FLASHBACK FRIDAYS: Week 4 (Into The Light by Matthew West)- How Actively Changing the World that we Live in can be more of a Calling than Passively ‘trying’ to Change the Whole World

As this series of Flashback Fridays, is a yearly thing, with me posting once every 52 weeks; it’d make sense that I would have a scaffold of what I’d write every week probably around 2-3 before me writing each blog. And yeah, you would be right; cause for the past three blogs (which you can view them all here!) I have had a general idea of what I’m writing about. And what I planned to write since I have started, has been more or less what I have written about. But this week is drastically different. So much so that what I had planned to write about, and the album I planned to delve into; is now shelved for next week. At least I hope it is. Cause God has stirred something in me so much, that I couldn’t keep quiet about what God has put on my heart, and I hope you guys benefit from what I’m imparting to you as well.

It all started last week Wednesday, where my brother and I met up with a close friend for dinner, in the city. He wasn’t really that hungry, so we ate out at Subway, and we talked for ages, about all kinds of topic, even though we hadn’t actually met and caught up for at least a couple of months, and then a few more months prior to that. This friend, who we have known for 10 years, is one whom we trust very much, and whom who’s value in everything he says we place great importance on. So on this particular Wednesday he mentioned something that at the time I only half heartedly heard, and didn’t resonate with me, but did on Thursday.

This mate of mine said (and this was in context to the fact that the city was in the middle of a big construction development citywide state, or whatever you want to call it- and for the past 2 years the government and council and builders were installing a light rail system to improve the city and modernise it a bit) that since the development started, that the city and the vibe of it had changed, and that it was only recently that he started to notice the inequality that is prevalent even here in Australia. At train stations. Outside restaurants. In almost every area where there is great wealth, there is also a juxtaposition, and a stark contrast to the homeless and those in need, whom my friend sees more and more on a regular basis.

Now this friend didn’t really elaborate on ways that he thought would benefit society, in the way that we can help these people, but throughout the day on Thursday, his words struck and chord with me. My friend reminded me, that now more than ever before, there is an immense need to actively show love and affection to whom Jesus calls the least of these. The broken, the downtrodden, the misfits, the ones society shies away from- anyone unusual to ourselves, we are called to minister to, even if we feel uncomfortable. And though we can see it everyday around us- though God is calling us to change the world we live in, and benefit the society around us by actively making a difference in our own backyard, sometimes we can be like Gideon, asking for signs many times over (sometimes in hope that God gives us a different sign so that we can keep being passive!), or like Jonah, and run away. And this train of thought that came to me yesterday led me to one of my favourite albums of all time- Matthew West’s Into The Light.

As always, this isn’t really an exposition on the life of the artist in question, so if you want to know how Matthew rose to stardom, you can read Wikipedia, but let me tell you the parts of Matthew’s ministry that spoke to me the most. It’s the part post-Something to Say in 2008. In 2007, Matthew experienced some difficulties speaking and singing, and what the doctors found was that there were some haemorrhaging in the vocal region, due to polyps. After Matthew had surgery, and was on vocal rest for 2 months, then the amazing thing happened. His 2008 album Something To Say released, with much critical acclaim and popularity, but from then on Matthew has been on a different kind of journey. Instead of singing songs and stories about his own life, he is now writing songs and singing them, inspired by stories of fans. Essentially, God has put on his heart to do something new, and to keep doing it until He says so, so that is what Matthew is doing.

While you may all have your favourite Matthew West album, or song, in my opinion the most ‘complete’ album of his, containing some of the most relevant songs of his career is Into The Light. My brother reviewed Into The Light way back in 2012 for Indie Vision Music (and you can view that review here!) so I won’t delve into a lengthy review of this inspiring and relevant project, of which I share similar views to my brother. I will instead say that Matthew is one of the most inspiring storytellers I’ve ever heard, and one of the most prolific songwriters I’ve ever come across. How he can take many stories, that are not his own, and weave them into a tapestry that only God can make, is beyond me- this guy is a genius. Matthew sings about a mother forgiving her daughter’s killer, and how we should love and forgive our enemies too (“Forgiveness”); about declaring that our name is a child of the one true King, that we’ve been saved and set free (“Hello My Name Is”); about how any broken relationship can be made whole in time (“Restored”), and about how God uses mercy to heal us and make us more like Him (“Moved By Mercy”). But if there is one song that has challenged me, and inspired me to live a life more of actively doing something instead of passive doing something (which in my opinion, is hardly doing anything at all!), is “Do Something”.

