I was weak and I hated it
I had been in a rough period of doubt and frustration. I mentioned before that I had recently gotten married and I knew, deep down, that I wasn’t the man my new bride deserved. Whatever I did to try to fix it wasn’t working. To add to this frustration, I knew that the soldiers serving along side of me in the Army, brothers who knew me deeply, would have been surprised to hear me call myself a Christian. I was ashamed and I didn’t know how to get myself to change. See, I grew up hearing that I need to make my walk with God personal. I knew that becoming like Jesus was a goal to strive for because the purpose of our lives is to glorify God. To be light in the dark. I understood that and believed it. The problem was that no matter how hard I tried to make myself change my motivation or self discipline would fizzle and I’d go right back into my old ways. Things like swearing, aggressively pursuing security through possessions, just overall being a selfish jerk – all of these were patterns I resented, but couldn’t shake. I was weak and I hated it. I didn’t know what to do. My faith was merely an identity I inherited from my parents. I knew I was living sinfully, but didn’t care enough or wasn’t strong enough to change it. Most of the time I even forgot about my hypocrisy and didn’t even feel guilty anymore.
The inflection point
I had a foundation of knowledge that my wonderful parents instilled in me, I knew the Bible stories, I knew the main characters, I believed that God existed. The one thing I was missing was a real connection to God. Sure, I prayed for help when trouble came up and said a quick prayer before meals, but to be honest I felt like I was talking into thin air. I didn’t expect anything to magically happen, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. I had identified as a Christian since I was four years old and I never experienced the “wave of joy” I’d heard people describe when they accepted Christ as their savior. Mine was more of an identity to cling to than it was faith. My wife and I were going to church every Sunday, but in between sermons nothing was really changing.
The single act that triggered an inflection point in my life was that I decided to just pick up the Bible and commit to reading it cover to cover. Mind you, everything I had done up until this point was fueled by my fear of being average, and having wasted a life that didn’t matter. Knowing that fact about me will help make more sense about why the following verses stuck out to me so strongly.
This is what I found out
2 Peter 1:5-9 “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.”
The instructions are right there! This isn’t rule-thumping, hell-threatening anger – this is a clear set of instructions that tell us how to matter to God! That was very exciting for me to read (can you tell!?).
In Revelation 3:14-21, Jesus Christ is offering a spiritual report card for a local church in Asia Minor. We see the church being knocked around for being lukewarm in their faith. You can see more about why that’s important HERE, but this warning to them hit me hard because I was lukewarm! I was neither on fire nor dismissive, I was just a mediocre dude who claimed to be a Christian, but you wouldn’t know it in between Sunday sermons. I definitely know I don’t want to get described like this church did when I’m facing judgment. I want to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant”, not “fine, you pass”.
Over and over in the Bible we see the analogy of bearing fruit (Ezekiel 17:8, Proverbs 12:12, Matthew 13:33, Psalm 1:1-3, Galatians 6:7-8, and the list goes on…). I was seeing that there was more to my faith than just saying that I believe. If I actually believe then I will also be ready to show that I believe by striving to become more like Jesus. Do you see the connection here? A comparison would be a marriage; if I love my wife I will treat her like I love her. If I believe that eating more vegetables is healthy it makes no sense to not eat them. These scriptures talking about bearing fruit in the Bible are simply talking about acting in ways that reflect glory onto God our creator and savior.
So as you can see, my assumption that, to be a Christian, I had to do certain things and act a certain way was very misguided. While there are commandments and rules in the Bible, the main themes are those of love, forgiveness, redemption, and salvation. The key to living the Christian life is allowing Jesus to live His life through us. Following the example of Jesus should come from an internal urge, a passion that comes from your faith. Accepting Him into your heart is the first step in the relationship, getting to know Him and learning His will for your life is the longterm commitment that will bring you the joy of having a personal walk with God.
The piece of the puzzle that I’d missed for so long was that it wasn’t just about saying a prayer at summer camp and calling it good from then on. I had a lot to learn, but I was on the right track.
What faith means to me now
I realized that the reason I pursued personal growth was in hopes of becoming someone good enough to seek God’s approval and love, but I realized that it works the other way around. Only by admitting defeat and asking God to work in me would I ever be able to change and grow. I needed Him if I ever hoped to become the husband my wife deserves, the father my kids need, and the man God intended me to be.
I found that the closer I got to God through prayer and learning about Him, the less attractive the old ways became. Simple things like my taste in TV shows and swearing (things I’d failed at changing before) simply started to lose their attraction.
I now see that my life is supposed to bring glory to my Creator. By being part of a local church as a faithful follower of Christ, you become a valuable thread in the beautiful tapestry that is God’s creation and history on Earth. Aside from Him, I was doing self improvement for personal and pointless gain. My life wouldn’t matter one single bit if I succeeded and became wealthy or famous out of my own means or ambition. I finally felt like I had a goal worth striving for. I needed to live for God. As Paul tells the church in Corinth, I was learning how to run my race with eternity in mind.
What this means for you
I promise you that you matter already. God has hardwired into you every talent and passion you need to achieve the sweet spot He created for you and your life. Finding that sweet spot is a critical part of your journey, it’s the target you aim for whenever you make a decision. Our faith is not supposed to be one of the compartments of our life, it’s the overarching theme that allows us to progress in all the other areas of our lives – all of that fruit and success is intended to bring glory to God.
Next time we will talk about the practical steps you can take to learn how to get into the Bible. We will discuss how to approach it, learn it, and implement it. I look forward to telling you how I fell on my face while learning these things so that you can hopefully avoid some of the same problems I caused myself. The outcome will be a set of habits and mindsets we can use to consistently progress in our journey to making faith a tangible reality in our lives. Your faith and personal walk with God are the motivational fire you need to live the kind of life that satisfies. Every other pursuit apart from God is just an exercise in futility. Next time we will take a look at the practical steps for growing that fire within your heart and mind.
Let’s end the routine of forgetting God in between Sunday sermons.
Let’s End Average together.