It was standing-room-only.
At 7am, our panel discussion had an attendance that far surpassed what we’d expected. I thought 30-50 women might come (morning people!); instead, the room was packed. This turnout spoke of the universal experience of human suffering, and more importantly, of our desire for hope in the midst of it.
This event was one encouraging part of the whole of TGCW18. The hunger and passion in our room that morning was but a tiny sliver of what had been displayed in the main hall, as a vast ocean of women from across the globe worshipped Jesus together.
Here are my takeaways from TGCW18:
To listen to Jesus is to live.
God’s command is simple: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5). But obedience to it? Far from simple, for we’re naturally drawn to whatever will itch our ears and suit our passions. We’re a rebellious people who’ve wandered and turned away from listening to the truth (see 2 Timothy 4:2-4).
But our turning away is our death:
“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey…by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply…But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish.” (Deuteronomy 30:15-18, emphasis mine)
I confess, I often want to listen to Jesus so that I can accomplish other things; in this, the Lord and Savior of the universe becomes a means to my own selfish ends. But in running after other gods—like attention, influence, comfort, or success—my sorrows only multiply (Psalm 16:4). To be drawn away to worship and serve idols yields the fruit of sin and death: discontentment, anxiety, fear of man, and an incessant hunger for what will never truly satisfy.
But to listen to Jesus through his Word is life. In seeking to love him, walk in his ways, and keep his commands, we gain more of him and, therefore, the truest, most satisfying life possible. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
Is my greatest desire to listen to Jesus and, therefore, to love him more and be satisfied in him? Do I trust his promised, sanctifying work to gradually expel these other loves from my heart as he gives me more of himself?
To listen to Jesus is to share his life with others.
It can be difficult for me as a writer, editor, and creative thinker not to trust in my own understanding and strive in my natural abilities. I often feel pressure to create—which is sometimes a fruitful pressure that prompts me to work through obstacles, but other times is an unhelpful pressure that tempts me to be disingenuous and unfaithful for the sake of producing.
I also feel pressure as a mom, to be creative with how I steward my time with our daughter and make the best use of it in pointing her to Jesus.
But truly, the only way I’ll ever have something of worth to write or say or teach is if I’ve first sat humbly at Jesus’ feet and learned from him. The only way to be a vessel of life and truth is to first receive the Living Water, and then overflow.
Do I believe that power and truth to minister to others comes from my own reserves of creativity, wisdom, and strength? Or am I full convinced that Jesus is, and must be, my source, my highest pursuit, and my greatest reward?
We’re all on the same team.
I won’t lie—I wondered whether to include this takeaway: One of the biggest heart-battles I fight on a daily basis, and especially when I’m participating in events, is for glory. I am a glory thief. So are you. Our contexts may look different, but we’re all vying to sit on the throne of our own lives. We’re all worshiping self.
We’re all attempting to steal what rightly (and only) belongs to Jesus Christ.
At conferences, I’m hyper-aware of this battle for glory: not only in myself, but in others. We’re quick to forget how we’re all in the same race and on the same team. We may not say this or consciously think this, but for many of us with a measure of influence, we’re wondering how well-liked we are compared to someone else; we’re wondering how that person got an opportunity we had wanted; and we’re placing our joy and satisfaction in receiving glory from men, rather than from God.
I felt so grateful to participate in a panel discussion between five of us women because it reminded me that we’re all servants of Christ, entrusted with the gospel message. We’re on the same team.
And so are you along with us. We proclaim him, not ourselves. Christ is our aim.
Do I look at other believers as competition? Do I criticize others, covet their gifts and opportunities, and compare myself to them? Or do I run my race with perseverance, faithfully following Jesus as he says, “You follow me”? Do I take joy in knowing God is accomplishing his eternal purposes for his glory through his people?
This is the joy of life in Jesus: We’re no longer enslaved to worship and serve ourselves, and to surely perish. Rather, we’ve been freed to worship and serve and listen to him, and therefore to truly multiply and live.
[Photo Credit: The Gospel Coalition]