Before you think that I’m too perfect. (Right, like you really thought that!) Let me tell you about my athletic abilities. I started playing soccer when I was in the fourth grade and played all the way into high school. I would love to say that after playing for so many years I was the star athlete, but that just wasn’t the case. After that many years of playing soccer, I would still freeze every time I got the ball. I could go after an opponent and make them nervous with my presence but quickly they were past me headed towards their goal.
But not Kristina McCutchen. She played on the varsity team and when I first saw her my 9th grade year, I was awestruck. The ball would come to her and she effortlessly appeared to bob and weave down the field, leaving the opposing defenders in her wake, authoritatively scoring a goal.
She could do it over and over. Though she would get winded periodically, she played soccer freely and lightly. It was as if she didn’t even have to think about it. It appeared to come so naturally to her. There wasn’t a moment when she would freeze and question what to do next. Instead, she would confidently take the ball down the field around the opponents and score a point for the team.
There are believers in my life like that. I watch them when adversity or drama comes and it seems they don’t blink an eye. They receive it, keep moving and successfully find their way to the other side. It all looks so easy. It is almost as if they knew adversity was coming and they prepared themselves for it. There is a smile on their face, a quiet confidence that I long for. Even in the middle of tragedy, there is something about them that says free and light.
So, why not me? Why is it that I could do all the right Christiany things but feel so tired? Why do I feel like I have to push through?
My brain tells me it can’t be as effortless as it seems for others, but I know that something is different. There is a difference in moving forward and pushing through. And that is the place I had found myself. I wasn’t moving forward, I was forcing myself to do the next thing. There wasn’t anything that was free and light about my relationship with God.
It’s going to sound crazy when I tell you that the driving force behind writing this book was a desire to experience God in a way that was real and filled with grace and not so forced and then follow that statement by announcing to you that this book is about spiritual disciplines. Wait, what? Why would I write a book on spiritual disciplines if my goal is to be free and light? Spiritual disciplines don’t sound like a walk in the park, they sound like a lot of work. They sound like a bunch of rules and totally legalistic.
Didn’t I cover the “what if it was up to me?” part? Spiritual disciplines sound like a plan to make my righteousness up to me. I see where you are going with that train of thought and I get it but follow me here.
I think, first, we have to realize that this ache for more didn’t appear out of thin air. God is and has been at work in your life. You wouldn’t want more of God, if God wasn’t seeking you first. Your desire, the desperation you feel could be God’s way of preparing you to walk and work with Jesus.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, (Romans 8:29 NIV)
If you want more, you want to walk with unforced rhythms of grace, take heart, it’s not a pipe dream. You were predestined. God wants you to be transformed, to live freely and lightly and for the whole church thing to be real, not just something we’ve gotten good at sitting through.
However, much of the frustration for Christians comes because of the misunderstanding of God’s work in their life. If you have received Jesus as your Savior and Lord, you have received an amazing gift. You have the gift of salvation. Once you receive salvation, your eternity is sealed.
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30(NIV)
It is a done deal. As a believer, you won’t lose your salvation.
“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:28(NIV)
If you are saved, it is a given that you will spend eternity in Jesus. You are an heir, your eternity is secured. If you are like me, you’ve heard it. You’ve heard it so many times you aren’t really reading right now you are skimming this part and thinking you should be the one teaching the Bible Study, preaching the sermon. Maybe you should.
Salvation isn’t what most of us, the seasoned church-goers, are struggling with. We have salvation. Our question is “what’s next?” We’re looking for the promise of abundant life, the supposed fulfillment that comes with the Christian life. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve heard that I should have joy. 1 Thessalonians 5:16 says pretty clearly, “Rejoice always.” That’s great, but how? How can I make myself have joy? What about peace? A Christian is supposed to have peace. And let’s not even get started on the rest of the fruits of the Spirit like patience or gentleness or self-control.
It is about what we’ve been told (and even read) the Christian life should be. It is about the joy we’ve been promised that we aren’t experiencing, the peace that we can’t quite grasp. It is about the transformation that we long for.
This is where the misunderstanding lies. Transformation isn’t the same as salvation. Transformation is available because of salvation. Though, transformation is a gift, it is not a given. Transformation doesn’t happen because our salvation is secured.
Many new converts try to transform themselves. They work hard, learn to look good and then just get tired. When trouble comes, it is simply too much. Transformation is God-work, not people work. Paul didn’t write in Romans 12, to transform yourself but “to be transformed.” We cannot transform ourselves but we are transformed by God. As in it’s not up to me!
**next week we’ll begin looking at the plan…what do we do with this desire for more Jesus?