I can?t and won?t claim the mantle of a preacher or a minister, but I can relate a few surprise revelations of the Christian life, based on my own experience. I think that a lot of believers can relate to this as well. There?s Biblical doctrine, but then there?s also personal experience. And what I think gets lost a lot of times is that walking with God is very much an experience, and much less of the discipline that it?s often made out to be. Based on that experience, everyone can offer up their own revelations of the Christian life.
A lot of nonbelievers, and even Christians themselves, have what I believe is a TV version of what a Christian should look like and how he or she should behave. But that really misses the mark. The relationship each of us has in our Christian walk is different from other believers, so there really is no standard as to what a Christian or the Christian life is really like.
Back in college I had a psychology professor who was fond of saying ?We see things not as they are, but as we are?. It?s a near-poetic way of saying that we?re limited to our ability to perceive what?s going on around us by a combination of physical limits and limited experience. That certainly describes the experience that we have in our walks with God. The combination of our limited abilities to perceive, as well as God?s infinite nature, means that each of us is only scratching at the surface.
But let?s establish from the start that that isn?t a disadvantage.
I believe it was Tim Keller who once said in a sermon, ?If you think you get this, you probably don?t. And if you think you don?t get this, you probably do.? I guess that?s why Jesus said that we must have the faith of little children. I?ve always labored with the assumption that I don?t completely get it, but that?s OK. And yet there are certain things that I have learned from my experience in walking with God.
Two Surprise Revelations of the Christian Life: Your Life Will Be Neither Problem-free Nor Boring
There?s a popular notion of Christians that has them all dressed in white, with neatly coiffed hair, and singing church songs behind toothy smiles. One might assume that they are these perfect people, who are leading perfect lives.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I?m sometimes hesitant to admit to being a Christian for fear that in so many ways I?m a complete wreck as a human being. But that?s actually pretty normal.
What I?ve learned is that when you become a Christian, your life is anything the problem-free. In fact, in a real way, your life gets more complicated. That?s because you increasingly find yourself at odds with the way the world does things.
As well, Christians experience relational conflict, health problems, financial struggles, career dislocations, and surprise disasters with at least the same frequency that nonbelievers do. The idea that Christians lead a problem free-life is a complete and utter fantasy.
There?s also an unfortunate negative connection here. If people believe that Christians are somehow perfect, they will reject the faith out of fear that they fall short of the mark.
But here?s a newsflash: Every Christian alive falls short of the mark (Romans 3:23) The best witness any of us can have is to share our own troubles, weaknesses, shortcomings and sins with others. That would be a more welcoming message to a non-believer than white outfits, toothy smiles, and church hymns.
In the same vein, there?s also a well-deserved perception that the Christian life is a boring one. Since many Christians are fond of reading off the world?s sins, and then promising that hellfire and brimstone are soon to follow, non-believers may assume that Christians live by strict rules. Without a doubt, that would make life extremely boring.
I?m not saying that there aren?t Christians out there who don?t adhere to some trumped up set of rules. But the reality is that like everyone else in this world, we?re just making our way through, and trying to stay out of trouble.
Here?s something I?ve learned from personal experience?when you?re following God, life isn?t boring. God will often bring you to places and in front of people you would never go to on your own. You also find yourself in a variety of situations you never imagined.
If you?ve ever read any of the Gospels ? Matthew, Mark, Luke or John ? you quickly realize that when the apostles were following Jesus they never knew what was coming next. They rarely knew ahead of time where they were going or what they?d be doing. Each day was its own adventure.
It?s largely that way for believers today. God doesn?t fit neatly into a box, and even if he did, he wouldn?t stay in it. Nor does he expect his followers to stay in a box.
In Lamentations 3:21-23 were told: ?Because of the LORD?s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning??
And so is everything else that he sends our way. Rest assured, the Christian life isn?t boring. That isn?t to say that there aren?t Christians out there who hide behind faith as an excuse to hide from the world. But that?s not what we?re commanded to do.
In fact, the Great Commission, given to us in Matthew 28:19-20, says ?Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.?
