Wednesday, January 25, 2017

My Thoughts on Fearless Christian Living

One of the things I don't want to do is to die with regrets. From the time I was a child I have been thinking about this. I don't want to be lying on my deathbed looking back at my life regretting all the people I have hurt and all the things I did to hurt myself. I don't want to be ashamed of my life. But even more, I want to have lived.

Life is so precious. It is such a gift that I spend a lot of time contemplating it. And I wonder why so many of us blindly live without ever even noticing our own existence? Is it that we have been raised in a mental white noise that doesn't' allow us to think? Very few people contemplate the meaning of existence. 

Why? Because it is hard.

Thinking about human existence and watching the lives around us, it seems like everyone is in misery, or living a futile life of seeking comfort and pleasure—even Christians! It looks as if no one really has a direction or plan for their life
except to work hard for the fun we can eke out on the weekends, live for sports and entertainment-- keep plodding along until the yearly vacations and soon enough we will retire and move to Florida and play golf. 

Voila! Then we will sit alone in our little apartment wondering what happened to our lives, pet our dog and hope there is a God so we can have a do-over in the next life.  

How horrible to think back on life and realized we had wasted such a precious gift of life on television, cable, movies…. entertainment--that we have spent our whole lives living through someone else's fictional life.

That is not living! I want to be the heroine of my own story. 

How pathetic if, instead of even reflecting upon life, that at our lives' end we just go from this life watching television never even having known we lived! We had become an automaton being consumed by Hollywood's moving pictures. We ended up being nothing but a pair of eyes. 

For Christians, we know the meaning is to live eternally with God. However, if we aren't learning to understand the meaning of this existence we have now, as Christians, if we are not doing anything meaningful or special now, why would we want a never-ending meaningless existence?

No! This life was meant to have incredible meaning. Our lives are to be heroic and epic.  

Whatever you are doing today, stop and think about this for a few minutes. Do you live every moment as if it has meaning or do you just drone along filling your time with entertainment and thinking about the next fun thing you are doing? 

If your life seems enslaved with the mundane, if you do not have a meaning and purpose for your day besides making going to work to money and texting on your iPhone what you are going to watch or do that evening for fun, you need to really rethink your life.

So what keeps people from living? Really living. I am not talking about having that extra ice
cream cone or living dangerously by going sky diving or being crazy and getting another tattoo.
My husband is a nurse and over the years has been with many dozens of elderly people as they take their last breath and I assure you they are not thinking of the money they didn't have, nor the food they didn't taste or the rain they should have danced in. They are thinking about what their life meant and the people they loved--no matter what the meme's say.

Real living is not doing the things that make one feel exhilarated. That is just more empty days at adult Disneyland. I am referring to living life with meaning--with a purpose so clear and so heroic that you are willing to put everything you have—your heart, your mind, your soul, your strength, your time, your money into it…. sold out—all out living.

(And for a Christian that meaning should never be based in money.)

As Christians, with an informed proper Christian worldview, there would only be two things that keep us from really living our God-given epic life. And that is that we don't know our purpose and we have a fear of suffering. 


I would like to give my opinion on the second half of that—the suffering. I think it is far more that Christians fear suffering than they don't know what they are supposed to be doing to make their lives meaningful. The Bible spells it out that we are to quit sinning and take care of others. That is what gives life meaning

However, most of us Christians would rather make a bunch of money and throw money at the poor, the weird, the uncool, the suffering than actually be a part of their lives. That is how we envision doing our part in the gospel mission. Because doing anything else would be hard... or uncomfortable.

The number one thing I think Christians need to get past is the fear of suffering. I am not criticizing anyone with that. I know everyone is calling everyone a snowflake and telling them to buck up and deal with life. That is not what I am writing. I am promising you that the moment you give your fear of suffering to God and follow Him, that your life will begin to be epic--epic in pain, epic in love, epic in hope, epic in meaning. And to live such a life of fullness, greatness that will end in joy, you have to give up this need to protect yourself from embarrassment and pain. 

Our early Christian leaders all told us that it is okay; do not fear suffering:
Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. II Tim. 2:3

Most of today's suffering is in direct consequences of our stupid, wrongful actions and God brings upon us shame and suffering in order to bring us to repentance. (Rev. 22:2) But that is not the kind of suffering Christians are called to.

When I was a kid, I most sincerely promised the Lord I would be so incredibly good that He would never have to make me suffer to learn a lesson. I have lived that. God alone knows how hard I have tried to be perfect so that I don't have to be punished for my sins and suffer.

And even with that, I have had great suffering in my life. I  have spent over twenty years in physical pain as a consequence of other people's sins. (A young man on meth plowed into my car stopped at a red light one evening in 1997 and messed up my back and jaw.) God brought great joy to my life because of that, even with the pain.

We need to realize that suffering happens and as a Christian we must stop fearing pain. No matter how righteous your life is, you are going to suffer. While you may avoid the deep regret of knowing you have caused others to suffer for your stupidity and selfishness, all Christians who follow the command of Christ to daily take up their Cross and follow Him, will inevitably find themselves doubled over in pain because of something. 

Life hurts. And once we no longer fear suffering, we will find that a freedom that Americans with all their claims to freedom have no concept of. Christian redemptive suffering sets you free. That, of course, is not contradicting Christ, who said the truth will make you free, because I am telling you the truth! 

Suffering doesn't mean God has abandon you. If you look at your life and you sincerely know that you have done nothing, no choice your made any time in your life has the consequences that you are experiencing; if you find yourself randomly in pain for something, do not feel ashamed or afraid. 

Lift it up to the Lord.

Why are we in need of suffering? The Apostles give us some thoughts on this: 

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; Rom. 5: 3

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. Col. 1: 24

You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. I Thess. 1: 6

All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 2. Thess. 1: 5

So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. 

That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. 2 Tim. 1:8, 12

[F]or which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. 2 Tim. 2: 9

Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. James 5: 10

For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. I Peter 2: 19

John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. Rev. 1: 9

We are going to suffer and it will be our joy, because as Christians our suffering is to produce fruits that will help fill the kingdom of God with other souls. Our suffering has great meaning.

And I have discovered that suffering destroys pride and pride is another great impediment to a life of freedom. Humility is the very context of true freedom. 

I know, not something you really wanted to read this morning. But I can tell you that if you want true freedom, if you want your life to have meaning and a joy that you could never reach any other way.... pray that God will not let your fear of suffering keep you from living a life a great meaning. 

God is calling you to be great--to have an epic life. To live with your eyes and ears open and your
days full. Pray for that kind of courage. And it will happen. And when your days on this earth are ended, you will die with a smile on your lips.