A few years ago I took a mission trip to Jamaica. I know what you're thinking, but God cares about the Caribbean too. And someone's got to go!
In all seriousness, it's not all blue ocean and beautiful beaches. Many islanders live in Third World conditions while vacationers kick back and soak up the sun. Our team worked from sunup to sundown building a ministry center for drug and alcohol addicts. It was physically grueling. And our primary task was sanding the cement walls to prepare them for painting. But here's the catch: we didn't have a sander or sandpaper. We had to use cement blocks to scrape the cement walls. Have you ever heard fingernails on a chalkboard? Cement on cement is no better! After a while, it started getting on my nerves. And then we started getting on each other's nerves. But then there was a moment I'll never forget. It's a miracle that I heard His still, small voice over the sound of the cement, but I sensed the Spirit saying, "Mark, this is music in my ears."
When I finally collapsed into bed after a long day of good old-fashioned hard work, I was absolutely exhausted. My arms and my ears were sore. But I had a sense of spiritual satisfaction unrivaled by any worship service I've ever experienced. I felt like I had given God every ounce of energy I possessed. I felt like I had loved God with all of my strength.
I know God loves the sound of our voices when we sing songs of praise. It's music to His ears. But you know what God loves even more? God loves the smell of your sweat. It stinks to high heaven, but it's a sweet aroma. Your sweat is sacred incense. God loves it when we break a sweat serving His purposes. Our energies turn into beautiful melodies and it's music in God's ear. It's also the way we build sweat equity in His kingdom.
Adapted from Mark Batterson's new book, Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, released by Multnomah Publishers. To download a sample chapter, visit www.theprimalmovement.com.