That?s a call to action, not a call to seclusion.
But there are other surprise revelation of the Christian life that are no less profound.
Direction in a Troubled World
If there?s one theme that I?ve worked to maintain at Out Of Your Rut, it?s working to survive and succeed in a world that is becoming increasingly dysfunctional. I don?t think we have to debate the point of the dysfunction either. The evidence abounds all around us.
But if we look to secular sources, we find no solutions ? just more problems, more complications, more conflict. But Christianity teaches us that there is a higher and better way, even if that way is rejected by most of the world.
Despite that rejection, a Bible believing Christian has the advantage of having a spiritual and philosophical foundation that the rest of the world lacks. He believes that God ? not man ? is the center of the universe. He believes that God is also the wellspring of solutions to the most complex problems that plague humanity. And most of all, he believes that no matter how hopeless things look from a human vantage point, that God will make sure that it all works out in the end.
The Bible tells us as much in Romans 8:28: ?And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.?
That is, even that which looks bad from a human perspective can be turned into something good for the believer. I?ve experienced this many times in my own life. Events have taken place that I was sure were unmitigated disasters, but in the end they turned out to my benefit. It?s happened too often for me to simply label it a coincidence, or some form of Karma.
How many ?coincidences? does it take before you begin to see a pattern, and one that cannot be denied? I think this is a major factor that enables believers to continue in faith, even when surface factors seem to be heading in the wrong direction.
However it works, it gives believers the ability to navigate a troubled world, without being overwhelmed by it. Another Bible verse captures this idea well: ?We walk by faith, not by sight.? ? 2 Corinthians 5:7 That?s extremely comforting when what it is that you see looks completely threatening. For my own part, I don?t know how non-believers work around that. There?s simply too much in the world threatening us all the time.
There?s something deeply reassuring about knowing that things will all work out, whether for the world in general, or for us individually.
The best example that I?ve seen of this was on September 11, 2001. I was in the mortgage business at the time, and had to come back to the office. When I got there, everyone was fretting about the terrorist attacks. Except for one person ? the bookkeeper.
She and I discussed the attacks very briefly, and then she said ?I?m not worried about it, I know where I?m going if the worst should happen.?
As a fellow believer, I instantly knew what she meant, and her words were very comforting to me as well. She reminded me that we shouldn?t be worried about things that are coming down upon the world. That?s more than just a comforting thought ? it?s liberating.
If you?re a non-believer you can say that such thinking is nothing more than a fantasy, but it keeps me and other believers centered when everything around us seems to be going haywire.
The pastor at a church that we use to attend once said that prayer is the foundation of your relationship with God. He said that it was more important than going to church, and since he was a pastor of a mega church, that was a powerful statement.
I?ve found that to be absolutely true. Once again, the TV version of prayer is very formalistic. You get down on your knees, you fold your hands, and you either recite rote prayers, or you speak to God as though you are speaking to a Supreme Court judge.
Closer to the truth, is that prayer should be very informal. Prayer is your quiet time alone with God. He created you, so he already knows what you think, what you hope for, and what you?re worried about. For that reason, there?s no need for extreme formality. When we pray, we should approach it as though we are approaching a beloved parent.
Got even knows our sins. But if we believe in Jesus, our sins are washed clean by his blood. Most of us ? even believers ? underestimate the power of this blessing. God created us, and he knows that we?re not perfect. All he asks of us is that we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and our sins will be forgiven.
To the nonbeliever, that sounds simplistic – even too easy. But is it really? Only a minority of the world?s population believes this, even though most of the world has been exposed to it. The difficulty is that it takes faith to believe it, and that can only come from God himself. Our part in the arrangement is to be willing. God will fill in the blanks from there.
In order to do that, we must accept that we as individuals are not the center of the universe, and that our salvation hangs on God?s promises, and not on our own efforts or righteousness.
The critical point is that when we go to God in prayer, it?s not just an act of worship, but it?s also to establish a relationship with the Creator of the universe. Christians come to realize that that relationship is real.
