One word can change everything.
Our interpretation can be altered with just a few letters and the way we string those letters together can make an undeniable difference in the impact they have.
For years, I thought I knew a popular verse in scripture. When I came to it, I quickly skimmed over it and move forward because I didn’t think there was anything new for me to digest.
Last week, I realized how how wrong I was. Two words jumped off the page of my Bible.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 NIV
Yes, the “in” and the “God.” When I recited this verse in my head, for years my memory recalled this:
“All things work for the good of those who love him…”
The problem is, it’s not the things that are working for our good. It’s God in those things. If our focus is not on him and our walk is not with him, every horrible, tragic event certainly won’t work for our good.
Trials will surely crush us and throw our lives into a downward spiral if God isn’t at the center of it all.
Jesus is the eye in the midst of the storm, where our calm and our hope remain secure.
Last week, I shared how in the midst of the news that 21 brave Christians were murdered in Libya, God was breaking my heart over the division of the church. And while this is a problem which exists worldwide and has no easy solution, I believe there are steps we can take as believers to embrace unity.
I am convinced that in the middle of heartbreak over what extremists are doing, God is working. He is working in and through these tragic events, and in the hearts of those who love him.
Can one person actually make a difference? I believe so. Here are some simple steps to promoting unity not only in your own church home, but in the church as a whole:
Avoid gossip and assumptions.
When we don’t know the reason for something, we love to assume we have the answer based on what we’ve seen and heard. Here’s an idea: if you have a question, ask the person in question. You will never know the real story unless you go to the source.
Talk to someone you don’t know.
Some of my best friendships have been formed as a result of approaching someone new. Our first impressions of people are often far from true, and often what we perceive as being standoffish is a person simply waiting for us to make the first move.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
I have known many who have left a church because they did not agree with every single detail of a pastor’s teaching. The truth is, if you keep this mindset, you will be continually disappointed. Your pastor is learning and growing just like you are. If your church is preaching the Gospel and truth about how to receive salvation, you can afford to disagree on secondary issues.
Pray for your church.
Pray for its leaders, its body and each member. Just as Jesus did, pray that you will be one in Spirit and purpose. This is the most important but easily the most overlooked step we can take.
We are a body. If one part is not contributing his or her gifts, the entire church suffers. Find the area where you thrive and get involved. Not only will the church benefit, but you will as well.
Friends, God is moving in the hearts of his people. The question is, are we going to take steps forward or move back?
My prayer is that the loss of 21 courageous men will be a catalyst for believers everywhere to embrace what is truly important.
If you need further encouragement that God is for you and the church, even in the midst of the struggle, uncertainty, and unknown future, I encourage you to pick of a copy of my book, Shift: Changing Our Focus to See the Presence of God. Many people have sent me messages saying it is a timely book for this season, which encourages my heart so much. I pray that God continues to use it to touch lives.
Here’s what one reader said:
“As somebody who has spent the last year reading a variety of Christian living books, I can say that this is one of my top three books in the genre. Abby McDonald does something that many other authors do not. She digs deep.
While so many in this genre are “comfort Christian” books that remind us we are loved as we are, McDonald goes far past the surface as she explores her own life and how she has needed, time and again, to shift her focus and her thinking away from secular ideas and back to God.
I truly appreciate how we are not told that it is all easy and that her life is now perfect because she just shifted on over to Jesus and “poof!” everything was great again. McDonald reminds us that this is hard work, that we are human and that life is hard. She also helps us to refocus on fighting our fear by seeking our faith as a grounding platform on which to stand.”
You can purchase a copy of Shift by clicking the image below.
Good morning Abby! I am your Linky neighbor this morning with #Raralinkup ! 🙂
Thank you so much for your lovely post!
I love ALL 5 of your suggestions to promote unitiy as they all promote LOVING others as we would hope to be loved ourselves…
None of us like to be misunderstood and would appreciate being given the benefit of the doubt… I agree that “Avoiding gossip and assumptions” is definitely #1!
Blessings to you! stay encouraged and keep writing 🙂
Blessings to you too, Danise, and you do the same! Thanks so much for your encouragement, friend. 🙂
LOVE this: “The problem is, it’s not the things that are working for our good. It’s God in those things. If our focus is not on him and our walk is not with him, every horrible, tragic event certainly won’t work for our good.”
Amen Abby! Thank you for prompting me to think about ways I can promote unity within the body of Christ. Talking to someone I don’t know is probably the one item on the list I find myself avoiding the most, so I think that’s probably the best place to start. I’m encouraged by your heart for others and the church. Thank you for sharing with us at #RaRaLinkup today!
That one is sometimes difficult for me too, Tina, but God has shown me that taking that step can bring such beautiful friendships. Thanks so much for visiting today! Blessings to you, friend.
It is amazing how focusing on the words “in” and “God” make all the difference in the world. I am currently taking a Bible study called “Grasping God’s Word” and it teaches you how to really break down and digest scripture as well as read it in context and be able to apply it to life today. Amazing what nuggets are hidden in scriptures that we scan over because we think we “know” them. I also agree with you in seeking unity in the church. There are the non-negotiables and then there are the details that divide. Lord, give us wisdom to know the difference. Great post!
