Sep
13
2012

The tragedy of life and of the world is not that men do not know God; the tragedy is that, knowing Him, they still insist on going their own way. William Barclay

My soul is impatient with itself, as with a bothersome child; its restlessness keeps growing and is forever the same. Everything interests me, but nothing holds me. Fernando Pessoa

It is easy, when you are young, to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something badly enough, it is your God-given right to have it. Jon Krakauer 

Another aspect is the reality that believers typically are self-centered, rather than God-centered in the way they live their life. This was especially my struggle in my early years of faith: I wanted it my way (and sometimes this continues to be so). I thought that after giving my life to God, I could just continue living the way I had before and not much would need to change. At the heart of it, people are selfish and this is because we live in a fallen world and put simply, because we our sinners. It’s a very hard thing to give our lives over to someone and trust that they have our best intentions for us. Selfishness is at the root of human sin and God begins to address it right off the bat when we move into a relationship with him. Those who have recently come to faith face this challenge squarely, because it is something God wishes to render obsolete in us right from the start.

Most people usually have this on their minds at most times—me, me, me. Because God understands that to be disconnected from him is dangerous, he pushes us to be focused on him first. He is our life and without him, we are nothing. The Heidelberg Catechism puts it in a way which is perhaps the most eloquent way of professing this truth:

Question 1. What is thy only comfort in life and death?

Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.

Now, that is beautiful. But the danger lies in the question, what if I give up all my rights, all of my control, what will he do with my life then? What will it cost me? How can I trust a God I can’t even see? How can I trust anyone, when no one has ever been constant for me? These are all the questions that fumble around in the mind of a believer. Following Jesus is a dangerous thing and challenging at times, and it takes tremendous risk. To give myself over to another, who wants to do that? I have to look after myself. If I don’t, who will? These are the statements that the world offers to us every day and they are melded into our minds. With this, when we begin to follow God, we naturally do it half-heartedly. We don’t give it our all. We wait and see how things will turn out. This is precisely what Judas did. He was waiting to see how things were going to turn out and when it looked as if everything was falling apart, he went and made an appointment with the chief priest to see if a deal could be made. Jesus tells us though that this is no way to live. Over and over, he challenges us that to live for him, we must do it unselfishly. The problem is that nowhere in the world will we find a model in which to live like this. This is a new thing and a new way of living. Innately, to live such a life goes against our very nature and to do so requires tremendous trust and a risk like no other. What’s the payout? Jesus says, everything you have always wanted.

How does one not begin to live for themselves? Just like the risk involved, it is a task like no other. By first putting our focus on God and then, on others, is a painful process. It’s like having your heart ripped out and it can feel as if you are dying until you get that new one in its place. This is the difficult challenge, because we are all taught at some level that we can only trust ourselves. But the way of Jesus is a new one. We are taught that to rely on another is foolishness; he asserts that to give is better than receiving (Acts 20:35). Now that is crazy! Overtime, however, we must begin to relinquish ourselves and genuinely give if we desire to truly grow. This is the main approach of growth. In those times in my life as I look back, I grew the most when I was giving myself to someone else and making genuine sacrifices. It can be tiring and excruciating, but in the end it is the right thing. With respect to this, I think of something that A.W. Tozer wrote:

The labor of self-love is a heavy one indeed. Think for yourself whether much of your sorrow has not arisen from someone speaking slightingly of you. As along as you set yourself up as a little god to which you must be loyal, how can you hope to find inward peace?

Again, to live a life that is only focused on myself is difficult, challenging and actually limits me in the end. In each of our lives, we need to find that place, where at the end of the day we learn to put into practice that we don’t just look out for ourselves, we look out for each person that God has placed around us. It really is true—it is so much better to give than to receive—that when we take our gaze off ourselves and onto others is actually liberating.


In: Friend to Jesus