• Diana Dodd

The Challenge

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7 ESV

Jeremiah 29:7 comes just four verses ahead of one of the most famous passages in Scripture, and I never noticed it before. We see and hear Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans for you…” all the time, so maybe that’s why I never really took note of verse 7.

As a military family we have moved about every two years over the course of the last 25, and I regularly get asked, “Where’s your favorite place you’ve lived?” I always say that I don’t have a favorite place; rather I have a favorite thing about each place, because we must find something to love about wherever we are, or we’ll be miserable.

When Jeremiah 29:7 was written, Jerusalem had been conquered by the Babylonians and the Israelites were carried off into a 70-year captivity. I doubt they were looking for anything to love about Babylon, but through the Prophet Jeremiah, the Lord told the Israelites to pray for its welfare because whatever befell Babylon would befall them, too.

There is great upheaval in our world right now, also, and as a result our country is undergoing challenges and changes. We may be tempted to allow ourselves to be swept along, keeping our heads down and just trying to survive, as I suspect the Israelites planned to do in Babylon. But what if we’ve been put in this time and place for a reason? What if the people who are living in the present age were chosen by God specifically for this age?

I’ve often thought I was born at the wrong time, in the wrong era, but that would imply that God made a mistake, and we all know God doesn’t make mistakes. Everything about our birth was planned down to the minutest detail by God. He knows the number of hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7). He formed every part of us and set the exact number of our days (Psalm 139:13-16), which means He also planned when those days would occur. There was nothing arbitrary about our birth.

You and I were planned and equipped to live in this time and place. Wherever we are in the world and in our lives, God put us here for a purpose - His purpose. And whatever befalls the place where we live, befalls us, too. So, we better start praying.

I often pray over things happening in the world and for our country, but I admit, I rarely take much notice of my local happenings and pray for my state and town, much less my neighborhood. It’s something we should all start doing, and while there is great power in prayer, especially the unified prayers of many, I think there’s more we can do in addition to praying.

God gave each of us a set of unique traits and talents with the intention that we would use them for His glory and to reflect Him into our world. We’ve each been given a sphere of influence in whatever community we live. We are all essentially missionaries. In 2 Corinthians 5:20 Paul uses the word “ambassadors.”

What is an ambassador? The simplest definition from Webster’s Dictionary is “a diplomatic representative from one country to another.” And since our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20), we are to be heaven’s diplomatic representatives here on earth. Furthermore, since God planned for us to live in this time and place, to be His children in the here and now, He has granted us the tools we need to be His representatives in this era. He has given us exactly what we need to serve our special mission field.

What is something you do that makes people happy or feel special? Perhaps you have a knack for making others feel included and noticed. Maybe you’re the person who always make a point to go around and speak to everyone at a gathering or at church, even the people who are typically ignored by everyone else.

By being the person who welcomes and notices everyone, you’re demonstrating Christ’s love because He did that. He spoke to, touched, and visited the invisible people. The ones who weren’t usually welcome.

Are you a good listener? Do people trust you and seek you out? Maybe you’re the one who they call when they need to vent or desire Godly advice. You might even be drawn into conversation by strangers in public and told all about their lives and problems. You can sincerely tell them that you’ll pray for them; you might even pray with them right then and there and tell them God loves them. In doing so, you’ll be letting them know that the person being kind to them is a Christian, and that plants an evangelistic seed.

Whatever it is that you do that brings people comfort and enables you to serve, cultivate that gift. Making food for those who are sick or grieving. Volunteering your time. Giving big, heartfelt hugs. Every little act of kindness, no matter how seemingly insignificant, matters immensely now.

As God’s people living in this age of upheaval and difficulty, we need to display serenity, peace, love, and even joy to the world, making them wonder why we’re calm and at peace when others are anxious and fearful and prompting a few to ask “why?”, which gives us the opportunity to share the Gospel.

I was walking out of the grocery store the other day, as a man was coming in. He was a tall, large man, and he was scowling. His whole face was frowning. Maybe he was upset about something that happened to him that day, or perhaps he was concerned about the cost of groceries. I don’t know why he frowned, but we made eye contact as we passed, and I smiled at him. He instantly smiled back. For some reason, I feel like in that moment I made his day just a little better, and perhaps made him feel a little more hopeful.

That’s our job as God’s ambassadors. We display hope. We show courage. We are shining lights in a dark world, ready to help, offering love and compassion, giving of our time and talents to serve others, and not just the people we already know and love, but to any others who cross our paths. We are called to see the invisible people.

Romans 15:5-7 encourages us to live in harmony with our neighbors and fellow believers and “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” As Christians we should be a unified group, a loving church community, kind to one another, and one that opens its arms to newcomers, regardless of where they come from, their socio-economic status, or their reputation.

People who meet Christians along their life’s pathway should be able to connect the dots and recognize us from our common traits, like recognizing members of the same family by their similarities. Jesus told us to let our light shine before others, “so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). And perhaps a few of them will decide to join the family.

Father God,

It’s difficult to maintain our inner peace and not give in to fear and uncertainty when our world is changing so quickly. Father, we recognize that we have no power or control over the things happening, but we do have power over how we respond, and we know You are always in control. We trust You, LORD!

Lord, please make us ever mindful of our citizenship in heaven, of our safety as Your children (John 10:27-30), of our assurance of Your protection and provision (Romans 8:38). Father, help us to walk in confidence, displaying joy and peace to a fearful world, making them wonder why we remain hopeful. Please help us to be ambassadors for You every time we step outside our doors. Give us strength and courage, Father, through Your Spirit, and please forgive us for the times when we give in to our flesh and become weary and fearful ourselves.

In Jesus Christ’s magnificent name. Amen.

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