Last month I found myself standing in a place that I hadn’t planned on being that day: a cemetery.
After being called in for a last-minute favor, I had the chance to pick up my friend John from the airport. After lunch, John asked if I would be willing to help him do some research on his great grandfather — particularly to find where he was buried. An hour later, we were both standing in front of his headstone.
John openly shared with me about his great grandfather — how he was a strong man of faith and left quite a legacy in Phoenix. He told me about his family, specifically his children he raised and the impact he made on their lives. Although he never met him, John seemed to have a great respect for this man. You could tell that he made a lasting impact on his life — simply from the lives that he touched.
Our cemetery visit that afternoon meant a lot to me. You see, John is the type of man that you just can’t spend enough time with. He’s brilliant and is one of the leading voices in church unity around the world. I knew that just having this time with John was a rare opportunity. For some reason, I kept telling myself the same thing over and over, “Don’t waste this experience.”
At the end of Matthew, Jesus is about to break the disciple huddle. But before He does, He gives specific instructions on what’s next. For some, this is better known as The Great Commission. He tells them to “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” But then He adds to the list of instructions by telling them to teach these new believers everything He had taught them.
For about three years, these disciples literally walked side by side with the incarnate God — soaking up everything that He did and said. They witnessed His miracles. They asked Him questions. They prayed with him. They broke bread and drank wine together. Jesus must have known that without specific directions, they could have easily allowed the past three years to become just a story to tell. The miracles, the sermons, the witnessing of His resurrection — all just a really cool experience.
But instead, He sends them out with these last words: “Don’t waste this experience.”
Without sounding too negative, I’m convinced that we often allow our own rare experiences to go to waste. Whether it’s a mission trip, a life changing conversation, or even the chance to be in the presence of someone influential — those moments can quickly become a cool experience or fun story to tell. But there’s so much that God has given us or allowed us to experience. Maybe it’s a talent or a mission trip that changed your life. Or it may be an incredible testimony or a chance to learn from someone else. Our lives are filled with rich moments in which God is revealing Himself to us, allowing us to experience His fullness. But where much is given, much will be required (Luke 12:48).
There’s a call on all of our lives to enjoy the richness of God in our everyday lives. But that last verse in Matthew serves as a great reminder how those experiences, trips, gifts, and stories are not just for us, but they’re to be leveraged for God’s glory and renown in this world.
• Colin Noonan serves as director of youth ministries at Mountain View Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee. Keep the conversation going with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.