It was written all over his precious young face. Eyes bright, smile wide, and steps eager. He believed what he was valuable. He believed what he had others would want. He believed and so he ran forth with confidence and the kind of enthusiasm found only in those with a childlike faith.
And because he believed I now own a bracelet made of cheap black and blue beads. It cost me a dollar, but it’s priceless.
When the string of tour buses rolled to a stop beside the rocky, barren, desolate heights overlooking the Valley of the Shadow of Death, it was hard to imagine anything joyous growing there. Then these three little boys popped into our midst. I have no idea where they appeared from. It wasn’t like they could hide behind a tree and wait for people to show up. But from wherever they came, they came with enthusiasm and arms loaded with blue bracelets.
They may have been Bedouin children from one of the ramshackle camps we drove by. We didn’t converse and I suspect the only English they knew was “one dollar,” the price of their bracelets. The smiles on their faces and the way they darted from one potential client to another, undiscouraged when they received a no, made them irresistible. They were eager and expectant and oh so very confident in a childlike innocence—and there were lots of wrists adorned with cheap bead bracelets when the buses pulled away.
Although I didn’t need a bracelet, I gave them a dollar for the blessing of joining in their joy.
And I shouldn’t have been surprised when God turned a bracelet into a lesson for my heart.
Do I share the Gospel with as much enthusiasm as these boys selling strings of cheap blue beads?
Do people want what I have just because of the joy they see on my face?
Do I persist, undaunted by rejection, confident in knowing if not this one then another?
I know God well enough to know He wasn’t asking me these questions because my answer would be yes. He asked me these questions to reveal my heart to me, to teach me, and to help me see what a true follower of Christ should look like.
We have something to share far more valuable than a string of glass beads. And yet so often we share it with reluctance, with fear and self-doubt, looking as if we’re uncomfortable to have to bring this up. Heaven forbid we offend someone with the Good News. And no doubt, there are people who will be determined to take offense.
So pray, smile, and move on.
But there’s a flip side to our enthusiasm—a shadow mission to our ministry. These are the times when we do run forward with enthusiasm, but enthusiasm for the wrong things.
Come to our church and hear our new pastor—he’s really cool. Our praise band is phenomenal. You should see the cool new technology, decorations, smoke machine…whatever it is that is exciting about your church.
No mention of the Gospel or how it’s at work making disciples or carrying the message into the world.
We’re selling a string of cheap beads as a remedy for a broken world. Something to wear on our wrist but won’t change our hearts.
There is nothing wrong or bad about having a talented praise band or pastor gifted with preaching the word. Those are talents bestowed by God upon these people and He intends for them to be used for the glory of His Kingdom. The problem doesn’t lie in these people using their talents in the church.
The problem lies in when we, as members of the body, start believing that this is what we have to offer the lost. When we let our enthusiasm and passion be based anything less than the atonement of Jesus Christ. When we run out into the world offering something less than the Gospel and think that is enough.
I’ve been guilty of this. It is much easier to invite people to church to hear the praise and worship band or see how funny or cool our pastor actually is than it is to share the Gospel or how ultra tech/casual/fun our church is.
And don't we often justify this by saying it’s the only way to get some people through the doors?
Again, there’s nothing wrong with these things drawing people into the church if that is what it takes. But once they’re there, it is time to move their desire from contentment with the cheap beads to the true and priceless treasures of faith, of living our lives in submission to God’s will, of being followers of Christ that are not just willing, but eager and enthusiastic, to go and make disciples.
What will it take to convince us we have something much more valuable than shiny glass beads to offer the world?
What will it take for us to go into the world with the childlike faith and unstoppable spirit of little boys with an arm full of cheap bracelets to share the Gospel?