Drippings from the Honeycomb
More to be desired are [the rules of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
Throughout history God’s kingdom, that is the restoration of His rule on earth—particularly under the New Covenant—has sometimes surged forward, grown in revival, persevered in faithful labouring, plodded, seemingly retreated, but over-all has been advancing like that mustard seed growing into a tree (Mk 4:30–34).
But like a soldier caught in the thick of the life and missional battle to which we’ve been called, it can be difficult sensing the greater plan and knowing our place in it. What are we to do!
This week was St. David’s Day, the patron saint of Wales. Wales is a beautiful country dear to my family’s heart from our many explorations there (we enjoyed some Welsh cakes to celebrate). David was some sort of protégé of the great evangelist Patrick who ministered in Ireland leading to that islands conversion from Paganism. David sought to do the same in Wales.
A Welsh maxim says, “do the little things in life” (i.e. when you don’t know exactly what to do, begin by doing what needs to be done). This is from David who said, ‘Be joyful, keep the faith, and do the little things that you have heard and seen me do.’ (an echo of Paul in Phil 4:8–9). As a result of his little things much of Wales became Christian. The Lord uses us to do much when we are faithful in the little things He has commanded His Church to be about (e.g. worship, prayer, Bible study, holy living, evangelism, charity).
This sentiment was also shared by James Culross over a century ago. In writing a biography of John Ryland Jr., he said:
“unlike those most useless persons in Christian circles who are always waiting for great things to do, and who neglect the opportunities which lie to their hand, young Ryland always did the little which lay to his hand, and found that by doing the ‘next thing’ life became rich in opportunities of usefulness.”
This was certainly true of the early Church for while it enjoyed seasons of rapid advance (think the day of Pentecost) its first centuries have been characterized by the phrase, “a long obedience in the same direction.”
Regardless of what season we find ourselves in as Ontarian Christians today, the call to readiness (Titus) and to be faithful in little to be made faithful in much apply today (Lk 16:10).
What Ontario needs today are not super-Christian who are trying to do great things but ordinary Christians who will faithfully serve Christ in a steady advance—doing the little things today, tomorrow and the day after that in service to their Lord. That is how Christ’s kingdom will come, through a steady advance. Even so we pray, come Lord Jesus come.
*For more see listen to the Extraordinary Ordinary that is being encouraged as we approach our post-Covid world.
 James Culross, The Three Rylands (1897), 73.
Christians have always been a people devoted to the noble principles of God’s Word. As such they have been a principled people. Through their commitment to missions they’ve also tended to be a pragmatic people as well. So Christians have sought to balance two critical values: principles and pragmatism.
One does not have to search far to see this. Here are three examples:
At the same time, because Jesus has given us a mission, we’ve been a pragmatic people. Here are a couple of examples:
Enter 1 Peter 4:4: With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you.
The New Testament era church did not engage in a host of activities, explicit or perceived, because it would compromise them on the subject of idolatry and holiness. Historian Nick Needham said this of the early Church period:
 Nick Needham, 2000 Years of Christ’s Power, vol. 1: The Age of the Early Church Fathers. (Scotland: Christian Focus, 2016), 81–2.
This is a helpful glimpse into early Christians, living in an ungodly age, who lived out 1 Peter 4:4. To not join in or even to not give the impression of joining in, is a vital value. Greater than missional pragmatism, but interesting still missional.
In contemporary post-Christian Canada there are many past practices, residue of cultural Christianity, that we’d do well to rethink (e.g. Halloween). Likewise, as the Church faces new realities there are areas we ought not to rush into for the sake of missional relevance until we’ve seriously thought them through.
Of the latter attending a same-sex wedding is a prime example. The value to be missionally pragmatic would say to attend for the sake of loving them and building relationships. The value of principle demands no (you can read more here), for while there are many acceptable ways to minister to our homosexual friends and neighbours, to attend a wedding (which celebrates) is to take part in celebrating something which God calls evil. While we wouldn’t necessarily become unholy by attending, the act of condoning (even by perception) would go against the command in 1 Pet 4 “do not join them.”
You see, sometimes to be principled, while not being pragmatic, does actually better serve the cause of the Gospel and our mission better. For when we are seen to be humbly different, even if they malign us, we will bear a greater witness that God will use more effectively for His glorious purposes:
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honourable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Pe 2:12).
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