I’ve talked with Christians and other Christian leaders and many agree that we have an unfortunate issue in our culture. They say in countries where Christianity is illegal or where Christians are persecuted, the Church is experiencing the most growth. Conversely, in a country such as ours, where we have virtually complete freedom, Christianity is on the decline. Some would say that our freedom and wealth have lead us to lose our perceived need for God. I would agree with that because of evidence in my own life.
I’m training for a half-marathon. After a long break from running (about half a year) I’m getting back into it and it’s not very comfortable. But I’ve been reminded of something. When I’m in the middle of a run, I feel closer to God and I think I’ve figured out why.
In my day-to-day life, what need do I have of God? On my own initiative and strength, I go to work and earn a paycheck. With this money, I purchase things that meet the needs of myself and my family. If I have a problem, I can work it out on my own or if I need help, with my wife or a friend. I’m never without something I need (in fact I often have extra to spare).
When I run, though, something happens. I get to a state of physical distress. I get to where I am gasping for breath and my muscles are aching. Oxygen and blood are on short supply and I sometimes feel as though they may run out. And suddenly, I am in a state of great need. I am at the end of myself. And I have an awareness of my need for something greater than myself – God. On the surface, it’s a need for God to help me get through the run. But it awakens me to something deeper than that. It helps me realize that I live a life that takes no risks. A life that does not require God’s provision. There is so much I do on my own strength while God sits the bench. I may be lucky God doesn’t just say “Sianara, I see I’m not needed here.”
How do I order my life in a way where I need to rely on God more? I suppose I could ask God to show me. Where does God want me to sacrifice? Where does God want me to take risks? Where does God want me to have to trust Him? Hmmmm. Sounds scary. But what do I want to do – lay on my deathbed one day regretting that I always played it safe? Seriously. I’m sure an awesome revelation of God’s power and faithfulness awaits anyone willing to risk a life of sacrifice and obedience.
I feel like I don’t have the courage. Case in point. I don’t have what it takes. I need God to give it to me. I do need God.
I have to say that I disagree. I think that the reason that Christianity is declining in our country is not because there is a lack of "need" for God, it is because that people do not desire the God that so many Christians portray. God has given us all a desire for Him. Non-Christians, or pre-believers, have that desire just as much here in America as they do in say India. However, I believe that in countries where Christianity is thriving, it is because there is an overwhelming sense of joy within Christians there. They have been given the ultimate gift, and they want to share it. Here, most Christians are too busy grumbling and complaining about how non-Christians sins are affecting their own lives and sense of well being to even see the true need- Christ- that people have. So many Christians are too worried about their own well-being, that they lose sight of the grace that we have been given. And, more (?) importantly, the grace and love that we are required to share.
Some good thoughts Ben. I can definitely see a lot of myself in what you wrote. Am I playing it too safe in life? I think many times I am. Why don't I do this or that? Do I not trust God? I recorded a homily that fits in with this. It's Not About Contribution, it's about commitmentIn a nutshell, if you just give to God from your surplus like in Mark 12:38-44 – how committed are you? I definitely need to work on this myself.
jsmith – could you explain what you mean when you said "people do not desire the God that so many Christians portray"?I know we're really speaking in generalities here, but I agree with you that many Christians seem to be just as self-centered as the world. And the tragedy that the lifestyle of many Christians looks no different than those of non-Christians is a good topic to explore . I believe it was in the book UNchristian that the author said Christians are known more for what they stand against than what they stand for. (I haven't read the book but heard about that quote from a friend)
Love the book UNchristian, I highly recommend it. Yes, we are certainly speaking in generalities. I know so many Godly people, so I do not want to disregard them. What I mean when I said that most pre-believers do not desire the God that so many Christians portray goes along with what you said in your first post. Most Christians see themselves as Individuals first, Americans second, and Christians third. We are in the rat race right along with the rest of the world, worrying about ourselves. We are not separating ourselves from the world. I think that the church ( I am speaking in generalities again here) has it wrong when they say that in order to live apart from the world, we have to have a whole new set of rules to follow. Meaning, no smoking or drinking, no cussing, vote republican, hate gays, etc. We have to live apart from the world by showing them that we love them. Because really, Who loves everyone? We have to live what the Bible says: Mercy triumphs judgment. We have to let the Holy Spirit work on the pre-believers heart and actions, we just have to show them love and mercy. We have to show them CHRIST. In his book, Blue Like Jazz ( which is so awesome, I could copy the whole thing here) Donald Miller writes: “The problem with Christian culture is that it thinks of love as a commodity. We use it like money. With love, we withheld affirmation from the people who did not agree with us, but we lavishly financed the ones who did. By withholding love from my friend, he became defensive, he didn’t like me, he thought that I was being judgmental, snobbish, proud and mean. Rather than being drawn to me, he was repulsed. God had never withheld love to teach me a lesson. I love the fact that it wasn’t my responsibility to change somebody, it was God’s, that my part was just to communicate love.” and he also writes: “I was tired of Biblical ethic being used as a tool with which to judge people, rather than heal them”.He says it better than I. But that is the gist of what I mean. I also wrote a blurb over on my blog. I haven’t really “advertised” the blog because I just have a couple of entries, but you can read some more of my thoughts if you like.
Oh, I should reiterate this. Fear of leglalism/rules cannot be in place of pursuing a Godly lifestyle. Ok, I will quit blogging on your blog now.
Yeah, I think we're kind of on the same page. And you know, it seems to me that there is a revolution going on. Christians who have been raised in the American Church are waking up to God's presence and the way of sacrificial living. That's where He's leading me and my family. And that's what this blog is all about.