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Now What? Then What?

I’ve been asking two questions of myself, and of other people, lately.

"Then what?"

"Now what?"

For me, these two questions get at the heart of ministry, evangelism, and growth in Christ. These questions push past the easy answers and reveal the processes that effect change, sanctify, and propel us towards a deeper love for, and faith in, God.

I’ve been asking two questions of myself, and of other people, lately.

"Then what?"

"Now what?"

For me, these two questions get at the heart of ministry, evangelism, and growth in Christ. These questions push past the easy answers and reveal the processes that effect change, sanctify, and propel us towards a deeper love for, and faith in, God.

When these questions are answered, the road of difficult, compassionate, sometimes-dirty ministry, faith and dependence on God begins. We just can’t answer them without Him.

Examples:

  • Your neighbor is incredible: he invites you over for dinner, dog-sits, looks out for your place when you’re out of town. You talk about spiritual things all the time.

One evening, he confides in you that he’s gay, and dating someone special that he’d like you to meet. You decide to respond with what the Bible says about homosexuality. But…Then what?

  • You voted for Senator John McCain, hoping for the dismantling of the Roe v. Wade decision through the nomination of conservative Supreme Court Justices. Barack Obama emerges as the President-elect. Now what?
  • Your best friend is a faithful worker in a well-known ministry. She is later accused, and then confesses, to having an illicit relationship with a person who is not her spouse. She is remorseful, and asks you specifically for forgiveness. You say you forgive her. Then what?
  • Your wife is pregnant, and working at a job that provides you and your family with health insurance and the majority of the household’s income. Because of hard economic times at her company, she is laid-off. Now what?

Get the picture? Ministry potential is everywhere, as is the temptation to be dismissive, condescending, or trite in how we (boy, do I include myself in this) respond to the world around us when it does not fit into our rubric, or when it deviates from the standard of our security.

Let’s face it: the Lord works within the "then what" and "now what." God eschews "ideal" circumstances because people might think that they were the ones who came up with solutions.

Examples?

  • Joseph languished, unjustifiably, as a slave and a prisoner in Egypt after his brothers sold him, but remained faithful to any task set before him. God used him to save the brothers who betrayed him from starvation, after rising to power in Egypt.
  • Moses’ mother and some clever midwives preserved his life in the midst of a national campaign to kill infants his age. He overcame the Egyptian government twice: once by surviving and winning the heart of Pharaoh’s daughter as a baby; once again as a prophet and instrument of God demanding justice for Israel. His career as God’s prophet came after murdering an Egyptian, and a 40-year "hiatus" as a shepherd.
  • Hannah endured as a barren wife to a clueless husband and a nagging, competitive co-wife, praying so hard for change that she looked like a drunk to Eli – who was a priest of YHWH! But YHWH recognized her fervent prayer and remembered her…and then came Samuel.
  • Bathsheba gave birth to the wisest and wealthiest king, only after suffering the seduction of a king, the assassination of her husband, and the tragic death of her first child with King David.
  • Daniel prophesied to kings and interpreted dreams, in exile in a foreign land. Oh, and there was that whole lion’s den incident.
  • Mary was an unwed mother in a culture where women in her circumstances could be justifiably executed. She gave her body and will in obedience to God’s will, even though it could have cost Mary her life. She gave birth to our Savior.

 

How do you think these people answered the "now what"s and "then what"s as they arose?

In light of this, how should we respond to unlikely, uncomfortable, or unpredictable circumstances?

 

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Sharifa Stevens

Sharifa Stevens is a Manhattan-born, Bronx-raised child of the King, born to Jamaican immigrants, and currently living in Dallas. Sharifa's been singing since she was born. Her passion is to serve God's kingdom by leading His people in worship through music, speaking and writing, and relationships with people. Her heart is also unity, inspired by John. Sharifa hates exercise but likes Chipotle, bagels with a schmeer and lox, salmon sushi, chicken tikka, curried goat (yeah, it's good) with rice and peas, and chocolate lava cakes. She's been happily married to Jonathan since 2006...and he buys her Chipotle.

5 Comments

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    Gwynne Johnson

    Unrealistic expectations!
    "Now what" begs the question me of why do I expect a person without Christ (when Ephesians tells me they are dead in sin) to live and act as though they were alive! And, when I am tempted to judge my sister, how aware am I of my own, less conspicuous sin? It seems that we continue to be surprised by depravity when it reliably pops up! In me, in others.

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    Sandra Glahn

    Lament

    I thought I had the Christian life pretty well tied up with a pretty bow until I hit some of the NOW WHAT and THEN WHAT walls (caps on purpose…i.e., yelling!). That’s when I discovered it really was okay to ask God questions ("How long, O Lord?" is right outta the psalms) and lament. Whoever taught me the song that says "I’m inright, outright, upright, downright happy all the time" surely meant well but did me no favor theologically! "Help me!" and "Save me! and "Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy" got left out of the ACTS prayer formula, but

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  • Christy McFarland

    Christy McFarland

    Hit the Nail on the Head
    Sharifa,
    I so appreciate this post. The questions and situations you provide are all too often confronted by not only us, but the men and women we serve in our ministries and churches. Have we properly equipped them to respond well? My immediate reaction is “no”. We have become too accustomed to an “answer”, a “process”, or “best practices” and often forget to seek God individually.

    I found myself in a new city and new job recently and continue to scratch my head daily. “Now what?” … For real!!!!!!

    These questions should be asked more often than they are. In the mundane as well as the obvious.

    Thanks for your words. Thanks for the biblical reminders. It was an encouragement tonight!

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    Dawn Jefferson

    Occupy.
    Sharifa, thanks for your post.

    I have also cried this from my belly to the Lord for a few years now. It seemed that moving from NY and starting teaching was the last clear assignment I can remember. Lately, when I cry out of desperation or even boredom, I hear the words from Luke 19:13, ” … Occupy till I come.” I am so often intrigued by the tent culture of Abraham, Moses and the tabernacle, and even Paul. What must it be like to live in tents, on the verge of occupation, yet living in the chairos moments of the Spirit. Being invested in a community and simultaneously following clouds of glory. I have resisted being too settled and at the same time fearful of offering drive-thru ministry to people. At this hour, I can only offer that God wants us to occupy the spaces of our sojourns. The now what response is to pitch our tents and wait in faith and vigilance.
    When I go camping, I love setting out on the hike, envisioning all the action and movement of setting up camp. There is a little bit of let down after I sit in the popped tent. The agenda is not as clear and the quietness tends to disturb, insects settle in, and the grime of our journey seems more apparent. But it is then that the real camping begins. Before we busy ourselves with gathering wood and building fires, we must ask ourselves (I’m asking myself) why are we in this wilderness again? And then, we must be there. Sit. Camp. Watch in silence. Breathe in and out.
    In between the miraculous and the eventful, between the clouds of glory and pillars of fire, I am more persuaded that God wants us to simply live and represent the daily normalcy of Christian living, every-day occupation. The answer to “now what?” is to get up tomorrow morning and pray, to go to work and offer ourselves as the daily sacrifices of consistent testimony. What now? Live today, while it is yet today. Our Father will lay out our provisions for later, He’ll direct us toward the manna of ministry in the morning when we arise from our tents.

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    Julie Cramer

    Thank you
    Sharifa,
    I’m taking Sandi’s advice and just offering a simple thank you for your words. You are honest (a good writer … I LOVE that) and that honesty helps me and others breathe a sigh of relief that we can verbalize all the stuff we feel without fear of condemnation.

    Now what? I say, “Thanks for giving us words to sustain the weary.”

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