The Bible speaks voluminously about matters of the intangible, such as these:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)
“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1)
So why is it we forget that matters of the intangible matter more than matter itself? Things that are unseen seem to last longer than that which can be pressed between finger and thumb or clenched within closed fists. And if it’s longevity that we are after, should we not seek things that are eternal, though they often be intangible?
In light of such contemplations, I am compelled to relate a story of divine significance. Bright Eyes* was 20 years old when she began attending our weekly Within Reach Global English corner outreach in China. Her dismal battle with depression was evident; the narrative was etched in the scars on her wrists. But in our college student outreach, she found a community that, for the first time in her life, actually cared for her.
For over a year, we discipled her. Though she was not ready to commit her life to Christ, we guided her on a journey to Jesus. And the Holy Spirit met her along the path.
One night she had a dream. She was standing in a circle, holding hands with a group of children. To her left was a bearded foreign man whom she later realized was Jesus Himself. He squeezed her hand and said, “I am calling you to share My love with these marginalized children. You will be My light in dark places.” She awoke from the dream and that same week, gave her life to Jesus.
Bright Eyes was filled with a new passion and purpose for life. She returned to her hometown in the rural mountains of Southwest China and found that hundreds of orphaned children had been abandoned in her village and surrounding countryside. Week after week, she traveled long hours to care for these young kids, sharing the Gospel of the Kingdom wherever she went.
Today, Bright Eyes ministers to over 250 underprivileged children in 74 villages that surround her hometown. She leads a discipleship class among teenagers and has witnessed countless people come to Christ! The gentle ripples of Christian care traversed time and space, and eventually triggered life transformation in a forgotten region of Southeast Asia.
Mother Teresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” But we don’t always know the long-term impact of our work. With this in mind, I suggest 3 points to remember in regard to things unseen:
- Don’t spend excessive energy trying to calculate intangible success.
Bearing the weight of intangible things can be a heavy mental burden. It can be difficult to quantify spiritual success. Evangelism, discipleship and church planting are a gritty kind of undertaking, as is the case with all human interaction. It is often a messy venture and a complicated pursuit. Perhaps we must simply put our hand to the plow, stop looking over our shoulder, and trust that God will bring about a glorious harvest. For “those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them (Psalm 126:6).
- Trust that the Lord of the harvest knows what He is doing.
Redemption, salvation, revival: These are God’s ideas, not yours. Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit.” It is paramount that we believe in the promise that God’s word will not return void. It will accomplish what He desires and achieve the purpose for which He sent it. The seeds we sow must go deep. This process takes time. We must hold on to God’s promise that a harvest bud will burst forth from the surface and bloom into revival.
- Give weight to intangible things; it affirms God’s sovereignty in your life.
If you are questioning whether or not your missional efforts will have eternal results, it might be time to pause and reflect on the big picture. God’s ways are not our ways. You and I both want to make an impact in the world. We desire to see the Kingdom of God established on the earth. The fact is that God has called us to join Him in His redemptive salvation plan. But He is a big God and we are infinitesimal beings. Prone to myopia, we struggle to recognize the nuances of His grand intentions. When we give up control and trust in God’s sovereignty, we experience personal health and missional wellness. We experience joy in the journey. And isn’t that what our Heavenly Father is concerned about?
Dear Christian, you must not give up! You have been called to create Kingdom transformation. And though there will be times when you wonder if a change will ever come, God is guiding the ripples of your life far and wide to reach those in need of His glorious touch. Learning to find the value of intangible things is a lifelong journey. I pray that you might move in the direction of unswerving faith, trusting that our God is not unaware of the minuscule details.
*pseudonym; story shared with permission
David Joannes is the founder and president of Within Reach Global, which serves the advance of the Gospel in some of Southeast Asia’s most difficult places. He is the author of The Space Between Memories: Recollections from a 21st Century Missionary. David has a love for language, culture, and creative writing, and for the last 20 years, he has witnessed God’s Kingdom established in forgotten parts of the globe. David lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with his wife, Lorna, and their daughter, Cara. You can find him at davidjoannes.com.