Our Christian lives are held together by the word “unless.”
Every moment. Every day. Every church. Every gospel mission.
I recently sat in a room with four men in the process of planting churches. What they were aiming to do was ambitious: they were working to establish a living breathing church in a place where there was no church.
One of them is meeting on a university campus on Montana.
The goal is that as someone teaches words from an old book, as people pray together, as people have meals with one another, as those who don’t know the gospel hear an old story, as all this happens something would come into existence that did not exist before. A new church.
I recently sat with leaders in our church as we prayed God would sustain us. There are people in our church with severe illnesses. There are people struggling in their relationship with God. There are understaffed ministry teams. There are groups and initiatives trying to get off the ground and sputtering. There are days I wonder if we’ll show up on Sunday and if the church will continue to be there. There are days I feel like all our structures and org charts and plans are nothing more than scotch tape and popsicle sticks. Because illness and busyness are everything, and sin and Satan and the world are opposed to the work.
This is not a new problem. It’s very very old.
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. (Ps 127:1)
Solomon, writing in all his wisdom, knew that he could build and build and if God wasn’t there it would all fall apart. He could raise an army and it could be defeated in a night if God wasn’t there.
Our lives are held together by that word: “unless.”
But there is a glorious truth underneath that verse. It’s a truth screaming out from every page of Scripture. It’s a truth putting strength in every step we take to follow Jesus. It’s Joel’s hope as he plants a church on a college campus. It’s my hope as I walk into the church building on Sunday.
It’s in vain unless God builds. But He is.
Jesus promised in Matt 16 “I will build my church.” He himself, the Word that spoke the universe into being, is speaking the church into being. It’s happening in new places every day, in new hearts every day. It’s holding together fellowships bearing the blows of sin or sickness. It’s prevailing against the gates of hell.
I need this truth. Because I feel everything in Psalm 127:1 after the “unless.” I feel how fragile things can be. I feel how impossible gospel mission is. So I wrote in the margin of my Bible this week the words in bold:
BUT HE IS.
Christian, He is building his church. That “unless” is holding your Christian life together, your church together. Don’t listen to the whisper that it’s all being held together by popsicle sticks and scotch tape. No, friend, it’s held together by the victorious and resurrected son of God. So build the house. Set the watchman. Plant the church. Gather with your church body.
There is ground here for great gospel optimism.
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