Grace-Empowered Intentionality and the Pursuit of Joy in Others
By J. Aaron White —
In·ten·tion·al·i·ty [inˌten(t)SHəˈnalədē] NOUN 1. the fact of being deliberate or purposive.
This word sends shivers down my spine. As a Christian who must daily ascend the high places of his heart and destroy the altar to the god of comfort, I am nauseatingly familiar with how difficult intentionality can be. Although we revel in God’s sovereignty, we also know that he ordains the end as well as the means to his good ends (see Phil. 2:12-13). Therefore, our grace-empowered effort is not optional. To put it another way, we are called to grace-empowered intentionality. Shepherding the hearts of our children and consistently leading them to the gospel doesn’t just happen. Sacrificially serving and loving our spouse doesn’t just happen. Reaching out to our neighbors and coworkers doesn’t just happen. Growing in our knowledge of Scripture and sound doctrine doesn’t just happen. All of this and a million other worthy pursuits require the beautiful paradox of grace-empowered, God-dependent, calloused-hands, aching-back intentionality!
No one imbibes grace-empowered intentionality quite as well as missionaries. No one leaves their homeland, lives on a meager income, suffers loneliness and fear, and gives their lives for the sake of the renown of Christ by accident. As missionaries like David Brainerd meditated deeply and passionately on God’s Word, their joy and delight spilled over into a zealous pursuit of seeking to bring other sinners into the enjoyment of God. As God’s grace and Christ’s glory flooded their minds and hearts, it breeched the banks of their souls and spilled over in the form of Christ-exalting intentionality.
Not only does this concept of grace-driven effort apply to evangelism in our city (though it certainly does), it also applies to the numerous one another passages in which the body of Christ is called to move toward their fellow Christians in an effort to increase their joy in Christ. Since there are numerous such passages in the New Testament, we shall note but a few:
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32).
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13).
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thess. 5:11).
“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Pet. 4:9).
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16).
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:24-25).
All of these exhortations share some common traits: they are grounded upon God’s grace in Christ, they require flesh-withering intentionality, and most occur in the mundane flow of life. The Word of God calls us to live like missionaries both inside and outside of the church walls. Not only do we seek to bring our neighbors and coworkers into the enjoyment of God in Christ, we also seek to increase and sustain the joy of our brothers and sisters in Christ through intentional actions and words. As your joy in the gospel fills your heart, ponder these practical ways in which you can intentionally move toward others to stir up their affections for Christ:
Sending Scripture verses, helpful blog links, or powerful sermon links to other brothers and sisters through Facebook, email, or texts.
Seeking out new members and guests to host for lunch after church on a Sunday.
Offering free childcare for a weary couple in need of time together in which to invest in their marriage.
Reaching out to singles, widows, orphans, etc. and inviting them into your life for occasional meals, outings, or game nights.
Offering your time, prayers, and counsel to other believers who are struggling in their marriages, parenting, etc.
Being missionaries in the mundane is often not as glamorous as we may think. However, it is in these seemingly opaque moments of life that Scripture calls us to intentionally bring the grace of the gospel and a helping hand to our brothers and sisters in Christ. My prayer is that we would be a church marked by an atmosphere of grace-empowered intentionality as we all seek to “stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb. 10:24).