Grace and Work

Here’s something a little bit different. I’m writing this blog from Starbucks in Circular Quay, Sydney. I’m killing time before I meet Emma after her first day working in her new job. I’m becoming an expert on wireless internet hotspots in the Sydney CBD. (I’m even thinking about creating a website that would let people find their closest free hotspot). If you’re interested, you can get 1/2 hour free in The Rocks; Telstra has a city-wide hotspot (but not free – buy a Phone Away Card, that’s the cheapest option but still costs 20c/min); but the absolute winner is the State Library of NSW – absolutely free once you register inside!! Yay for the government!
All of that probably seems completely irrelevant to you, but it suddenly took on more importance to me this weekend, particularly after last night when we learned that we will (God willing) be living here next year. What do I mean by ‘here’ you ask?
Right next door to St Philip’s Anglican Church, on York St, Sydney. Pretty much half-way between Darling Harbour and Circular Quay… right on the end of the Harbour Bridge… slap-bang in the middle of Sydney…
(I’m a little excited)
I wrote in our last post that we had been chatting with the minister of a Church in Sydney about a trainee minister position for next year. We received an email from Dave Mansfield, the rector at St Philip’s a couple of weeks ago, asking if we’d like to chat again. As we were going to be in Sydney for the start of Emma’s work, I suggested that we come along to Church and then have a coffee after. So we went to Church at St Philip’s last night.
Emma and I both really enjoyed the service. It is a small congregation that Dave is hoping to grow into a ministry hub for the city. From our chat with Dave, I understand that there are struggles and frustrations, as well as joy in this ministry. It is an incredible opportunity to learn about ministry in a very different context from the university student work, and to train under a godly leader and someone with a lot of creativity in evangelism. I think that Emma and I are also really excited about the thought of sharing with this new and small group of Christians in trying to build a fellowship that will reflect God’s glory and love to the city. I feel like it’s a privilege to be trusted to join in and help things grow.
One thought that struck me after going to Church last night was this, we so easily fall into taking Church for granted. Particularly if you belong to a big, strong Church, with heaps of people, great Bible teaching, lots of small groups and programmes. I think Church is a lot more special when it is something that has been hard fought for, and dearly won. When their aren’t many people, and it’s taken effort to get them together; but the fellowship is sweet, and the Spirit is ministering the Word. It’s harder to take it for granted then…
But when I consider Paul’s words to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28, I’m ashamed that I ever take God’s gathering for granted – the Church which he obtained with his own blood.

So Emma started work this morning with the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Sussex St in Sydney. We caught the train in together and had a coffee before she went into work. The next few days will be taken up with finding her way around, the best train and bus routes, when to leave for work, when to come home. She will be staying with her parents for the next 2 months and coming back to Canberra on the weekends. It will be a difficult time for us in many ways. I’m glad to have a couple of good mates who will look after me and come and stay with me during the week, so that I don’t turn into a hermit. The biggest stress will be on relationships, Emma and I spending time apart, Emma with her parents, etc. Please pray for these things.

St Philip’s has offered us the use of a 1 bedroom flat in a building adjacent to the Church. It is small, but it is rent-free in the middle of the city. The flat is about 2 blocks from Emma’s work, and 1 block from Wynyard train station, where I can easily catch a train to College. We’ll move in there sometime around the end of the year. It will be fantastic for allowing us to be involved in the ministry of the Church. Having to commute through Sydney can chew up so much time that could be used in ministry activities, particularly as I need to spend the majority of my time on College and study. It will allow me to maximise the involvement I can have at the Church.

These events have made me think about God’s providence, bear with me while I go on a little theological excursion…
I’m always a little wary of over-reading the actions of God into the specific details of our lives. God is at work always and everywhere, through everything and every detail. It seems to me often a little like second-guessing God to say ‘this thing’ and not ‘that’ is God at work. (I’m suspicious of the fact that ‘God at work’ always seems to be in the things that we really wanted, whereas, the Bible teaches us that God preserves and benefits us just as much – if not more, through suffering).
Yet having said that, (and placing myself in a position of complete inconsistency), the way in which God has provided for us with work for Emma, and a student minister position for me, and accommodation, has made me step back and say, ‘God is at work here’. The way in which these things have come about, completely independently, yet wrapped up together, has the fingerprints of Divine providence all over it.
I know that God is at work in our disappointments and struggles, and I need to keep praying that I will stand firm in loving and worshipping Him, even when I do not feel the benefit of being one of His children. Job’s lesson is that God is worthy to be worshipped and adored because of who he is, not because of what he does for his people.

Yet God is good, and has been very good to us, and I want to give Him praise, and to ask you to praise and glorify our good God with us. And if this provision is a sign to us that it is God’s will that we are here in this place, at this time, then pray that we would stand firm and fulfill the ministry that we have been called to undertake. Pray that we’d be faithful in service, regardless of whether the way is smooth or rough. And I’ll endeavor to pray that prayer for you, if I know who you are and can pray it.
Pray that we’d be like Paul, who viewed the grace of God to him (calling a murderous persecutor of the Church, to be an apostle and preacher of truth), as a reason to work all the harder in proclaiming God’s goodness. Paul could easily have fallen into thinking that God’s incredible grace, of which he was so personally aware, rendered all his personal efforts and responsibility pointless. Paul’s work could never save him, and apart from Christ, all working is ultimately fruitless. But in Christ, and in grace, Paul found a work with meaning and value, directed at the good of others, and bearing eternal fruit. That kind of work is worth doing, and doing well, with more effort and energy than we could ever muster for trivial wealth and pleasures. Pray that we’d labor for things that will last.

1Cor 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

1Cor. 15:58    Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

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