Amen, Bev. I need his wisdom as I certainly have questioned myself and the teaching of churches we have attended. Staying in the Word is definitely key. Thanks so much for sharing here today, friend! Love and hugs to you.
christy mobley says
Abby, I find it interesting when people say they don’t want go to church because of the people there. They never stop to think maybe it’s that way because they aren’t there. They never stop to think that they are an integral part of the whole. A missing piece. Love number 5. As always Abby, excellent!
I agree, Christy. I don’t think many people consider how their absence affects the church as a whole. Good thoughts! Thanks for sharing.
Such wisdom in your words, Abby. I love this: “If you have a question, ask the person in question.” This step would stop gossip in its tracks. Thank you for encouraging me this morning, my friend, and reminding me to slow down as I read those familiar words.
Taking steps forward, my friend. Thank you for linking up at #IntentionalTuesday. : )
As I said, I’m so glad I found your link-up, Crystal! I had fun and look forward to connecting with your readers. Have a great week.
Abby, I love these tips on promoting unity – I really need to work on praying for my church – what a difference that would make. Have a great day, Kim Stewart #raralinkup
I think that prayer is so easily overlooked but I have seen and heard such amazing testimonies of strides churches have taken as a result of prayer. It is so important. Thank you so stopping here today, Kim! I always love hearing from you.
Gary Breter says
Abby: This is a powerful timely message for The Church. Thanks for using your spiritual gift of exhortation! Love, Dad
Thanks so much for reading and encouraging, Dad. Love you.
Great post and reminder. Sometimes we become so comfortable in the church that we become stagnant and useless.
Amen, Jen. I agree. It is so easy for us here America to become comfortable and I think God often uses tragic effects to open our eyes. Thanks so much for stopping here and sharing your thoughts today.
I agree, Abby. After 9-11, the church truly came together to pray and mourn the loss of so many. I believe the church will bind together again in support of these brave 21.
That is my prayer, Kristine. When we stand together God can do great and mighty things through us. Thanks so much for stopping here today, friend!
I always find your posts so timely. Many of these issues have been on my heart lately. I love that you made it into an action-oriented guide. Very helpful. Thank you.
debbie richardson says
Great post. Trusting God’s sovereignty is key. Following His command to love one another is necessary if we hope to share Christ with a lost world. He said that they will know we are Christians by our love. Unity with Christ. Unity with the brethren.
Melanie S. Pickett says
Wow, wonderful post. Those are great steps and since our church has been transitioning over the past year or two, I see where it could have been less bumpy if we’d all embraced those steps (especially not sweating the small stuff). I personally am going to commit to reaching out to those new faces I see and foster unity and community in my own church.
We go to a church that is very new, Melanie, so I’ve seen a lot of these things firsthand. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Praying for each of us as we reach out to others.
Christine Duncan says
Two words to take that catalyst change to a whole new meaning… that’s incredible. What an awesome revelation. And like you said, it’s something you think you know… until God breathes His real intent into it, that was there waiting for us the whole time to unlock. Wow.
Thanking Him for this lesson today, and for your words Abby. Big time.
I love that scripture is living and active, always breathing new life into us with its words. Thanks so much for your continual encouragement, Christine! You are a blessing, friend.
Truth! You set it out for the world to see, Abby. It’s wise, it’s truth, and it’ll bring unity. And, it’s a great reminder for all us.
That is always my goal, Kristi, to speak the truth even when it’s hard. You are such an encouragement to me and I’m praying for each of us as we continue spreading the Light of Christ. Much love to you, friend.
I agree especially with the first one. Assumptions are deadly to unity. A lot of times being in a church is a lot like playing “telephone” with a group of kids. A message gets badly garbled the more times it’s repeated. Best to go directly to the leadership and ask if something doesn’t sound right instead of continuing to propagate error and gossip. I also thing I’d add one more: Give grace generously! My goodness, everyone makes mistakes and we need to be gracious in loving our pastors and leaders and think the best and not the worst of them. Thanks
That is such a great analogy, Karen. Yes, the message can become so garbled the more times it’s translated and repeated. Thanks so much for stopping here and sharing your thoughts today.
Walter Kahler says
So many excellent points Abby. Sometimes I too overlook scripture and when the time comes to revisit them something new jumps out and God’s wisdom is revealed. Those 5 steps in promoting unity in church are effective and the efforts a individual to apply them does make a difference, I have found they are beneficial to my relationship with Christ.
Thank you so much for your encouraging words, Walter. I love how God is always teaching us new things through his Word if we pay attention.
Don’t you love when you read something that totally confirms things you’ve been thinking? Yep, this post just did. 🙂 Love this. How I pray that we who were called to love…so that unbelievers could see God’s love in us…would just do the thing and LOVE each other.
You are so spot on with this Abby. United we stand – divided we fall, and fall is what the Devil wants the church to do. Thank you for this timely truth reminder! Excellent writing dear! ((((Hugs)))) and blessings to you today friend!
Katy McCown says
Awesome, Abby! “The problem is, it’s not the things that are working for our good. It’s God in those things.” Wow! I love this. So powerful!!