Last Sunday morning at my local church, visiting Pastor Dustin White from Radial Church passionately (you had to be there) preached from James 1 on what it takes to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Simply put, the opening verses to the book of James informs that discipleship will bear witness to a test of faith, producing perseverance in the face of adversity. If you seriously follow the way of life that Jesus teaches, then I know you have battle stories from the front lines that attest to this.
And no one but guest speaker Dustin and his wife Jamie knows the extent of adversarial challenges they face in their church’s street ministry for inner-city Canton, Ohio. Yet they are steadfast in their work, with the scars and success stories to prove it. Their lives truly authenticate Dustin’s morning message.
Later that evening, millions of people witnessed challenges in a totally different context during football’s crowning glory, the Super Bowl. The New England Patriots executed the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history after trailing the Atlanta Falcons by 25 points midway through the third quarter.
Jim struggled to get excited for the Patriots due to their Fall season of deflate-gate, but I was thoroughly entertained by all the drama on the field. Quarterback Tom Brady and company, in spite of controversies that followed them into The Big Game, pulled off a stunning performance never before seen in fifty-one years of Super Bowl history. In fact, one of the sports commentators created his post-game analysis around an impressive list of “never befores.”
Never before did a Super Bowl go into overtime~
Never before did a quarterback win five Super Bowl championships~
Never before did a QB throw for so many yards, 466, in this game~
And many more Never Befores were recounted, with a strong emphasis on the trials that the Patriots endured throughout their football season.
Considering our church venue, what if we had our own Never Befores to report? Instead of counting noses, nickels, and new programs, what if Never Befores were the highlights of our end of the year analyses?
Such as, never before have we loved like Jesus, even when it was inconvenient and uncomfortable~
And never before have we shown such compassion to our neighbor, even when it was not reciprocated~
Or, never before have we listened and responded so well to those that look, think, and behave differently~
Or, never before have we willingly accompanied someone in their darkest hours.
A disciple of Christ creates a never before culture. According to Pastor Dustin, the pre-requisites of becoming that disciple are right up front in James’s letter.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (NLT)
Adversity is the stuff of a disciple’s life that gives birth to the never befores.
In our society filled with hurt and hate, I think we need more never befores than ever before.