In my own life, I find that God does answer most of my prayers. What throws many people off is that the answers are not always immediate. As well, those answers often come in a way that looks a lot different from what I expect. At the same time, those answers tend to be more complete than anything I could?ve ever imagined.
I?ve since learned to pray for all things great and small. Sometimes my prayers are more formalistic, but most times they?re almost casual. For example, I might pray while driving the car, sitting at my desk, exercising, or folding the laundry. Some prayers can last half an hour or longer, while others may be only a minute or two.
How should we pray? The Lord?s Prayer is one way. But personally I?m partial to Philippians 4:6:
?Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.?
Having a history of anxiety problems that twice landed me in the emergency room, this one especially resonates with me. Like I said earlier ? I?m a wreck.
However you pray, have absolute confidence that God is listening. And if you pray enough, and with a strong measure of faith, you just might find many of your prayer requests being met.
One other thing that I discovered when it comes to prayer ? I usually know that the answer to a prayer did in fact come from God himself. God has a way of letting us know.
Sometimes God Gives You ?The Desires of Your Heart?
I had this revelation about a year or so ago. While we often think of the Christian walk as being one of self-denial, it can be a giant pleasant surprise when God gives us the desires of our hearts. This is confirmed in Psalm 37:4: Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
I was sitting at my desk working one morning, and thinking how blessed I was to be writing for a living. Some people wouldn?t even call it work, and in truth on many days it doesn?t even seem like it. Plus, I get to do it from the comfort of my own home. This was a dream that I had many years ago, and it finally occurred to me that it had come true. And it?s everything that I hoped it would be.
But it went even farther than that. At the same time I was thinking about my writing career, it also dawned on me that we were now living in northern New England. That had been a dream of my wife and I for nearly 30 years. And now, here we were.
This was one of those times that believers know as an Ah ha moment, those occasional instances when God reveals what he?s been doing in our lives.
I then realized that I was living in a place that I had long wanted to be, and was doing work that I always hoped that I would be able to do. It had all come about by ?accident?. I hadn?t even specifically prayed for either outcome. But it?s clear that God knew what was on my heart, and granted that it would become my reality.
A lot of people dream of such things, but in my life two of my biggest dreams came true. I?ve been blessed with the desires of my heart, just as the Bible has promised.
The Mystery of God
One of the biggest obstacles to faith that most people have is when they look for ?proof? of God. I can spare you the trouble on that one: You?re not going to find any. Not in science, not in law, and not by your own reasoning.
I think the reason for that is simply that God is beyond human comprehension. A lot of people find that concept disagreeable, which becomes the basis for nonbelief.
Jeremiah 29:13 reveals ?You will seek me and find me when you seek me with your whole heart.? That?s about the size of it. God will not reveal himself to you until you come to the end of yourself, and fully open yourself to the reality of his existence.
Unfortunately, given our stubborn human will, that moment doesn?t usually come about until we?re at a crisis point. Once we realize that we are not as self-sufficient as we typically believe, and there?s no other choice, we find ourselves on our knees, pleading and fully open. That?s when God begins to reveal himself to us.
Does that mean that God is cruel, waiting for us to come to him, and only when we are in one of the worst moments of our lives? Hardly. It?s only then that we?re open to him. God is not a bully, who will force you to come to him (which is exactly why if often seems that non-believers thrive in their nonbelief). But he may use circumstances to draw you closer to him. That?s not a curse, it?s an unmitigated blessing.
There?s something else about God that we have to acknowledge in order to have faith. And that is that, yes, God is supernatural. That is, he can transcend both human understanding and human limits. A lot of people have trouble with this concept. They believe that God must somehow ?behave? according to parameters that we?ve established. But God can only be God if he is beyond our own limitations.
True enough, God usually works through the people and systems of the world, even when answering our prayers. But he can work beyond these. That?s what we have to be open to in order to believe.
It?s a lot to swallow, but believers understand that God is constantly sending us revelations. I?ve shared some of mine here. It?s important to study the Bible, and to engage in fellowship with other believers. But the most important relationship is the one that we have with God himself.
