FAQs for Worth Season
Why does God put us through agony as we do campaign work?
Because endurance of agony can achieve what crushing force never can. Force may get people's compliance; endurance can win their hearts. And God's public awareness campaign is out to win people's hearts.
Our calm, committed endurance is a signal to our enemies that something special is going on in us. They are not forced to ask us for an explanation of our endurance, but they have a chance. That is the goal of God's campaign strategy--give everyone a chance. Approach them with a blessing and a call, not a curse and an ultimatum.
By having Jesus endure what he went through, carrying that cross and dying on it, God showed the human race that violence is not a tool that good people have to resort to in order to bring in a better world.
From a human point of view, it is honorable to use violence to defend your personal, family, or tribal honor. In many cultures it is disgraceful not to do so. But God has subtler and more dignified methods of maintaining honor. He told us through the prophet Isaiah, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55.9)
And as we think about Christ carrying his cross, we realize this is true. Violence is something that good people "attack" by enduring it courageously, and in the end they undermine its power. Violence collapses on itself.
By accepting agony, we show our loyalty to the mission God has given us and the strategy he has chosen. That is what makes us worthy from God's perspective even if people around us think we are pathetic. We do not have to prove anything to them, retaliate against them, or allow their misguided shaming or their blind violence to dominate our thoughts and feelings. We are liberated from all that.
And our mission is also violence-free. We do not have to use force to reshape the world, and we do not fall for the pipe dream that the world would be perfect if we ever got to take charge. Jesus never told his followers to conquer the world or taught them how to exercise power over its systems.
On Judgment Day Jesus will not determine our worth by how much we conquered or how fiercely we defended our honor as his followers. He will use two other measuring sticks:
1) how were we his witnesses, especially of his resurrection?
2) how worthily did we endure the backlash against our witness?
When we endure opposition well, what keeps us from bragging about how tough we are?
We should never get arrogant about our courage, as if we can say, "Bring on the difficulties! We will show you that we can handle anything." On the contrary, Jesus teaches us to pray, "Lead us not into times of testing [that will require a lot of courage], but deliver us from evil." But when the evil does come, he gives us what it takes to get through it.
We always prefer to avoid agony and shaming because we know we don't always feel courageous as we carry our cross. The Declaration for Worth Season does not say, "This is a day to carry our cross, and we feel full of courage." It says, "I see this day as a day to remember Jesus carrying his cross, and to live like it matters." The point is how we live, not how we feel.
Christ will make it possible to endure opposition worthily. If someone asks us later how we got through that crisis and pain, we will only say that God got us through in a way that we don't really understand ourselves.
What does it mean to "carry my cross" if no one is persecuting me?
Persecution is the external cross, the one others force us to carry. But there is also an internal cross that we painfully carry all the time whether we are in a persecution environment or living an easy life.
The internal cross is the pain of authentic conversion. It is an ongoing process. In his mercy God does not reveal to any of us a complete list of the things about us that have to change so we can be worthy members of his campaign team.
If he did, we would give up and quit the team, wouldn't we? God paces his revelations so we get energized by progress step by step. He shows us something to give up or some new habit to develop, and it is very painful when we start. Gradually the pain subsides, and we enjoy the change we see in ourselves.
For example, as the saying goes, "Give till it hurts. Then keep on giving till it doesn't hurt any more." The pain recedes; the joy increases.
As we enjoy our victory on one point, God stretches us further by putting his finger on something else that needs to change. We have another Uh-Oh Moment (a negative Ah-Hah Moment), and we start working on the issue we hadn't noticed before.
To carry our cross means to stay engaged in the process, not to cover our flaws with the fig leaf of statements like, "I'm only human." If we are authentically converted, authentically recruited for God's campaign work, he puts his Spirit into us to fire us up and equip us. We can never say we are "only human" again.
We are campaign team members who carry our internal cross. We stay engaged in the process of dealing with our flaws as God reveals them. We are not discouraged that there are more layers than we know about yet. We just trust God's timing to peel back another layer, and we trust the Spirit to enable us to deal with each new layer as it becomes visible.
How do I know if I am already a "worthy finisher"?
The simplest way to tell if you are already a worthy finisher is to ask yourself whose opinion has more influence in your everyday life--God's or people's.
If you are a people-pleaser, it is important to you to make a good first impression and to keep up appearances. You may disgrace yourself when you forget God's opinion as you try to please some person or group.
On the other hand, if God's opinion really matters to you, you will keep listening for his guidance in every situation that comes along. No special skill is required. We just have to pay attention.
