Thursday, November 13, 2008

Where Do You Place Your Faith?

First of all, I have to confess. I wrote this piece a few days ago, but it was totally different. For some reason, it just seemed to be missing something, so I saved it as a draft. I would come to the blog and visit the draft, but it just wasn't quite right. Then tonight, I could not sleep. It's the same topic, but a different approach. The difference was that the original article was about the faith of others, but it is far more important to me that you consider and ponder your own faith, and its role in your life.

Let's talk about the big picture first -- eternity. Have you ever considered how long that is? It is forever! FOREVER! It is longer than the time period you implied when you said that you would not eat raw fish or bungee jump. Eternity does not end. Now that we got the timeline established, consider where you believe you will spend eternity. It's not about our earthly life here; that is but a blink of the eye when you consider eternity. But when your earthly days are done, where are you heading? Hopefully, your long term vision is set on heaven.

Here's the next question. Why do you think you will be going there? If your answer started with "Because I did ... and I gave ... and I went to ... and I helped ...", then... you and me... we gotta talk. It's about where your faith is at. Some might consider John 3:16 as an overused Bible verse because it gets seen at way more sporting events than any other verse, but it's used way more than any other verse because it summarizes the Bible. "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Let's focus on this verse from our perspective -- God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth (see Genesis 1:1), loved you and me so much that He sent His only son to live a life we could not (a sinless one) and to die a death we deserved (because of all of our sinning), if we would only believe in him and what he did for us we will have eternal life -- FOREVER. It did not say that whoever did such and such... or whoever gave this and that . . . or whoever went to this place and the other . . . or whoever helped so and so. The only requirement is that you acknowledge who you are and who he is.

This was proven out at the crucifixion of Jesus. Please recall that he was crucified with two criminals. According to Luke's Gospel, one criminal hurled insults at Jesus just as the soldiers and passersby were. But the second criminal asked Jesus to remember him when he entered his kingdom. Jesus responded by telling him that they would be together in paradise that very day. So, this criminal did not have the chance to give, or go, or help to earn his way into heaven. He only recognized who he was himself, a sinner, and who Jesus was -- God's plan for our salvation. (Side note: Third Day sings a cool song titled "Thief" about the crucifixion events from the perspective of that criminal -- always gives me goose bumps.)

OK, so if you can't earn heaven, then does that mean you can do whatever you want? You can do what you want. But if your faith in Jesus and love for God is genuine, you will still do the right things out a spirit of thankfulness to God. You will go to church, not as a check mark, but to praise God for all He has done and will do, and to learn from His love letter to us, the Bible. You will continue to give, because the Bible instructs us to care for the orphans, widows and sick. And it is through serving Him and others for Him, that you will find real joy and purpose in life. You will be feeling what King David is laying down in the book of Psalms. And when people see you living such a life, it will open up doors for you to tell them about your faith and Savior. They will want to know what makes you different than what they perceived a Christian to be.

Now, how do you take your "big picture" faith into your daily living? Again, I ask you where do you put your faith? Do you put your faith in others to make you happy or take care of you? Romans 3:23 states that all have sinned -- ALL which means everybody you know has sinned today, yesterday and will do so again tomorrow. Now, before I get much farther, let me remind you that sin is not just murder, theft and adultery. It's anger, selfishness, jealousy, impatience and many more listed in Galatians 5:21. Jesus talked during the Sermon on the Mount about how hatred is murder in the heart. So, just because the person whom you've put your faith in has not been convicted of anything, does not mean they are perfect and can bear the burden of your happiness. People are going to let you down. That includes your family, friends, co-workers, government officials and celebrities.

So, when trouble comes, do you rely on yourself to fix it or get yourself through it? Remember, you are included in the verse Romans 3:23. You will let yourself down, too -- whether it's through misplaced emotions or poor decision making. Now, I'm not saying that when tough times come, you just say a prayer and lay on your couch waiting for God to take care of it. He equips you to get through it (maybe you've seen the many plaques that share this concept). I've often heard that you pray as though everything does depend on God and work as though everything depends on you. Let me share a personal example. A few years back, my husband's car had an early morning run-in with a deer. From the impact alone, he was sure the car had been totalled. He even called me and told me so before he got out of the car. Now, we had some financial goals set at that time and this would really tie things up in a knot (doesn't it always seem to happen that way?) But it was a chance to lean on God. I immediately prayed that He guard our finances, help us make wise decisions. The end result -- the car was driven away from the scene and the repairs were of a magnitude that our checkbook could handle it. And this experience has proven out so many times in my life --in big and small events. The lesson is that you need to put your faith in the one that won't let you down -- God. Remember Romans 8:28 -- "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose." So, it may not turn out like you would have designed it, but you will be better off in some way -- whether it's strengthened faith, added wisdom, tighter relationships from surviving the struggles, or the addition of venison to your family's diet.

Did you know that He cares about everything going on in your life? We often only go to Him when times are tough. But, did you know that it's OK to go to Him to thank Him and praise Him when life is good? I often joke that He even cares about how I chop an onion and would be glorified by it -- not because of my onion chopping technique, but because of my attitude. Am I a domestic martyr who feels that I suffer because I am "only" a wife or mom? Do I gripe about how no one appreciates me? Or do I grow where I am planted? Do I show how thrilled I am about being Jeff's wife and the mom of Nicole, Rachael and Marrin? I show love to Jesus, by showing love to my family -- the ones He loaned to me. When I can't bear to fold one more pair of underwear, I start saying little prayers with each piece of clothing for their specific owners. It's hard to remain focused on myself and my sore feelings, if I'm focused on someone else.

He does care about what goes on -- big and small. I have gotten into such a habit of saying prayers throughout my daily life, that it's like I'm hanging out with my Best Friend all day long. It may be praying for patience when dealing with a disobedience issue, praying for the right words when making a difficult phone call or praying for all involved when an ambulance passes. The more prayer in my day, the better my day goes.

Let me close here by saying that this article is meant as much for me as for anyone. I am included in the group described in Romans 3:23. I get mad, pouty, impatient, selfish . . . you can stop me anytime, you know. I am not pretending to have it all together, because I know what happens each day around me, because of me. But once in awhile, with His help, I manage to string together a couple of good hours. In the hopes of putting together one whole decent day, I'll keep praying and reading.

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