Probably the biggest single revelation for me is that I am able to have a real relationship with the Creator of the Universe. That?s overwhelming to most people, to the point of disbelief. But it?s true – only when you?re open to receiving that relationship does it actually become a reality.
If you?re a believer, can you relate to any of this? And if you?re not a believer, do you ever have questions about it? No one on earth has absolute knowledge of God, and never will, so let?s feel free to discuss this.
Kevin, one thing I have learn’t at age 59 is that we have to have a PERSONAL relationship with God. When we do, we tend to turn to HIM always in the midst of life’s challenges. I also learn’t that PEACE is the goal of my life. No longer do I seek out happiness as peace is what is INSIDE of us no matter what we are facing. Things and people come into our lives for a SEASON and a REASON. I still miss my grandmother and two aunts who made my childhood one of unconditional love. It was not about what they could BUY me but the TIME they spent with me. I still like my “one on one” time and not interested in GROUPS. At home my mom, bless her heart, was one into the constant visitors and still is. I was made to feel wrong for not wanting that and would seek out some tree to climb into as a child to hide and have my peace and alone time. Lol, thank goodness back then I was not knowing that snakes do climb trees. As a Christian and I finally consider myself one this year – the journey has been one of revelations. When we LET GO and LET GOD, things and life have a way of falling into place. God ALWAYS knows what is best for us and when we seek his will and rely on the HOLY SPIRIT (finally figured this one out/lol) – we know when we need to get involved in other people’s lives and when not to. While we as Christians should minister to for example the homeless and criminals, God did not say to put ourselves in harm’s way. Some are called to work with these people and some are not. I am not and no longer feel GUILTY about this. I now know what I am called to do and yes I do have some gifts to offer the homeless women my age, but it is not go out into the streets to feed them. Know what God wants you to do and you will be CONTENT with life no matter what. In ending, I now look back at the memories of one of my neighbors as a child. I found any excuse to be at her home. Why? She was a mother and wife who thoroughly enjoyed being them. She always made me feel welcome in spite of having about 8 children (forgot how many, but it was a lot). Not the biggest house or the most money, but that house exhibited God’s love and other things like peace. Blessings everyone, Angela 🙂
Hi Angela – It seems that as Christians we all ultimately come to that place, and that’s where you’re at right now. God doesn’t promise us a stress free life or even an easy one. But he does promise to be with us in trials and in victories. When you grasp that, you’ve come a long way, and peace follows. That said, I’m not in a perpetual state of peace myself. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But whenever I’m not at peace, I have to remind myself that God is still with me and that he’ll get me through it. I’ve had a very recent episode of this myself, with unexpected surgery and subsequent complications.
The challenge for me right now is convincing my early adult kids that life isn’t what they see on TV or on the internet, and that having troubles is normal. And then showing them that they can trust God in those dark times. But when you’re in your early 20s the world is pulling and looks so convincing. I’m trying to work this out by advising them to pray in dark moments, and to pray with belief even if they have doubts. I’m hoping they get this earlier in life than I did. Not sure how it will turn out.
In the meantime, I’ve learned to be happy with now, and not worry about the future, or reminisce about the past. And strangely, I’m happier when I can do this. It’s not that everything is perfect, but it’s alright. But I will add that God has surprised me with the very gifts I wrote about in this article. You shouldn’t expect them to happen, but I think they’re an outgrowth of faith, which the Bible confirms. God is always with us, even when we turn our backs on him. That’s the kind of security that the world can never give us.
