As I write this, around 25 people from Jubilee are at the Newday youth event in Norfolk. It’s a week for young people that our wider family of churches, Newfrontiers, runs every year. I’ve been a few times to Newday and possibly one of my highlights was standing in the toilets next to ex-Premier League player Linvoy Primus, one of my footballing heroes!
On a more serious note (!) it’s exciting to think about what God will do in those 7,000 young people at Newday, some starting out in their relationship with Jesus and others making a decision for the first time to become Christians.
I also heard that there are three women in Jubilee that have recently turned or will turn 70 years old (I’ll not tell you who that is, but happy birthday to all of them!) Three people who have experienced much of life, with its highs and lows, yet have remained faithful to Jesus and walked with him. We’ve just started a summer series exploring a different Psalm each week. Probably one of the most famous Psalms is Psalm 23, which begins ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing’. Through the years, these faithful, amazing women have recognised that Jesus is infinitely more faithful and amazing and has been the Shepherd that leads and cares for them in all circumstances.
Our world craves for the instant. We want everything now. Apparently, the winners of the most recent Love Island TV show could easily earn £2million each in their first 12 months. Instant fame and instant riches. The Christian life however is just not like that.
Eugene Peterson (the guy who paraphrased the Bible into The Message Version) wrote a book a number of years ago called ‘A long obedience in the same direction’. In it he explores what discipleship with Jesus looks like in a world that is obsessed with the immediate and the quick fix. He says that we mistakenly approach the Christian life like tourists, who just want to see the highlights of a particular destination. Rather we should recognise that we are disciples and that we spend our lives apprenticed to our master, Jesus Christ.
That’s the beauty of being a church community of all different ages. Whatever stage of life we’re at, whatever our background is, our lives can tell a story of God’s faithfulness; and through that, we help each other to grow. I love Newday and I think I always will. However I also love being in gatherings where there are young and old worshipping together, using our different gifts and experiences to bless and serve one another.
'Our faces, then, are not covered. We all show the Lord’s glory, and we are being changed to be like him. This change in us brings ever greater glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit'.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (New Century Version)
So don’t be fooled by the world’s enthusiasm for the immediate. Of course, when you decide to put your faith in Jesus you at once receive all the blessings and benefits of being God’s child. God’s new creation has come to us (2 Corinthians 5: 17). However that’s just the beginning! God is passionate about forming and shaping you to be more and more like Jesus. How is He doing that? It’s not by instant download or immediate perfection. Neither is it by simply stuffing more and more information into our heads. It is as dearly loved sons and daughters walking with Him in a life of discipleship. He is the good Shepherd that we can trust throughout all our life.
So for anyone turning 70 (or 80 or 90) or anyone returning from Newday, carry on you apprenticeship with Jesus. It’s a lifelong thing!
The age old question of whether Christmas gets earlier each year. Perhaps it points to something deeper than we think.