Now before I quickly wrap this up, and tell you all why this is probably the most important song that you may hear all year (yep, I said ‘important’ and not ‘feel-good’!); let me remind you all that Billy Graham, whom the media called “America’s Pastor”, passed away this week at the age of 99. While it’s sad that he’s not here on this earth now, we can all rejoice because he is now home, with Jesus in heaven, and we will all see him again. But what we can do is look at the legacy Billy left behind, and marvel at his life, as we are in awe that Billy did something. He made a difference. He knew what God wanted him to do, and he didn’t let anything stand in his way. He was a very articulate speaker, he preached the Bible, he was full of confidence, he filled auditoriums and stadiums with some would say controversial and radical theology. But nonetheless, he always brought every message back to Jesus, and always made time to lead people to the Lord. It was his calling, and it’s of my opinion (which I could be wrong!), that he never questioned it. He never was like Gideon or Jonah, in fact he embraced what Jesus called him to do, and ran with it. Just like Matthew in how God called him to abandon (for a season) writing songs about himself, and instead start writing and singing songs about others; Billy always pointed the spotlight off of himself and onto Jesus. While everyone has a different opinion about Billy (and myself not that much, as, shocking to say, I’ve never heard or seen a single speech of his, ever!), it’s hard to deny the passion in his voice that obviously comes from Jesus.

The point of “Do Something” is this- that while we may be itching to change the world beyond what we know, and so to countries like ones in Africa to make the world a better place over there, it is perhaps somewhat idealistic. While we may long to go over there so that it would seem like we’re making a difference, at times we may be going through the motions, and may be appearing like we want to ‘change’ the world, but in reality all we want to do is soothe our own conscience. We want to ‘do something’ so that we can say ‘look at me, I visited this country, and did something, and now I can check that off my list’. But God is saying that He did do something, and that is that He made us. He didn’t make us so that we can passively go to countries to take a back seat and have a holiday while others did our dirty work- he made it so that we each have different and unique talents, so that we each can contribute to the growing of the kingdom of God in many different ways. So, some of us don’t feel like it’s in our DNA to be a missionary. But some of us ‘want’ to go over there, because we’re scared of what else God calls us to, if it’s beyond our capabilities. Yet the proverb, or saying, or whatever it is, rings true- God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualified the called. And that is true.

Did Matthew question God, saying he wasn’t qualified to write an album full of other people’s stories, when God put it on his heart to undertake such an adventure? Did Billy question God’s direction when he felt it in his heart to preach to millions of people on a global scale? They probably did, but they still followed God anyway. They did something. Regardless if they were unsure of the outcome, regardless if they were scared, they did it anyway. And that’s the overall point this song, and subsequent albums post-Something To Say communicates- and it’s heavily evident in Into The Light. That when we are called to do something radical and unorthodox, we can question, but we should obey. Because every time, the outcome will be beautiful. God will orchestrate beauty from supposed ashes. Matthew’s albums, and Into The Light in particular is proof of that.

This past week, the End It Movement was in effect on social media also. Millions of celebrities and other influential people posted pictures with their fists with red crosses drawn on them, as a way of saying that they don’t stand for child trafficking, making the whole world aware of their stance. Some would say that’s a passive way of doing something, and while that could be the case, it at least raises awareness so that we can all take the next step, and that’s love others around us with Jesus’ love, so that people in our spheres of influence can be changed inside out. That does not mean going to Africa and then taking a back seat. It’s in fact our hands being dirty and doing the hard work. That could mean loving an enemy or something you disagree with on almost every aspect. It could mean a lot of things- God may be calling each of us to what He has planned for us to do (which we ourselves may not fully know what that is until years and years down the track), but that shouldn’t mean we should sit and do nothing. God did say through the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20 that it’s our responsibility as Christians to spread the gospel to every creature, so let us start small. The people living in our street, our friends, family. Not to point blank and outright ask them if they believe, but rather being Jesus to them, so that they have no choice but to ask about this love so great that is making us new. It’s hard to do this at first, but if we have God on our side, then can con confidently say that ‘…we are the salt of the earth, we are a city on a hill, we’re never gonna change the world by standing still, no we won’t stand still…’.

Is there something God is calling you to do, something that you are passionate about, that you’re scared to do? Maybe you want to be like Jonah and run away, or like Gideon and ask lots of signs. But whatever the case, let us remember that it might be your calling. So keep your eyes and ears open, and let me know what God says to you in the comments below!

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