Kevin, the way I look at life is this way – face it by yourself or with God’s help. For too many years I did it myself and turned to God every so often. Now I am leaning on him 100%. It is either that or totally give up on life. I want my life to mean something and be a testimony to others. By Christians being open about their journey, we can attract interest. As far as children, finally have learn’t with my only child now an adult to pray for help with letting go. The secret is “tough love” and by this I mean loving them in spite of what they decide to do in life – but not rescuing them. I have many regrets about my relationship with my mother growing up. She tried to make life easier for her children and gave up too much of her life and sanity to do so. Now she is bitter and I no longer try to apologize or start over with her. Who knows, one day she may come around. Until then, I want my own relationship with my only child to be one that is healthy. Another way to look at things Kevin – ask yourself this. I did! What would happen to my child(ren) if I was to die today? Nicole will be just fine, maybe a few tears/lol – but she is off on her own and doing better than I am financially. We bring them into this life and need to PREPARE them for when we go to heaven as that is going to happen. When they get to a certain age, we need to lead by EXAMPLE. Now my daughter thanks me and surprises me with what she remembers of our time when she was under 18. Boy did we have our battles and totally disliked each other. Ask us back then and the word would be hate. But I was trying to raise a child as a single parent without God. Yes, I visited with him a few times but did not stick with it. The funny part is that a teacher became Nicole’s Spiritual Mom and I was so jealous of their relationship but finally understood it about 2 years ago. I no longer try to compete with this lady but thanked her and still grateful. Why? God sent her into Nicole’s life or Nicole would not be alive today. We as parents cannot protect our children no matter how old or young. We have to RELY on God to TEACH them a way of life that we are hopefully living. Children WATCH us although they may not LISTEN to us/lol. Sometimes we have to “step away” from an issue and pray and TRUST God will work it out. This is better than creating conflict and division in our household. To this day, my mother and myself do not have a relationship and I no longer mourn the loss. But I do UNDERSTAND it better. People come into our lives for a SEASON and a REASON. I may call her once in awhile when I feel led and then get off the phone quickly when it becomes toxic. I am not 100% yet and have to maintain my spiritual energy to deal with my life’s issues in a godly manner. As far as healing, it is already done as you know and I know the complications you experienced are temporary. One of the songs I listen to on my way to work whilst complaining to myself about not having another car as yet/smile – reminds me it is already done and another song – we need to encourage ourselves. So continue to SPEAK things into your life and your family’s life and view each challenge as your boot camp test. When you least expect it as you already know – God shows up and it is like WOW!!! And as you know, this Faith Forum is needed and I firmly believe that I was destined to see this post yesterday when your LinkedIn Connection went into my misc email in box. If that had not happened, I would not have seen this post. Everything happens at a predestined time and right on time. Keep writing Kevin and be OPEN to suggestions from other Christians after verifying with God of course. In ending, I have a petition created for Workplace Bullying. It is there and has been hidden for so long. As a Christian I finally have VICTORY over the bullies at my job. But many non-Christians need to know that God will FIGHT that battle if they will LET him. It was like – what happened? Why am I not in the office as usual being threatened with job loss due to lies from some co-workers. My history was always several office chewout sessions every month. But by keeping my peace and mouth shut (and it was hard as I literally hated these bullies), God took over as he knew I was TRYING big time to show by example how I wanted to give him the glory. Trust God and he will look out for you. As the saying goes, he never lets us get into more than we can handle. There is always an EXIT but we have to choose to use it. Every day we have CHOICES and need to look at the BIG picture before making a move or opening our mouths. Lol, my famous say what is on my mind philosophy has changed and so has my track record of quitting or being fired. God did that!!! Blessings everyone, Angela
Hi Angela – Your comment shows a deep level of spiritual awareness. It’s obvious that you’re on a clear spiritual journey (as opposed to a destination). You’ve got a lot to share, and it’s obvious what the source of your awareness is. I believe you’re on the right path. You’ve brought up a lot of spiritual truths that I haven’t even thought of. Stay on course, you’re heading in the right direction!
Kevin, so are you and your family on the right track! Let us pray about doing a post for this Faith Forum together and you know where to find me (email or LinkedIn) if you get an answer that says – go for it!!! Our writing styles are different but I am sure we can put our heads together and create one awesome post. Until then, thank you for this much needed Faith Forum and talk soon. Blessings, Angela
I find it surprising that no one else has commented on this post?it is an awesome post! I don?t even know where to begin! I agree with everything said in all posts and have some things to add. I was raised Catholic by very strict parents (one a policeman), went to church every Sunday, and attended a Catholic school through grade 8. I?m sad to say that the only thing that I took away from those years was a fear of being a bad person and going to hell. Period. That was drilled into us that we were all bad, all sinners, had to go to confession to confess our sins, etc. Going to church meant nothing to me except for being a tedious and monotonous requirement to stay ?good?.
