Expecting the Extraordinary

There’s a particular feature of my generation—Millennials—which makes faithfulness to the gospel harder than it needs to be, and makes disappointment with how our lives progress much more likely.

I was born in the 1980s, and grew up in 1990s Southampton, which meant that in Christian circles Delirious? (or occasionally Deliriou5?) were local heroes. Many of my readers know exactly who I’m talking about—they were the biggest British Christian band of the era by a country mile—but perhaps you’re either too young or not from the UK. Some of their early worship music has much wider reach than their name (or their later soft rock), I was preaching at a Christian Union meeting at one of the Universities here in Birmingham the other day and they were singing a Delirious? song, without (I would imagine) having ever heard of the band.

Why does this matter? One of their most famous songs is History Maker (I think I was at this gig), which did pretty well in the charts (getting to number four 13 years after it was first released in one of those weird bursts of Christian energy). It came out the year I started secondary school. I grew up singing it:

I’m gonna be a history maker in this land

Goes the chorus. Considering I’m part of the generation that for a number of factors to do with societal conditions as we came of age and the way we were parented has an expectation of the extraordinary, we found this pretty easy to believe. That link is fairly outdated now, and crude at points, but captured the baked in sense that we are, indeed, going to make history.

If you want a careful, Biblical take down of why this isn’t what the Bible calls us to, I’d recommend you take the time to watch Andrew Wilson’s superb sermon ‘Individualitis and the Dung Gate,’ delivered to a huge group of teenagers in 2013.

The days have changed, but the principle remains the same. I think it’s remarkably easy to expect the extraordinary in our Christian lives. We’re going to change nations! It’s the sort of thing people like to prophesy. It’s the Christian version of imagining you’re going to have an amazing career.

Statistically speaking, it simply can’t be true of all of us. A remarkably small number of Christians will have truly significant influence that means we could speak of them as a ‘history maker,’ for all I love the youthful exuberance.

When your life is beginning to pan out in a particular direction and it’s apparent that you are not making history in any way discernibly different from your fellows—and the Instragram effect means it may seem like you’re behind them in the making history stakes—it’s almost impossible to not be deeply disappointed.

Perhaps we start to wonder where we went wrong, or ponder whether God’s (seeming) promises were ever true, or just give up on following Jesus altogether.

It’s a lot of weight to put on our shoulders, that we should somehow change the world. It’s also impossible to tell the impact of a life until after all of it has been lived. Even then, you would often need the perspective of the angels singing around the throne to begin to dare to judge what truly has ‘made history.’

And it can be terribly disappointing when that’s what we think the Christian life is supposed to be like. It’s not. Live your life with Jesus, be faithful, go to church, make deep friendships, worship God. These things we should all do. Then there’s a host of good things that we don’t all have to do but are godly and good, like raising a family, or working to produce craftsmanship, or growing a garden, and a thousand more things besides—of differing weights and importance, some expected for most, others just for some, but all good.

Which is to say, if you relate to this set of emotions at all, if you’re wondering where your Unicorn is, or why no one has recognised your brilliance yet: take the pressure off. We aren’t going to change the world, or most of us aren’t anyway, but we can change our worlds.

What I mean by that is we can change the people we interact with, we can affect our households, we can make history in our workplaces, our campuses, at the school gate, or in our churches. How can we? Ordinary faithfulness.

That’s the magic bullet.

Which is a funny thing to say, because the whole point is that it isn’t a magic bullet, but that living for Jesus day-by-day, choosing to do the good, following the narrow path, denying yourself—these are the tools that change the world. Why? Because they change you.

We don’t have to be extraordinary. Ordinary is more than enough, and we’re loved by God more than we can possibly imagine.

This doesn’t mean that big dreams are bad—God gives those, I even have some myself—and I think there is such a thing as “Holy Ambition,” but it has to be enough to live an ordinary life of faithfulness with your friends in your church, enjoying what you do when and where you can.

You don’t have to change the world.

Because honestly, you can’t. We aren’t that powerful. Here’s the really good news though: Jesus can. Jesus has. Jesus has promised that he will.

The world will be changed. History will be made. By a bloodied cross. By an empty tomb. By God-made-man sat on the throne of heaven. By the Spirit poured out: God in our bones.

So, live that story, in the place you are, with no greater ambitions than faithfulness, and see what God will do with it.

Photo by Paul Bill on Unsplash

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