The God Of The Mundane: Reflections on Ordinary Life for Ordinary People by Matthew Redmond“We are not saved from mediocrity and obscurity, the ordinary and the mundane. We are saved in the midst of it. We are not redeemed from the mundane. We are redeemed from the slavery of thinking our mundane life is not enough.”
The teaser on the back of this book says,
This is a book about pastors, plumbers, dental hygienists, and stay-at-home moms. It finds grace and mercy in chicken fingers, smiles from strangers, and classic films, and ultimately convicts us of something Matt Redmond has learned himself: there is a God of the mundane, and it’s not about what we do for him. It’s about what he does for us.
A Christian sister once asked me this question: “When the disciples cast lots for a disciple to replace Judas, it fell on Matthias. We don’t hear anything about him afterwards. Why do you believe that is?” After thinking about this for a moment, this was my reply: Think about this: Most of the original 12 disciples are not mentioned much outside of the Gospels. What do we hear about Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, Thaddeus? Most of them didn’t go on missionary journeys or write letters that have been included in our Scriptures. We don’t really know what they did after Christ’s ascension, but we can probably assume that they plugged into a local church where they served and taught while working at a mundane, secular job, just like the typical Christian man does now
I imagine every sincere Christian who truly loves the Lord has at some time thought about what more they could do or should be doing for the cause of Christ. We read of the lives and deeds of the first century apostles, of martyrs, missionaries, and ministers, and we become inspired to do great things for God. And that’s wonderful, as long as we keep a proper perspective and don’t think of ourselves as failures if we never do anything that brings us recognition and fame. Because the fact is, very few of us will.
Matthew Redmond believes that too many preachers, including himself, have unintentionally laid guilt trips on their people by exhorting them to go out and do big things for God, to change the world, not to settle for mediocrity but to be radical, to get out of their comfort zones, take risks, make sacrifices, give up everything for the cause of the Gospel. In The God of the Mundane, Redmond asks the following:
Is God sitting around waiting for each and every believer to do something monumental?
Are the lifestyles of the Apostles the standard for the persons in the pew?
In the economy of God, do only the times when we are doing something life-changing have any spiritual cache with Him?
Does He look over the mundane work of the housewife only to see the missions trip she may go on?
Is there a God, who delights in the ordinary existence of the unknown faithful doing unknown work?
Redmond’s book is not long nor theologically deep; he doesn’t present anything especially new or enlightening. But it may serve as a good reminder for the many of us Christians who sometimes feel that we aren’t doing enough for God in our day-to-day, ordinary, humdrum lives. Redmond observes,
Since we cannot see that in our day-in and day-out faithfulness to God, we are accomplishing something, we then begin to re-evaluate our lives. We think: ‘I cannot see I have done anything at all with my life. Therefore I must do something.
So then we do something – something in our own strength, of our own calling, to fulfill a need for some kind of validation of our spiritual existence. Redmond identifies three stages that such a person may go through:
- Stage one: I feel guilty about doing nothing.
- Stage two: I must get on with something obviously significant.
- Stage three (the worst of all): Now we judge others by this standard.
Like the world, the church can fall into a tendency of judging the success or value of a person by worldly standards of measure, and without realizing it, Christians unintentionally compare the spirituality or faith of people by what they are outwardly and actively doing for God.
As a mom who spent more than 17 years as a stay-at-home mom homeschooling my three children, I certainly went through periods of time during which I felt like I could barely meet the daily challenges of raising and teaching the kids, let alone do something important for the kingdom of God. When my kids were still pretty young, I reluctantly and with some guilt decided to drop out as a leader in our church ladies’ Bible study. A wise, older woman counseled me that during that time of my life, my family was my most important ministry, and I often reminded myself of her words over the course of the following years. I’ve always had a lot of energy and self-motivation and have always been the type of person to get involved in lots of things. As a result, my husband has often had to remind me that sometimes it’s okay to say No. Being busy for God and others doesn’t necessarily equate with being more spiritual or being effective for His kingdom.
Often we aren’t satisfied with being busy for the Lord; we have to make sure other people are aware of just how busy we are.
In I Thessalonians 4:11 (ESV), Paul urges his hearers “to aspire to live quietly.” And in 2 Thessalonians 3:12 he encourages them ‘in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly’…The mundane life is one where we quietly go about our business. No easy task. Which is why Paul commands it of us.
As Redmond observes, Christians don’t seem content with simply going quietly about their business but must find opportunities to “broadcast it so people will look at us, our church, our denomination. Our works…” And He believes this stems from basic, natural pride. Looking back at my experience with the ladies’ Bible study, I now wonder if part of the reason I was hesitant to quit my role as a leader is because then I wouldn’t be as “important” and would have to take a back seat to someone else’s leadership. There’s no point in second-guessing my motives now, 20 years later. However, isn’t that often how we think as humans? Is that one of the ways that Satan tries to turn something good into a temptation to sin?
On the other hand, “Living quietly is a life so happy with the attention of God, that the attention of the world is not needed, and rarely enjoyed,” remarks Redmond. While we should be ready and willing to serve the Lord in whatever way He calls us to, most of us won’t be called by Him to do big things that will make a huge, lasting impact on a grand scope. At least not in the way we think of it. Actually, we often make a difference or have an impact in the lives of others in ways we may never know.
The idea that God can take the seemingly small, mundane task and responsibilities and turn them into something significant, while a strange way of thinking for us, is a common thread divinely woven through the Scriptures.
Obviously God has used and continues to use apostles, pastors, missionaries and evangelists in mighty ways to advance His kingdom. The Bible contains plenty of examples of God using ordinary men and women to carry out His great purposes: Noah, Moses, Joseph, David, Esther, Jonah, Mary, and the eleven apostles. But what of the hundreds and thousands of men and women in both the Old and New Testament who loved and faithfully obeyed God but whose names are probably not even recorded in the Bible? Were they any less spiritual than the names we read in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews?
It’s all just a matter of having the proper perspective, an eternal perspective. Consider this and remind yourself of it when you are feeling insignificant:
The Kingdom of God is at hand. I am part of this kingdom. I am not waiting to be part of it when I die…Everything is part of this life in the Kingdom. Every mundane moment sitting uncomfortably between those of ecstasy, spiritual or otherwise is now worthy of attention. Every act is now of Kingdom consequence. Not just the big ones.
In the past God used plain, ordinary shepherds, businessmen, fishermen, and tent makers; likewise, He uses homemakers and school teachers, bankers and salesmen, construction workers and janitors, doctors and lawyers, whose hearts are set on Him and who are willing to obey and serve Him right where God has placed them, for His glory. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see how the Lord used the ordinary situations in my ordinary life for greater purposes than I will probably ever see in this life!
Another book that speaks to this same subject is God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life by Gene Veith.
- Matthew Redmond’s blog (mattbredmond.com)
- Glorify God in the mundane (www.womenoffaith.com)
- God in the mundane (familylifetoday.com)
- God rules the mundane (www.thegospelcoalition.org)
- Remembering God in the mundane events of the day (www.familylife.com)
- Reformed Reader’s review of The God of the Mundane (reformedreader.wordpress.com)