Taken from My Heart I Offer: Daily Reflections on the Journey of Faith by Calvin College Alumni and Friends. This volume is still available from the Calvin Campus Store.
Ambassadors for Christ
2 Cor. 5:20
Class of 1984
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Because I work in the world of government and politics, words like ambassador leap off the Bible’s pages at me. What an awesome responsibility to realize that the King of kings has asked us to be his ambassadors to the sinful world in which we live.
In the diplomatic world, ambassadors have a tremendous responsibility. The primary role of effective ambassadors is to be the authorized representatives or messengers of their countries. Ambassadors do not speak on the own behalf, but on the behalf of their nations’ leaders. In addition, ambassadors’ conduct must be above reproach, lest they bring dishonor to their countries. In order to communicate their nations’ messages effectively, ambassadors must be in constant communication with their national leaders. Effective ambassadors also need to know how to articulate the message of their nations to the countries in which they serve. There are times where ambassadors much be bold and challenging; in other situations they must be diplomatic and reassuring.
I am often puzzled that God would call all of us (with all our faults and weaknesses) to be his ambassadors, but he has given us all we need to present his message. He has given us the gift of his Holy Spirit and his Word. If we are going to articulate his message in a way that is relevant, meaningful, and understandable, we need to read his Word, spend time in communication with him daily, and live our lives in such a way that we reflect our King well.
God has not only chosen to give us the gift of salvation. He has also given us the highest possible honor by appointing us to be his ambassadors. We are the ambassadors of the King of kings. What an honor! What a responsibility!
Giving What We Are
Laura Buunk Jensen
Class of 1986
Hong Kong, China
The world’s yardstick of success is very exacting. Whether it be in money or title, we can always look to another who is more or less successful than we are. The race for worldly success is one that is unfulfilling and unending.
How much more fulfilling is God’s measurement of success. By the world’s standards, the widow of today’s text had nothing to give. In the economy of Jesus’ kingdom, she gave her all in love to her God. She not only loved God though her small gift, but she also had the faith that he could be pleased with her gift and use it toward his kingdom. She had the faith to put her life completely in his hands, knowing she had given everything.
All of us have God-given gifts, and all are called to be living sacrifices to him. We cannot excuse ourselves with thoughts that, if only we had this or that talent, we could please God. God is not calling us to give what we do not have. Our attempts to please God should begin with that which he has given us. We must have the love for God to give all that we are to him and the faith that, although God needs nothing, he will be pleased with our gift and will use it for his glory. Finally, we need faith that, after we have given our all, he will provide for all our needs.
God receives our gifts in much the same way that parents receive the homemade gifts of their children – the card crudely lettered, the hand print in plaster, the macaroni flowers on a paper plate. The results may not be noteworthy or valuable by earthly standards, but these gifts are treasured because of the love in which they are created. We must learn to freely give our love girts to God, not concentrating on the imperfection of the gift or giver but on the grace and joy of the receiver, our loving Father, who chooses to be pleased and glorified by a gift from his beloved child.
The world may view us, like the widow, as unsuccessful nobodies, but to God we are his precious children, who please him by giving him all that we are in love and in faith.
Through Darkness into Marvelous Light
Glen Van Andel
Class of 1966
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Twenty-eight Calvin students and two faculty members were in the middle of a sixteen-day adventure in the rainforest of Costa Rica when our Outward Bound guides led us into a dark, damp cave. They urged us to follow them through the slimy, ankle-deep mud to the remote rooms where, when we turned off our flashlights and sat very still, we could hear the soft cooing of thousands of bats hanging on the ceiling and around us. The darkness was thick. We indeed could not see a hand in front of our faces.
Then the guides asked us to deposit our flashlights in their knapsacks and challenged us to find our way out of the cave. All of us were trying to deal with our deepest fears. How could we ever get out of there? It had been hard enough finding our way with flashlights, let alone without them. We joined hands and prayed, asking God for guidance and for the courage to face our fears. One person in the group offered to try to lead, so we started out, each person hanging on to the person just ahead. After nearly an hour of blindly picking our way along the wall, we began to see a dim light shining through the entrance of the cave. Together, with God’s help, we had confronted our fears and had found the way.
Life’s experiences often seem to abandon us or someone we love in a dark cave without a light. Death, terminal or debilitating illness, loss of friends and family members, and broken relationships all lead us into the dark abyss. We feel lost, alone, and afraid. But be assured: No matter where we are, God is there and is ready to provide the way through the darkness into his marvelous light.
In fact, maybe he will use us to “shine like the stars in the universe” (Phil. 2:15), to hold someone’s hand and encourage that person through the cave and back to the exit. Isaiah tells us that we do indeed have the light: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you” (Isa. 60:1). May the light go before us to show us the way, behind us to encourage us, beside us to befriend us, above us to watch over us, within us to give us peace.