Needless to say, I stopped going to church the minute I moved out at 18 years old. I started working and started a new life on my own. Faith never entered my life until I got pregnant. It took 1-1/2 years but we finally got pregnant and I began to pray during that time. Once my so was born, the church that I had spent so many years of my life with denied my request to baptize my son because my husband wasn?t Catholic. I was taught that if a child is not baptized their soul will go to hell when they die. I was appalled and totally shocked! How could this wonderful God I learned about deny a child access to Heaven just because they weren?t baptized??? I left the church at that time and never looked back.
I decided to teach my son about God but never forced religion on him. I wanted him to make that decision on his own. I didn?t have much of a relationship with God throughout his childhood except for little prayers here and there in my private moments, which I thought didn?t count because I wasn?t formally praying. I tried to be a good person, a good mother, and a good wife. I treated others as I wanted to be treated and always tried to help those less fortunate (both financially and spiritually). I thought I knew what having faith in God was and I thought I had a relationship with him…that is until my son joined the Air Force and was deployed to Afghanistan. My world shattered. I was shaken to my very core. Living for 9 months, day in and day out, never knowing if he was alive or dead, took its toll.
It was then that I began going to a Christian church with my sister. Wow?what an eye opener that was! There was no stern words or strict requirements of sit, stand, kneel, sit, stand, repeat… There was love that I actually felt there. I felt God. There was a band that sang wonderful and uplifting songs and we all sang along. There was a pastor who spoke to us as a fellow human being and not a stand-in God. My first several visits were so powerful and emotional and overwhelming that I literally cried each time. I couldn?t help it. I had never felt such love, acceptance, faith and reassurance before! I knew then that my son would come home to me and kept that faith, even when I saw a strange car in my driveway as I walked home after a nice long walk. Yes, it could be the bad news I dreaded, and yes, I almost collapsed on the lawn of my neighbor?s house, but I kept the faith, walked out my house and found it was NOT the bad news I dreaded! Eventually I learned that no matter what happened, God would get me through it.
I started to research Catholicism vs. Christianity and found a very significant difference: ?Evangelicals believe that if someone has faith in Jesus – if they trust him with their lives and follow him – then they are made totally acceptable to God because of Jesus? death (Romans 3:23-26). The Bible says that this happens”apart from works”? (Romans 4:6). In other words, it doesn?t depend on how good a life we live but only on our trust in Jesus. If we follow Jesus, we are guaranteed a place in Heaven when we die (Luke 23:43). Catholics, on the other hand, believe that our acceptance by God does depend partly on the life that we?ve lived. If we?re not good enough, we won?t make it to Heaven.? Yet more proof that I was no longer Catholic and boy does it feel good!
The second event in my life that gave me an unshakable faith in God was my father passing away when he was 58 years old. My large, strong hero, the brave policeman, worked himself into diabetes and died from complications. He came to me 3 weeks later and then came to me again while I was under anesthesia while in surgery. I won?t go into details here, but suffice it to say that I got a glimpse of Heaven! I truly believe that God does work in mysterious ways and does make himself known and answers our prayers in some very obvious, and not so obvious, ways! I now see a spiritual counselor who helps me explore my spirituality and works with me to become closer to God.
Thank you, Kevin, for such a beautiful forum, and for sharing your thoughts on faith and God. It is a breath of fresh air and I hope that more people share their thoughts as well!
Hi Linda – As a general rule, faith posts don’t draw a lot of comments, despite the fact that I’ve long felt my faith posts to be among my best work. Unless they deal with something either controversial or universal in nature, they don’t draw many comments or much in the way of readership. That’s why I’ve taken to witnessing through non-faith posts (though I do still occasionally write a faith post here and there). It seems better to weave faith into other discussions as more of a soft witness, than to go through the front door so to speak. I attribute that to living in a world where faith and Christianity in particular has less credibility than ever.
