A member of our staff recently sat down with Peter Herbeck to discuss what he sees as the great call and opportunity for every Christian today. This article originally appeared in the August 2017 Renewal Ministries’ newsletter, which can be viewed here.
Q: Your newest booklet, Light in the Darkness, discusses the many challenges of our times. How can these challenges become an obstacle to Christians?
A: The constant stream of news often grips people with worry and anxiety. It stifles the work of the Spirit in us, making it difficult to keep first things first, to recognize what’s most important, and to see the great opportunity that exists in the midst of this challenge.
We can’t be constantly plugged into the voice of the world—which is filled with anxiety—and still hear what the Spirit is saying to enable us to maximize our service to the Lord.
Q: What do you think the Spirit is saying to us?
A: We need to lay hold of our identity in Christ. We are sons and daughters of God. We are loved by the Father. It sounds obvious, but if we lose sight of it or just live it on the surface—if it’s not sinking into our hearts—we won’t have the confidence and peace of knowing that we live in the hands of a loving Father. That knowledge is what helps us transcend the circumstances of our lives.
Q: What do you think is the second part of His message?
A: We are on mission. As Pope Francis says in Evangelii Gaudium (EG), “That is the reason why I am here in this world. We have to regard ourselves as sealed, even branded, by this mission of bringing light, blessing, enlivening, raising up, healing and freeing” (273).
Q: How does the Holy Spirit help us with this mission?
A: I am a child of God, and I can say all is well, even in the midst of trials. God said, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). The Holy Spirit helps me to see the circumstances of my life do not dictate how I am going to live or understand myself. So I will not let circumstances steal my joy, peace, the clarity of my identity, or my security in God.
Jesus tells us, “Do not worry about your life” (Mt 6:25). He wants disciples to internalize that—or we won’t be useful to Him in the way He wants us to be. That is why He says to “strive first for the kingdom of God . . . and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mt 25:33).
Q: Can you share an example of living out this call to trust?
A: When I was a young, married guy working in full-time ministry, my financial support was drying up, and I got filled with a lot of fear. I wondered if I’d missed what I was supposed to do with my life. In that state of fear and panic, my circumstances began to control my thinking. I looked for a new job, without really bringing it to the Lord.
Then, in prayer, I heard the Lord say, “You can take the job, but I want to show you what’s leading you to take the job: You’re scared. I need to teach you what it means to be my disciple. I am faithful to everyone I call, and I can provide. I am going to release money to you that I have set aside, that the devil has tried to hold back. When it comes, I want you to make a decision. There is a battle going on, and I have a mission for you. You can choose either way (to stay in ministry or to pursue other work); I will still love you.”
In the next few weeks, some totally surprising donations came in—about $4000. One friend, who knew nothing about my situation, sent a card saying that in his prayer time, the Lord had asked him to send me money.
Q: What did that experience teach you?
A: That I am called. I am a son. He is faithful. Panic and fear are human emotions, but if you let them control you, it’s easy to go off the Lord’s path.
Q: How do you see this reflected in people’s lives today?
A: The world’s circumstances are causing fear, and people want to protect themselves and secure a place of safety, rather than to live the Lord’s call.
If you are in that position, just repent and turn back to Him. Your circumstances don’t determine your destiny; your response to Jesus determines your destiny. Now is the time to be a light to the world, to be salt to the earth.
Take Jesus’ perspective of the world: “In this world, you will have tribulations; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33).
What an amazing witness to an anxious world! We can be of good cheer!
Q: What is the key to a relationship with Jesus that allows people to respond to Him with this kind of confidence?
A: Regularly spending time with the Lord in prayer. It won’t come from anywhere else. It comes from being with Him.
Also, Pope John Paul II emphasized the need for prayer, community, and mission. In addition to daily, ever-deepening prayer that is the foundation of our identities and fruitfulness, we need community. The Lord wants us to gather with brothers and sisters who share our same mission. He wants us to risk opening our lives and sharing our burdens, and to be accountable. He wants us to help each other be salt and light, and to love God and neighbor. The devil’s strategy is to isolate us and to cripple us with loneliness.
The Lord wants us to be on mission, both individually and as a community. He is sending us to make disciples.
Finally, we need to live in the presence of the Holy Spirit. One of the fundamental characteristics of the Holy Spirit in the Bible is to create movement. The Holy Spirit makes us capable of responding.
Q: In addition to understanding our mission on a community level, how can we determine our individual call and mission from the Lord?
A: We learn about our identity on a deeper level through prayer. Ask the Lord, “How do You want me to live out my individual mission?” Also, in a community, people can help us discern our gifts and understand how God has equipped us.
At ninety-three, my mom prayed all fifteen decades of the rosary daily, read Scripture, and prayed for a long list of people. She had a walker and didn’t go outside much, but she was very alive to the mission and felt very much a part of it.
Also, I had a good friend who was active in church attendance, but not much else. One day, his pastor said he needed someone to distribute Communion at the hospital. His wife nudged him, thinking it would be a good fit, but he didn’t think he would have a good bedside manner or be spiritual enough to help people. However, when the pastor asked again the next week, my friend offered his services. He continued in that position for over twenty years and became a central figure in that hospital, through praying with people and both bringing them into the Church and helping prepare them for heaven.
Knock, ask, seek. If you are determined and you’re open, He will show you the role you are supposed to play.
Q: You spoke about challenging times providing an opportunity to serve the Lord. How is that possible?
A: The need is so great right now, as is the seriousness of the spiritual battle we are facing. Jesus helped Teresa of Avila understand what service He prizes most: “I think He prizes one soul which, by His mercy and through our diligence and prayer, we may have gained for Him, more than all the other services we can render Him.”
That’s something we all can do: to pray, fast, and labor with the Lord for the salvation of the men and women of our generation. Pope Francis confirmed that call for each one of us: “Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization” (EG 120).
We need to resist the paralyzing fear and anxiety that dominates the world today, keep our heads clear, and stay focused on the mission the Lord has personally given to each one of us.
This is a moment of opportunity to give the Lord what He most desires, the salvation of souls.