The God Who Acts

Our students have begun to find me annoying for any number of reasons. I am a terrible Ripstik Soccer player. Sometimes I forget to pick up supplies for a game I promised them I would play. But I have had a question that I have asked again and again and again that if often met with eye rolls. “What is God up to you in your life?"

The frequency with which I ask this question of students aside, this question is at the heart of my theology of youth ministry. It might be the most important question that we can ask our students, and also ourselves. Why do we ask such a question? Because at the heart of the Christian faith we worship the God who acts in human history. He did it when he liberated his people from Egypt. He did it when he spoke truth through his prophets. He did it when he came in flesh as the man Jesus, who took on our humanity to redeem it. He did it when he took our place on the cross. He did it when he rose from the dead. And if we affirm a resurrected, ascended, and reigning Christ (and I do), then we have to assume that he continues to act today.

The question then is, how aware of it are we?

When I ask this question of our students, there are a few types of answers that I frequently get back:

1) The “Let me tell you everything that I’ve been up to lately” answer. This answer will come with a noticeable and suspicious lack of the name God or Jesus in it. When asked what God is doing in their lives, students of this answer type seem to only notice what they are doing. It’s a primarily self-centered view of faith, and sadly it’s probably one of the most prevalent answers I get to my question.

2) The “God is teaching me how to (fill in how I want to improve myself)” answer. This one comes up a bunch too. “God is teaching me how to be a better student in school.” “God is teaching me how to make the soccer team.” “God is teaching me how to go to church more.” At least in this answer, God has taken a more central role. But in reality, if you press a little farther, what you’ll find is that God is present in this answer in name only. It’s really “I want to make the soccer team, and if that works out, I’ll make sure to give God the credit for it!”

3) The “What are you talking about?” answer. This is typically shown in a completely dumbfounded stare. What do you mean what is God doing? I thought God was just the guy we talked about on Wednesday nights?

As long as these answers persist, one of my chief goals in youth ministry is going to be to point out where God is acting in our world, and hope that students will begin to do the same. Maybe they find God working in a relationship that they need to mend. Maybe they see God in the darkness that is far too prevalent in the lives of many of our students. Maybe they even find God in soccer try-outs and better grades. But the point is to understand where God is working, not where we ourselves are working and hope to give God credit for it. At the heart of faith we understand that God has been in the business of doing what we never could ourselves. That is not a work that was finished when Jesus rose from the dead. It continues today.

So my friends, let me ask you:

“What’s God doing in your life?"

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