturbing, asking is necessary for our maturity in Christ. Examining our behavior gives voice to beliefs that we otherwise ignore or disguise. James holds the key to discerning our beliefs in light of our behavior; “I will show you my faith by my works” (Jam 2:18). We need to pay attention to what our actions tell us about our beliefs.

As worship leaders, we have God’s calling and authority to lead. God gave us talents, strengths, vision, authority… everything we need to accomplish the work He ordained for us. I’m often perplexed and frustrated how to manage these resources toward these goals. Sometimes my supporting musicians and vocalists are difficult to manage causing conflict in the team. Maybe that’s why Dr. J. Vernon McGee says, “Satan fell out of heaven right into the choir loft.”

How do we respond to conflict? I, being naturally introverted, withdraw. Others might lash out to squash the uprising or dissension. I heard one music minister excused himself from rehearsal, went to his car and returned with a gun. Our reactions to emotional, physical, mental and social stresses as well as the pressures of ministry are the mouthpiece of our hidden beliefs. When we withdraw or lash out, are we representing God’s gift of authority and grace to lead? Probably not. What is worse is sometimes our self-perceptions deafens us to our actions’ voice. We need loving and committed partners, preferably people who are not influenced by our ministry, to help us interpret our behavior.

In John 11, the raising of Lazarus, there is a little comment that has a BIG application. In verse 44 Jesus says, “Remove his (Lazarus’) grave clothes.” I see three important principles for us; 1) Lazarus had new life but still had wrappings of death. The same is true for us. In theological terms; we are completely redeemed but not completely sanctified. A continuing part of the sanctification process is Jesus telling our friends to “remove his grave clothes.” 2) Lazarus’ wrappings didn’t suddenly fall off him in Superhero style, they were removed his friends and 3) Unwrapping grave clothes is done one layer at a time; it’s a process accomplished over time. Like Lazarus, we emerge into new life in Christ covered with bondages of death and like Lazarus, need patient care-giving friends willing to take the time to unwrap these weavings of death that bind us. Friends unwrap grave clothes by observing our actions and lovingly speaking their message. By their graceful and merciful examination of our heart’s intents, counsel, prayer and encouragement, our friends can free us from our grave clothes. We need friends like that.

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