Waste that Opens Prison Doors

After a short break due to summer holidays, we return to our series on “Beautiful Waste” and finish it off with some encouraging and challenging thoughts from Andy Bevan, the Scotland Director for IJM UK.

I’ve been reading through the Book of Acts recently and have been particularly taken by the story of Peter’s miraculous escape from prison (Acts 12). It’s one of those stories you can really picture – the dangerous context the early followers of Jesus lived in, Peter being arrested and put in prison and the dramatic, yet somehow serene, way in which he escaped… A miraculous story but I feel drawn to a very small part of it.

“So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” (Acts 12:5)

What follows the church earnestly praying can only be described as a miracle – Peter was in prison guarded by four squads of four guards, on rotation 24 hours a day, chained to two guards at any one time… Yet, he managed to escape.
Was it the prayers of God’s people that led to the miracle happening? Would it have happened anyway regardless of whether the church prayed? What if the church had not been praying?
Of course, it’s impossible to know the answer for sure but this is not an isolated incident – elsewhere in Scripture, the people of God pray and the impossible is made possible. It seems that prayers and miracles are intrinsically linked.

My work with International Justice Mission has taught me something that feels to be 100% counterintuitive. In order to come alongside the magnitude of injustice in our world and the urgency to respond, we must first choose to stop. The first work of justice is a work of prayer. At IJM, we spend an hour of every working day in prayer.
What?! What about the urgency of the situation? What about the need to get out there a do something? On the face of it, this hour of prayer everyday could be viewed as a waste of time. For me, it is a privilege. It’s a beautiful waste.

As well as serving through his role in IJM, Andy is husband to Charlie, father to Harris and Aila and is part of his Leith, Edinburgh based church Mustard Seed.

Wasteful Worship

This is Part Two in our series on A Beautiful Waste.

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10: 38-42

I remember the first time I heard a worship song that had the phrase “we waste it all on you” in the chorus. To be honest, I was a little offended by it. “Worship isn’t wasteful, worship is purposeful!” I said to myself while determining not to listen to the song again. Reflecting on it a few years on, the reality is, there is something wasteful about worship… isn’t there? Particularly if we time-sheet our day and keep productivity diaries. (Who does that? Definitely not me… ….)

We are, more than ever, living non-stop lives. As a society we glorify the self-made leaders who sleep less that five hours a night, have a 5am daily two hour workout routine and have made their first million before they reach thirty years old. We so often celebrate that kind of success, but at what cost?

What do we lose in our endless pursuit of such a goal?

Here’s a good measure.

Compare that pursuit of success with spending ten minutes telling God he is a good, good, good, good Father. How does it feel? Like a waste of time? I mean, He is God, so He definitely knows that already! We don’t need to tell God that He’s a good, good Father do we? In which case, surely we’d be better getting on with the stuff of life! That is what worship really is anyway right? The whole of life stuff?

Yes, worship is about lifestyle, the way that we serve God in our daily lives, offering our bodies as living sacrifices.

And yet, there is something distinctively different and of eternal importance in choosing to give our time and our attention to focus on Jesus. To sit at His feet as Mary did (Luke 10:38-42), to sing to Him in His presence, to delight in Him and remind ourselves of his loving kindness towards us. Even when we know that there is work to be done. Especially when we know there is work to be done.

Why?

We were made for these moments. Moments of intimacy, knowing God and being known, reflected in the very nature of God as three persons.

We find perspective in these moments. When we stop, the world doesn’t fall apart. In fact, more often I find that I become more aware of where God is at work around me when I set my attention on Him.

And ultimately, it’s for him, not for us. He is absolutely so worthy of all of our worship!

Words by Zak Robb, the gatherings, worship, and creative leader for Central Church in Edinburgh