the challenge of christianity

Category : God, Jesus, bible, different, faith, live for the eternal, trust

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One of the worst lies about Christianity is that if you start following God your life will be better / richer / easier / smoother … well, you can fill in the blank.  So many people’s faith has been derailed by this thinking.  Perhaps no other lie does as much damage.

To me this conversation takes on a bit of a personal tone.  Because I grew up believing that as long as you did the “big” things God would always have your back.  Which meant your life would be pretty easy.  But that’s so far from the truth it’s shocking.

If you look at the Bible you see story after story of people having to overcome terrible challenges.  Not because they are sinners, but because they are believers.  That’s the whole point of Job: you can be a good man, but still suffer horribly.  In fact it’s Job’s goodness that gets Satan’s attention.  (Let that one settle in for a bit!)

We don’t need to stop with Job though.  Out of the 12 guys closest to Jesus, all but one of them died unnatural causes.  And the last one, John, was died while in exile.  Did you catch that?  The people closest to Jesus all suffered greatly for that connection.

That sure doesn’t sound like the good “happy christianity” we are fed sometimes in church.

Odds are this conversation is making you uncomfortable.  It should.  Living a life of faith is something that’s different.  It’s something that’s radical.  And often times it is something completely counter cultural.  That’s at least what Jeremiah and Ezekiel learned.  In both cases, God essentially says, “because you believe in me, I’m going to give you an important task.”  Of course that task was to tell the rest of their country about their impending doom. Talk about a horrible job description!  No one likes to be told they are wrong, let alone going to be punished.  Just tell a 4 year old she can’t watch TV anymore and you’ll see what I mean!  But this is what God had them do.  Living a life of faith for Jeremiah and Ezekiel meant they were going to have to do some pretty hard things.  Things that made them hated, persecuted, and punished.

If living a life of faith means having a harder life, why do we do it?

For two reasons I think.

1.  Following God is always better than the alternative.

2.  Because there is a reward: it’s just not now.

Just like a good parent, God always has our best interest in mind.  When we follow him we end up being better people.  Maybe not financially, but character-wise and spiritually we are vastly improved.  We send our children to school even though they don’t want to be there.  Why?  Because it makes them better adults.  I think that’s what God is doing.  He sends us to “life school” to make us better.  But we don’t get to experience the full benefits of that until after we die.

For a lot of people that’s hard to take.  And I understand that.  I’m just as much a product of fast food, microwaves, and instant ramen noodles as anyone else.  But I don’t write the rules, I just try to understand them.  And then I try to do something with them.

So the next time you are faced with a challenge from God.  Accept it.  Confidently.  Knowing that while it might be hard, it is worth pursuing with all your strength.  God never asks us to do something without a reason!  We will get that reward.  God has promised us that much.  And who knows, in the end, you may find you like it better than money or a stress-free life.

job and the job-less

1

Category : God, Job, barbarian, faith

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The book of Job is perhaps my least favorite book in the Bible.  It speaks so much truth that it’s painful to read.  It’s essentially a story about a guy who lives life by the book.  He gets up on time.  He brushes his teeth.  He probably even flosses.  Yet his life falls completely apart.  He loses his family, his wealth, and even his health.  He has nothing but his relationship with God, and even that begins to teeter toward the end.

The point of Job is this – sometimes the chaos and destruction in your life isn’t your fault.  You may be doing all the right things.  Making all the right choices.  But things beyond your control are determining the outcome.

This really struck me as I’m still looking for a job.  I’ve been looking for a job, in one format of another, for almost a full year.  I’ve applied to dozens of positions, interviewed at a few, got to the last steps in a few more, and still nothing.  I’ve always been a “successful” guy, well educated, blah blah blah.  So this failure has been hard.

Yet not so nearly as hard as when friends and well-intentioned people say, “you haven’t found a job yet?!”  As if there’s some huge magical supply of jobs sitting out there right now.

These comments are always meant to encourage, and they are meant to be supportive.  But to me they remind me of my failure.  Job’s friends meant to encourage him too.  They sat there when everyone else abandoned him.  But eventually they turned on him, wondering “what is his problem?”

That doubt seeped in Job’s life.  He began to wonder what his problem was as well.

The truth was – nothing.

Nothing was wrong with Job’s life.  Job’s life fell apart because of events outside of his control.  God had allowed it to happen, in part, to teach us that failure isn’t always because we’ve sinned.  Sometimes the reason we fail is because the world is fallen and broken.

Maybe my joblessness is my own fault.  Maybe I need to be working harder to find a position.  That’s a possibility.  Or maybe there’s something else going on.  Maybe something spiritual is occurring.

Of course none of this changes how I should react.  If I need to work harder to find a job the best thing I can do is lean into God and trust him.  If this is some form of spiritual warfare, the best thing I can do is lean into God and trust him.

To live a life of faith, I must do the same thing regardless of the specifics.  That’s just how it is sometimes.

On the flip side, if you have a friend who’s in trouble, offer them support.  Offer them some constructive criticism if that’s what’s needed (sometimes it is!).  But don’t forget to focus on the warfare side.  Some things are beyond our control and the best thing you can do is fight with them.