This summer I’ve had the privilege of speaking at camp two weeks at Valley View, and I am now sitting in a cabin at Red Rock Bible Camp getting ready to speak here for the last week of the summer. My personal theme verse for camp this year has been “man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7) This verse has challenged me and troubled me as I’ve considered what it means for me to witness to the gospel of Christ. I say it troubles me because I keep noticing how I myself am preoccupied with outward appearances!
So, consider this blog post a confession. Yet I hope it’s an encouragement, too!
Here’s what I mean by being preoccupied by outward appearances: I love to perform, and I love well-done performances. I want to be a person who can make music, or do art, or perform theatrically on stage. I enjoy cleverness, witty turns of phrase, and beautiful imagery. After all, I’m an artist. But as I prepared for speaking earlier in the summer, all my thoughts revolved around the form of my message, and none of my thoughts dwelt on the content of the message. I want to do puppet shows! I want to do chalk talks! I want to be funny and cool and at the end have everyone say, “wow, Kyla. You are NOT boring at all.” But my good ol’ friend Oswald Chambers gave me a challenge that cut me to the quick:
“Real and effective fasting by a preacher is not fasting from food, but fasting from eloquence, from impressive diction, and from everything else that might hinder the gospel of God being presented. The preacher is there as the representative of God— “…as though God were pleading through us…” (2 Corinthians 5:20). He is there to present the gospel of God. If it is only because of my preaching that people desire to be better, they will never get close to Jesus Christ. Anything that flatters me in my preaching of the gospel will result in making me a traitor to Jesus, and I prevent the creative power of His redemption from doing its work.
“And I, if I am lifted up…, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32).”
I don’t think that he is saying that anyone who preaches the gospel should pretend to be dumb, or to deliberately speak in a boring or hard-to-understand way. I think he’s challenging the reader to keep the focus on the right thing: Jesus. Not to lift up myself as “cool speaker Kyla” but in everything I do to lift HIM up.
So as I’ve continued throughout the summer I’ve re-encountered this challenge over and over. I have often fallen into a trap of magnifying my abilities, my time, my schedule, my plans… and as I sort my strengths and weaknesses, weighing them against each other and trying to account for everything I possess, I fall into discouragement. Aha! There I go again: lifting up the wrong thing.
When I seek the Lord and ask him to answer my discouragement, he faithfully reminds me to make the main thing the main thing. Why obsess over these lists of pros and cons? Why meditate on how people will perceive me compared to other camp speakers? Why fixate on the work I’m NOT getting done because I’m at camp this week? Why?
Instead, magnify the Lord. Meditate on the gospel and fixate on its beauty. Remember when you were a little girl at camp and a speaker came - not to impress or entertain or wow you with their great knowledge, but simply to witness to their own great love for God. Remember how beautiful that was to you back then, and now speak to the “you” that is listening this week at camp. She’s in there somewhere, hungry to have God illuminated just a bit more. Then, when you place your own resources - your skills, your time, your weaknesses, your baggage - beside the powerful presence of Christ, they will become what they are meant to be: nothing. And Christ, when he is lifted up, will draw all his people to himself.