I am with you always…1
I Am With You Always
When was the last time you got alone with God and really mediated on the Words of Christ in Matthew 28:20?
“I am with you always.”
The application for us is much more personal than we might think. But first, as a reminder, Matthew’s Gospel begins by telling us that “they will name him [Jesus] Immanuel” which means “God is with us.”
Matthew begins and ends his Gospel reminding his readers that God is with them…always.
God not only took on flesh and dwelt among His people, but now, by His Spirit, He is with all His children regardless of their circumstance, situation, or environment. He’s not only with them as they bring the Gospel to all nations, but He’s with them in their coming and their going, etc., etc.
And the Lord certainly knew that His disciples – both then and now - would need a constant reminder that He was with them as they went.
Church Planting is Discouraging
If you’ve never participated in church planting, let me be the first to say that it can be an exercise in discouragement.
No one has ever written an instruction manual on how to do it. There is no Church Planting for Dummies book. Even the most seasoned church planter could only ever give suggestions or recommendations on what to do based on their personal experiences, context and culture. Church planting is a highly contextual activity. What works in one location may not work in another.
Regardless, the principal is still the same: go, gather, grow. And that’s the basic formula that Paul and his fellow-workers adopt as they go. They enter a city, they gather people around them, they preach the Gospel, and the community grows; rinse, wash, repeat. Now, yes, that’s an oversimplification but it is what it is.
And it’s in that space where, I’m convinced, the most discouragement exists for church planters.
You see, for all the theological training you may receive, there’s nothing that prepares you for what’s out there.That’s why at Mile One Mission, before you are sent out to plant, you go through boot camp (so to speak). You spend time contextualizing your planting community, you spend time learning the culture, you spend time actually in the community, and you spend time getting to know what’s out there before you go out there.
Because when you are finally embedded in your community – as James 1 reminds us – trials will come. They will. In fact, I would go so far to say that if everything is always sunshine and lollipops with your plant, you’re doing something wrong.
And this is where, at least for me, Christ’s words in Matthew 28:20 take root. Because when you’re on the ground, doing ministry and trying new things and are face to face with failed expectations, lack of commitment, the realities of sin, and the day-to-day slog of trying to establish a new church, “I am with you always” can be the very thing that makes you put one foot in front of the other.
The Little Things…
This week has been a James 1 type of week filled with disappointments, frustrations, and discouragement. We’ve had to backpedal, change plans, and pivot on a dime. There have been tough conversations, moments of truth-buried-in-criticism, and arrows of doubt shot my way.
But it’s the little things the Lord does to remind you that He is with you always.
On my way to work this morning, I decided to turn the radio off and pray. And for the next little while, I offloaded and brought a grocery list of items before Him.
And, as I’m driving, I look ahead and I see the fog and clouds starting to break. The sun is shining and, out of nowhere, a rainbow forms. In that moment, all I could do was think of Matthew 28:20: “I am with you always.”
Now, it’s not the exact same scenario that Noah experienced all those centuries ago, but seeing that rainbow was enough for me to cast my mind on Christ and be reminded that He is with me always.
He is with me when the pressure is on.
He is with me when it feels like progress has stalled.
He is with me when it feels like I’m hitting roadblock after roadblock after roadblock.
He is with me always, even to the end of the age.
And that’s what we need to constantly remind ourselves of as we press forward with the Gospel.
So, let me ask you again, when was the last time you got alone with God and really mediated on the Words of Christ in Matthew 28:20?
He is with you, always.