We keep reading the Bible so we get the big picture of God's campaign. We keep listening for the Holy Spirit to impress on us our day-to-day assignments in the campaign. And we stay connected to other campaign team members because sometimes God guides us through them.
Attentive listening keeps us in SYNC with God's campaign and strategy, just like it keeps dancers in sync with the music. If we stay in SYNC, we finish worthily.
Another way to tell if you are a worthy finisher is to ask how you are handling opposition that comes because people know you are representing Jesus in some way. If you never get any opposition, you have to ask whether you are ever risking anything for the campaign at all. If you get opposition but cave in quickly, or if the possibility of opposition makes you avoid some campaign activities, you will know what disgrace feels like when you see Jesus face to face.
If you still aren't sure whether you are a worthy finisher, here is a third way to tell, though it is a little more work. Read the version of the campaign story called "No Shame in That" (2 min., see under "Story of the World" tab). Then ask whether you see yourself as part of that story. The "Reflections" at the end of the story include five ways to tell whether you are in or not.
If I wanted to improve my chances of finishing worthily, how would I do it?
Step one is to give up the idea that the way to improve your chances is to try harder. Trying harder may sound right but it won't get the job done. To improve your chances of finishing worthily, you have to hear the story of God's campaign and say, "I'm in," the same way you might say it if someone asked you whether you wanted to go along on a trip or take part in a business deal.
The campaign story is summarized in seven versions under the "Story of the World" tab. The version that goes with Worth Season is called, "No Shame in That". If you read that story and say, "I'm in," you are saying,
"Yes, Jesus our hero, please put your Spirit into me so I can finish worthily like you did. I admit that trying to do my best without you will never work. I was never destined to do it on my own. From now on I'm relying on you to keep me loyal and to get me through any hard times I hit as I serve on your campaign team. Tattoo my soul with the ink of your Spirit, the ink made from your own blood."
That is the prayer of worthy people who will be empowered to finish well. Let's give all honor to Jesus, and let's never let the people who shame us think they are more important than they really are. God's opinion of us outweighs theirs a thousand times.
Is it OK to be aggressive or obnoxious as a follower of Jesus?
Look at Jesus again. Did he have to carry that cross because he was aggressive and obnoxious? No, but he was not exactly meek and mild either. He was faithful to his mission. He never flinched.
He overturned the tables of the greedy moneychangers in the Temple, and when he told them to get out, he did not use his calm voice
He stood up to the challenges of the questions the religious experts asked in order to trap and discredit him
He did not back down when the religious court asked him to declare whether he was the Messiah, even though they held all the power and he held none
He was not intimidated by the Roman governor but told him that he had no power over him except what God had allowed
We are not really "carrying our cross" when we are suffering for being aggressive and obnoxious about our attachment to Jesus. We deserve shame for that kind of suffering. Our real "cross" is the shame we do not deserve. Our cross happens because of our participation in Jesus's campaign, not because we go about our campaign assignments in a more aggressive and obnoxious way than Jesus did.
What does the Worth Season icon mean?
A person carrying a beam is the SYNC icon for Honor Season because Jesus was paraded through the streets of Jerusalem carrying the beam of his cross to his place of execution. It was the government's way of humiliating the condemned person and sending a clear warning to the public, "You don't want to end up like this loser."
Jesus had already told his followers that they would in fact end up like him, at least figuratively. He did not mince any words about it. They had to be ready every day to "carry their cross" (face rejection for their connection with him) or they would be disqualified from being his followers at all. (Luke 9.23-24)
How does Worth Season relate to the previous two seasons of the campaign (Power Season and Mercy Season)?
Power, Mercy, Worth--those are three consecutive seasons in the SYNC annual cycle and three ways of looking at the cross
In Power Season we looked at the cross as Christ's victory over the powers of darkness
In Mercy Season we looked at it as a sacrifice for us
In Worth Season (September 26 - November 25, 2023) we look at it as a model of authenticity
Power, Mercy, and Worth are also three parts of our witness to the Risen King, Jesus the Messiah, who is carrying on his campaign through us by his Spirit.
Power shows that God's transforming power for good is at work in us.
Mercy shows that God has already paid for our past mistakes.
Worth shows that we authentically keep trusting his power and mercy even when they do not seem to be working for our own immediate safety or comfort.
Our trust in Christ stays genuine and deep because we know how this story will end. We know what comes next in the SYNC cycle--Vision Season, when everything comes together under the rule of Christ, and he validates our true worth.