Today… [This was mostly written yesterday… so just go with it.]
Oh what a day…
Work this morning was, well… mamma always said there’d be days like these. Things were broken, I was making drinks in a small pond and then then inevitable happened… I decided to meet the floor where it was and fall quickly towards it. Then things continued to be busy and everyone wanted some of our delicious coffee and just to wrap up the work day, I got propositioned by a customer, but in the most inappropriate manner possible. Why?
However, things improved greatly after work. I had the privilege to take an evening trip up to Tulsa with a dear friend and co-worker. This is one of the first times we were able to spend extended time together and it was well worth it.
As we journeyed to the Center of the Universe (which is in Tulsa, OK – if you didn’t know – See Above) my sweet friends and I’s conversation shifted to different aspects of our faith and how we, and those close to us, have struggled with our faith. This conversation continued over dinner, at Kilkenny’s, a brilliant Irish Pub and over the most delicious coffee I have ever had to the Starbucks in Utica Square. They have a Clover machine… which if you do not know, you must not love coffee (just kidding, but its legit). It a special way of brewing coffee that uses a unique vacuum-press system that brews ground coffees one cup at a time in sweet perfection. Seriously… the best cup of coffee I have ever had. Then we journeyed on home to the sounds of Carbon Leaf and Noah Gundersen.
Our conversation sparked a few interesting thoughts for me about the way we teach faith to children and the Truths we teach. We discussed how we want so badly for children to believe the Truths of the Bible and be rooted in the Word that sometimes over emphasize the benefits of Faith and fail to warn of the struggles and trials. The American church’s education of trails and suffering leaves sometimes to be desired and it seems that this is causing the many in the current generation to have a crisis of faith.
I spent the beginning part of my life in church, then returned in high school, but I remember being taught about the faithfulness, love, mercy and grace of God, which are all true and vital, but I don’t ever remember really being taught that suffering was a real part of a Christian’s life. Trials were for the disobedient and if I was a “good” Christian, God would take care of me and makes me successful, happy and life would be a cinch. That’s how it’s supposed to work, right? Actually, I’m pretty sure its not. Through our conversation I have compiled 3 “Hard Truths” that we need to be teaching to ourselves, our friends and our children. [Just a thought… this ended up significantly longer than I expected, so go grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea to enjoy while reading, or perhaps a blanket to cuddle up with.]
#1: Life is Hard, even if you believe in Jesus
We twist scripture like Romans 8:28 (And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. ESV) and say things like God will make things good for us or we will never struggle. If we love God, all will be good. False! That is misreading this scripture, I believe. This scripture is surrounded by scripture about suffering, and bearing with suffering, for the glory that will be revealed. Romans 8:28 directly follows a passage about the Holy Spirit’s intercession or us before the Lord, according to the Lord’s will (NOT ours… He is NOT interceding according to the will of Morgan, but rather according to the Will of God). Paul is encouraging us to take heart and have faith because DESPITE our suffering, The Lord has not forgotten us, and He will create good out of the situation. Good is defined by God alone, not our wants and desires. This is a call to suffer well, not to avoid or escape suffering – these are very different mindsets and plans of action. That brings me to my second truth
#2: As a Christian, you will suffer
I am not sure when we developed this ideology that because we have faith in Jesus Christ, life will be easy. Where is that in scripture? Maybe in the following verses (just a few of many):
Matthew 10:22 “and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake”
John 15:18-19 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
James 1:2 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds”
1 Peter 4:12 “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you”
2 Timothy 3:12 “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,”
Wait… What? The World is going to hate us? When I meet trials? Fiery trials? Persecution? We must come to realize that this life is hard. There is sin in this world, evil and our own human desires that corrupt the world around us, and an enemy that prowls like a lion looking for any opportunity to destroy community and cease the spread of the Gospel. DON’T LET HIM. Ephesians 2 tells us we were once slaves to the enemy, but GOD – now we are free. Don’t willingly submit yourself back to the enemy (I digress, but this will be hit later on… do not fear! But for now… Look to verse like Galatians 5:1, 13; Psalms 119:45; 1 Peter 2:16). Suffering is a part of the Christian life. I do not know where we got this idea that it wasn’t. Christ suffered. All of the disciples suffered and all but one was murder for their faith. Everyday we have brothers and sisters world wide that are imprisoned, beaten, burned, abandoned and murdered for their belief in God. Suffering for your faith is real, for all Christians who are proclaiming Christ in their lives and attempting to spread the Gospel in their spheres of influence. We must be prepared for this, because we should be equipped by scripture to stand firm, stand strong and persevere.
