The following post is the first of three related posts written by Stu. All three will run consecutively for two days each. Please be sure to read all three.
© Rui Vale de Sousa – Fotolia.com
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realise this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” 2 Cor. 13:5
I am currently on a holiday for two weeks from work and it’s proving to be a good time to stop and listen to God where I need to work on my relationship with Him… boy there is so much to do!
God Gives us a New Heart of Flesh
As Christians, we are to examine ourselves constantly to ensure we are putting into practice what God teaches us through the Bible. When we become a Christian, God gives us a new heart, transforming our heart so that we may be receptive to and live for God (Ezekiel 11:19). This is what is known as being “born again”, being made alive spiritually by God.
We are saved by God to serve Him, not to live for ourselves (Eph 2:8-10). We are to practice righteousness as God’s children, bearing the fruit of His Spirit at work within us (1 John 3:8-10). However, we still struggle against sin every day. Therefore, we must be wary of our weaknesses and take appropriate action to work with God so that we may walk in closer relationship with Him and not be hindered by our sinful rebellion.
Follow Christ no Matter the Sacrifice
Now this is very different to earning our way into God’s good graces. Far from it! Rather it’s about sacrificing our life for Christ as He first did for us. How do we do that? By turning from our sinful desires and choosing to follow Christ no matter the sacrifice. This is tough!
I think it’s critical in our walk with God to make time to reflect on how we are going, asking ourselves some tough questions. How have I reflected Christ more over the last few months? How can I serve others more effectively? Whom do I need to pray for more? What areas of my life do I need to repent of and ask for God’s restoring grace? These are meant to be probing questions, and often we don’t like the answers!
However that is how we test whether or not we are truly disciples of Christ. We become Christians by trusting in Jesus with our lives, knowing that through His sacrifice alone we are freed from condemnation before God, enabled to live and enjoy Him forever. However, in that happening, we will not go on living as we used to. There may well be times where we have greater periods of struggle than others, however over the years that follow our conversion and profession of faith in Christ, we should see the evidence of God working in our lives, as the book of James points out, i.e. faith without works is dead. If there is no evidence, then we need to ask ourselves some tough questions.
This holiday I have discovered areas of my life into which I need to address. I have asked my close Christian friends to keep me accountable in some areas, and to pray for God’s help in my life. I am trying to get some basic disciplines back into my life. Having two young kids can really stuff up any order we may have had!
I am a Child of God
Most importantly though, as I critique myself, I continue to remember who I am as a Christian. I am a child of God, redeemed by Christ because of what He has done for me on the cross, not what I can do. I will struggle with sin, but by God’s grace I am able to learn from my mistakes and God-willing mature as a Christian.
Being a Christian can be tough… but often we make things so much harder for ourselves by allowing ‘stuff’ to stop us drawing close to God and listening to His quiet voice in our lives, allowing Him to lead us down a path that will grant us peace amidst the chaos of this noisy world.
Thank you God for your continual gracious support in my life!! May I serve and honour you accordingly.
Why is your faith such a struggle? My atheism is never a struggle. I never doubt it. Its so simple, obvious and straightforward. It makes life simple and easy to understand. And when it gets to hard, the exit beckons without fear.
Your faith seems to make your life a misery….
Thanks for your comment Zenshiro. I can see how you may get that impression from my post, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Although being a Christian is a challenging life, it’s my struggles that humble me before God and cause me to put all my hope in what Christ has done. As a result I have a peace and joy that no struggle can rob me of, even though life throw at me some tough situations!
Before I was a Christian I relied in my own ability to be a good person, to make a difference in life, to be someone of significance. However when I would inevitably stuff up I had no hope because I relied on myself, my own ability to live an upright life for God.
However, when I learnt of what Christ sacrificed for me so that I may have peace with God forever, I realised that the secret wasn’t in relying on my ability for success, but trusting in the success that Christ has already achieved. It’s because of that success He had on the cross in dying for our sins and conquering death that gives me hope to persevere no matter the struggle. It gives me a peace that I treasure more than anything.
Many may see my struggles/vulnerabilities or reliance on Christ as a sign of weakness. However I rather see it as a comfort and strength. As I choose to trust in Christ I can overcome any challenge and enjoy my relationship with God. I’m sure people saw Jesus’ struggles as a sign of weakness. Little did they know He was suffering for our sake… so that humanity may have hope.
God uses our struggles to refine our character and humble us so that our hope is fully in Jesus and not ourselves. I am forever thankful to God for that!
May I ask, in what do you put your hope? What gives you strength to persevere when the going gets tough? Thanks again for your honest feedback and thoughts.
It seems to me you believe that life has some purpose or meaning. That you are actually supposed to achieve anything. You “relied upon yourself to be someone of significance”. According to what yardstick? You are not and I am not of any significance. No one is – we’re just animals with clothes on after all. How would we decide someone was “of significance”?
If I put my “hope” in anything (which I don’t think I do), its knowing that in the end, nothing matters.
I think Shakespeare said it well:
” Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
If life signifies nothing, I have no concern about its outcome! I hope for nothing, and hence fear nothing.
If life becomes to hard to live – I can end it without concern, since it means nothing anyway.
So my question again. I’m *never* in doubt. Never “struggling” to hold onto something. So why do you chose something so slippery as your faith that even you, a devout believer, find difficult to hold onto from time to time?
I get the impression you feel your struggles are some kind of mark of the strength of your faith. Your “worth” is linked with your ability to withstand the “struggles” that lchance places in your path. Almost a kind of matyrdom. “The harder my life is, the harder it is to believe that god could make my life so difficult (and ignore my prayers) the closer to god I am!”
I suspect its part of the circular reasoning you need to sustain your belief/delusion – “If life is good – god is blessing me to bring me closer to him! If life is hard – god is testing me to make me closer to him!”
There’s no critical thinking involved.
Its curious you say “If there is no evidence, then we need to ask ourselves some tough questions”. What evidence do you have? Prayer doesn’t work for example – otherwise Christians would live longer than non-christians. But they don’t….
You feel happy? I feel happy reading Harry Potter – but that doesn’t mean there is a place called Hogwarts. I might be happy watching Starwars too… but does that mean anything?