But getting back to your other points…I was raised Catholic as well, and while I always had a consciousness about God, it was never fed in the Catholic Church. It’s too rooted in centuries old traditions, and in rote rituals that don’t resonate with me, or I suspect, with most people.
I first began seriously visiting the concept of faith when I was 13 and my grandfather died. But I found no answers in the Catholic Church or from my parents. John MacArthur said – I think correctly – that the whole of Catholicism rests on Purgatory, which is completely non-biblical. It’s the halfway house most Catholics believe they’re ticketed for if they aren’t good enough.
Like you, I didn’t really come to faith until my kids were born. You begin to realize how vulnerable you are and how fragile life is when you’re responsible for a child. But I also believe God does pursue us, and we go only if we’re willing. I was. The closer I’ve gotten to the biblical God, the more fascinated I’ve become. As an adult Sunday school teacher used to say, “the Bible is counter-intuitive” when compared to human understanding. Whatever we generally think we understand is usually wrong. That opens up wonderful possibilities. In addition to making me feel more spiritually secure in life, my faith has enabled me to look at life and my own existence from a distant vantage point – i.e., how might God see this situation? When you come to that point, it’s liberating. You’re able to look at life beyond your own convictions and worldly conventions. And all the sudden the dysfunctions of my own life and of the world become more clear.
As I get older, I find myself increasingly contemplating the question of how other people live their lives without faith in an Eternal God. Truth be told, if there is no God, then we’re all truly doomed (I wrote a post on that topic). And if there is a God, there’s nothing to worry about, at least in the very long term. But like you, I’ve found that God is with me in the trials, and things have a way of working out, though not always in ways I can explain. But I’m happy with that mysterious side of God. The more we get to know him, the more we realize there is to him, and that we’ll never know him completely this side of Heaven. I’m OK with that – it keeps life more interesting.
How to identify true Christians – Jesus made it clear to his followers that they would be hated and persecuted simply for being associated with Jesus himself. Out of the 12 faithful apostles (Judas was replaced) only the apostle John died of old age – the other 11 apostles all died violent deaths at the hands of opposers to the Christian message.
Similarly, today, true Christians will find themselves at odds with the ‘spirit of the world’ which is in Satan’s hand. Therefore, if anyone is popular in the world (the world is fond of its own) then there is something wrong if that person claims to be a Christian and thinks he is following Christ as the bible teaches.
Hi Matthew – That’s a valid (and biblical) position. While we aren’t being persecuted to the point of torture and death, the way believers were in the first century, there’s no doubt were being marginalized. Where 50 years ago you could preach the Gospel on any street corner in America, today you can be pushed down the road or even out-of-town because someone finds the message to be offensive.
The greater risk for us today is being shunned. Just look at Hollywood. Any actor who comes out as a born-again Christian suddenly finds him- or her-self out of “the club”. They’re relegated to making Christian movies, or working on the Hallmark Channel.
Most of us aren’t similarly exiled like that. But if you hold a job, particularly in a large company, you can face very real persecution if you’re to open about your faith. And it should go without saying that our social interactions are to be more limited. Not that we should shun nonbelievers, but rather that nonbelievers will shun us. Sometimes it can happen in your own family, which Jesus also predicted.
But I must agree with you, I find myself increasingly uncomfortable with the secular culture. I think this is the Holy Spirit changing our hearts and minds, and turning us away from what’s unholy. That certainly isn’t to say that everything in the secular world is unclean, and needs to be avoided. If we do that, we isolate ourselves and our chance to witness. But I do find myself steadily losing touch with the mainstream culture, and having no real interest in connecting with it. That includes politics and the mainstream news, both of which are highly propagandized, as well as increasingly anti-Christian.
Hopefully we won’t get to the point of facing actual persecution. But if we do, we need to be prepared. After all, we were told this would happen.