Ephesians 6:12 “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil”
1 Corinthians 16:13 “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong”
Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer”
Colossians 1:23 “if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister”
Stand Firm! Persevere! The Lord, the Creator, is with you! Lean onto the author and perfecter of your faith.
#3: Having faith can be a struggle, but struggling with your faith doesn’t mean you don’t have it.
Being a Christian can be hard. Things will be unfair at times. Bad things and evil will happen in believers lives. It is OK to ask God “why?” It is perfectly acceptable to be unsure of scripture and ask questions that may seem “dumb” or “silly”. THIS IS HOW WE GROW AND MATURE. We have this horrific pattern within American church culture of “shaming” when people are questioning their faith, struggling with truth or are just unsure about what they believe. This must end! This is part of the Christian life by seeking the Lord and seeking Truth. How are we to determine what is true if we do not wrestle with Truth. There are numerous aspects of the Bible that are difficult to understand or deal with because they are so counter-culture and opposed to our own nature. It takes time for us to fully understand and accept all things. Faith is a process… its requires work and attention. Philippians 2:12 reminds us that we are to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”. This is not to be terrified of God, but rather to be diligent to seek out Truth because it is of vital importance. If we claim to believe the Bible, we better know what it says and believe what it says. At times this is difficult and it takes us sometime to struggle through it and determine what scripture is say and deal with how this conflicts with what we feel, what we have been taught and how we interact with our world. For those who grew up in the Church, this is a highly important time for them to stop simply believing what they have been taught their whole life, and take ownership and responsibility for their Faith. Make it there own, for lack of a better phrase. I tell this to my 8th grade girls I teach on Sunday mornings. This is their time to ask questions, seek truth and own their faith. You do not automatically have a relationship with Christ because your mother/father/brother/sister/grandma/neighbor/best friend does. Just because you come to church every Sunday/Wednesday/Thursday does not mean you are a Christian. You have a relationship with Christ because HE chose you, and you responded and you chose to deliberately seek knowledge of Him, spend time in prayer and studying His Work, serving Him and seeking His Kingdom, not your own. Those with a true relationship with Christ decide everyday to “die to self” and chose God’s kingdom, not their own desires and will. THIS IS NOT EASY AND THE PROCESS IS HARD, but OH how it is worth it.
Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope”
John 15:10-11 “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full”
1 John 1:4 “And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete”
Psalms 63:3 “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you”
Psalms 107:9 “For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things”
Psalms 145:8-9 “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made
Jeremiah 31:25 “For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish”
Therefore, do not be ashamed if you are struggling with your faith. You are still involved with your faith. You have not abandoned it and you are seeking Truth. James 1:5 says that if you lack wisdom to ask the Lord for more and he will give it. So ask Him to reveal himself. Ask Him to deepen your faith! Ask Him to help you understand. He will not be angry or upset with you for this. Do not be ashamed by this. 1 Peter 4:16 says “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name”. Allow your suffering and struggles to be ultimately glorifying to the Lord. Finally, be encouraged if you are struggling to seek truth and battling with faith, that any inclination towards God is not of our own. This is from God, because Romans 3:10 states the “none is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” If you are seeking for God, that is a God given desire. Cherish it. Endure (But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious things in the sight of God. – 1 Peter 2:20). Grow in Love and Christ!