Around the time I was in high school and became a Christian, I used to go outside at night and stand in our driveway. We lived (and my mom still does) in a neighborhood that was near a lot of farm land and away from busy city lights. I would stand there, sometimes walk around, look up, and see thousands of beautiful little stars. This was one of my favorite settings to be in and talk to God, especially when I was doubting and struggling with questions. Seeing all of those stars would sometimes give me a sense of peace, even when I felt like I was drowning in doubts and fears. As I would observe the night sky, I felt in my heart that God was in control, that He loved me, and that everything was going to be okay.
I confess that I don’t do that as often anymore, but occasionally I try to stop and observe. I am learning that slowing down and taking time to recognize God is vital to our walk with Him. While recognizing God’s creation is important, it is even more important to recognize Him through His word and the ministry opportunities He gives us. It is vital to our growth and ability to abide in Him.
In John 1:3 it says, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made,” (NIV). Everything that exists right in front of us – every star in the sky, every tree planted in the ground, every man, woman, and child we come in contact with, and even every blade of grass in ground and strand of hair on our heads – was personally made through Jesus. Then later in John 1:10-11 it says, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him,” (NIV). God’s very own creation did not recognize Him. Many rejected Him and did not believe in His name. How sad would it be if we created something very special and dear to us, yet once it was made it did not recognize us and flat-out rejected us? Yet that is what we do to God all the time. Even those of us who have received Him and love Him still miss Him sometimes because we get so caught up in earthly things and our own personal lives that we don’t recognize Him when He’s right in front of us. Whether it is the Holy Spirit leading us to do something, or a ministry opportunity, or someone He has put in our lives that we are supposed to love sacrificially, it is all too easy to not recognize Him due to the noise around us. Even in programs like Awana, which are good and fruitful, it can be easy to miss Jesus in the midst of all the programming and scheduling.
If you are an Awana leader or volunteer, let’s discipline ourselves to listen to the voice of Jesus, so we can recognize Him when He is in front us. Sometimes you may have to lay aside the schedule for a child or family in need, and that’s okay. Sometimes you may need to show extreme amounts of grace and mercy to a child or parent, and that’s okay too because Jesus showed the same to us when we didn’t deserve it. If we discipline ourselves to soak up His word, not only in our minds but also in our hearts (which is what we’re teaching kids to do), we will learn to recognize His voice more and more.
It is not about running a successful program at the end of the day. Instead, it is about loving others because God first loved us, and helping children and their families learn to do the same.