God Works the Night Shift

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb! (Rv. 7.9-10, ESV)

One of the pieces of wisdom from seminary that I recall most often is that, “God works the night shift.” God is of course always working, but the comment was directed specifically at our all too human tendency to assume that God is only at work when and where we are. Or, we worry that God is not doing enough fast enough, and instead of simply serving Him and His kingdom, we decide to help Him run it. When we head down that road, we usually need to be reminded that God is always at work, and most of that work we will never see.

I was very recently and powerfully reminded of that fact when my family boarded six different planes en route to Chiang Mai, Thailand. We spent over 24 hours in the air, covered thousands of miles and ended up almost exactly halfway around the world, in a time zone 13 hours ahead. And yet when we woke up the next day for our first full day in Chiang Mai, we went to the church where my Dad is now the pastor and gathered with hundreds of believers from at least a dozen countries and worshiped Jesus Christ together. It was a powerful experience, but one of the most powerful moments came when I went to bed that night and realized that all of you were just that moment driving to First Free to do the same. As big and diverse as our world is, the sun never sets on worship of Jesus.

One of the highlights of our trip came when we took a day to drive out to an elephant camp in a more rural area of northern Thailand. The elephants were incredible, the scenery was beautiful, and riding the elephants through that scenery was surreal. But to top it all off, my wife realized that the man who “drove” the elephant carrying her and my daughter Liesl was humming hymns for most of the journey. Here too, God was at work. Here too Jesus was being worshiped.

We may from time to time have cause to doubt God’s plan, or to question the progress of the gospel in our world. But the cure for those doubts is often simply to open our eyes and expand our perspective. While we sleep in Minneapolis, God is building His kingdom in Chiang Mai. God works the night shift, and He does good work.

The second lesson I learned was that I often miss what God is doing even when I am staring right at it. Part of what made this trip so special for me is that I had the chance to see (and even preach at) the church where my parents now minister, and to visit Faithful Heart, where my brother Matt and his wife Audrey are missionaries. What was immediately obvious to me in both cases was that God had been at work for decades preparing all of them, and laying the groundwork for their ministries.We knew God was working in their lives, knew God was working in their previous ministries, but none of us saw or even suspected some of the biggest things God was doing. One day when I was talking with my brother, asking him about how life and ministry were going in Thailand, he just looked at me and smiled and said, “Jay, I honestly feel like I fit better here, like God made me to live here.” I laughed because it is true, God designed him, made him and prepared him for the ministry he has in Chiang Mai. In retrospect it couldn’t be more clear to either of us, and yet at the time we missed it.

Our trip was wonderful, filled with lots of fun and and fun times together. But more than that it was full of hope. I am genuinely excited by what God has been and is doing at First Free, and you should be too, but it is only the smallest part of what God is doing all around the world. Praise God, he is working in places and in ways we cannot imagine - and He is working all of the time. The sun never sets on His work or His kingdom, and it never will.