Who has time for anything less than extraordinary? Only the most extreme, the newest, the hottest and the freshest will do. Anything less is unacceptable. All adjectives must be superlatives. ‘Fine’ used to mean exceptional, now it translates to barely acceptable. To merely ‘meet expectations’ at work is an insult. Any restaurant that hopes to survive must have an experimental kitchen and a menu forever in flux. And advertising that promises anything less than the moon falls on deaf ears. We have no room for the ordinary. It does not matter what anyone claims so long as they claim to be extraordinary.
But most of life is lived in the ordinary. To despise the ordinary and pine for the extraordinary is to despise most of our days, hours, moments, relationships, experiences, and blessings. Jesus taught powerfully, but most of his illustrations were drawn from the ordinary things of life — plants, seeds, livestock, coins, and neighbors. In both creation and providence God delights in the ordinary.
The Bible tells us that the Lord does not ‘despise the day of small things.’ But we usually do. We want bigger, better, faster, sooner. And this leads us to prize novelty. We long for a life different from the one God placed us in. The old, the tried and true, is passe. What is needed is a newer, better, shinier thing. Surely the ‘new things’ has power to captivate and capture the heart.
Unfortunately, the church has bought into this love of novelty. But this love of the new thing is not a new thing. The ancient prophet Jeremiah warned the people of his day to “ask for the ancient paths.” And the church today tries to attract the world by offering the extraordinary – the newest, most powerful, most dynamic experience possible. And yet, She is declining and losing influence in our culture. Perhaps in our pursuit of the extraordinary, we have lost sight of the power and joy of the ordinary.
Following Pentecost the church experienced extraordinary works of the Holy Spirit, but its most explosive growth resulted from the ordinary means of grace God had appointed.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.Acts 2:42-47
Wonders and signs followed the Word, fellowship, worship, prayer and the sacraments. Ordinary means produced extraordinary results. The same is true today. But do we believe it? Can we trust the means that God has given? Do we believe what our catechism teaches us to believe?
The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption are, His ordinances, especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.– Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 88
Or is something more needed? Can we improve on God’s appointed means? Are they enough? We often struggle with these questions. But so did Moses. He did not believe that the elders of Israel would believe God’s Word. To accommodate weak faith, God gave signs to confirm His Words. And against his objections, Moses returned to Egypt, doubtful anyone would believe the Lord. Yet at the end of Exodus 4, we have a remarkable picture of the power of God’s Word to bring faith.
Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the people of Israel. Aaron spoke all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.Exodus 4:29-31
Quickly and completely, God’s Word produced faith in an unbelievable promise. God’s means are always enough. The Word never returns void. The gospel is the power of salvation. And ‘faith comes by hearing, hearing the Word of Christ.’ Not gimmicks, not slick ad campaigns, not moralism – but it is through the outward and ordinary means of grace that Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption, delivers sinners, and grows His church. Do you believe this?
Join us this Lord’s Day as we examine Exodus 4:27-31 and consider the power of the ordinary means of grace to save sinners and grow the Church.
We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube.