Say, "Hi, Ted!"
Ted is a 42-year-old married man with three kids.
Ted grew up in a Christian home where both his father and mother were what we'd call "faithful Christians." They regularly attended church and were well-respected in their community.
As a child, Ted's parents consistently made certain that he was prepared for Bible class, answering the lesson questions and even learning his memory verse. Ted was a good kid. Ted's dad was actively involved in the church, leading singing on a regular basis and periodically teaching Bible class.
At age fifteen, Ted decided to become a Christian, so he was baptized.
Though he understood what he was doing at the time, there was an element of peer pressure involved in Ted's decision. Five of Ted's friends at church had been baptized within the previous two years.
In the years that followed, Ted graduated high school, then college, got a job, married his wife Lucy, and had his three children. Over the years, Ted has continued faithfully attending church and is a fairly active member.
Overall, Ted's life sounds "normal." On the surface, he sounds like a typical "good Christian man."
But when we look a little closer at Ted's life, the picture changes.
First, we notice that Ted rarely, if ever, seems joyful. He frequently seems bored, disinterested, or depressed—just kind of beat down by life. His favorite subjects to talk about are college football, hunting and golf, in that order. Those appear to be the only subjects that Ted ever gets excited about. Once "church" is over, you never hear Ted discussing GOD, Jesus or any spiritual topic.
When Ted leads public prayer, it sounds like one conjoined string of traditional phrases (you know, the "guide, guard and direct us" and "be with [insert person's name here]" lines). He prays in a monotone voice, void of enthusiasm.
Ted rarely reads his Bible during the week and he never studies on his own.
He spends time with his family in the evenings and on the weekends, but they almost never discuss GOD's word or how to apply its teachings to their daily walk.
Over 25 years into his Christian walk, Ted has had a direct impact on less than a handful of people becoming Christians. He occasionally passes out the fliers for his congregation's revivals (a.k.a., gospel meetings), primarily because he feels guilty not to. All in all, spiritually speaking, Ted is just going through the motions.
More Than This?
Does Ted sound like someone you know?
Perhaps a friend, relative, parent or maybe even you?
I've known a lot "Ted's."
At times, I've even felt a bit like Ted—floating along with the current, not rocking the boat.
Now ask yourself: Does Ted's life sound like what GOD wants for him? Is this the best that life in Christ has to offer here on earth?
Consider the following rhetorical questions:
- Who designed man to feel the emotions that we experience: happiness, joy, love, pleasure, sadness, pain (physical and emotional), anger?
- Who "programmed" us to feel best when we live selflessly, focused on others, giving rather than receiving?
- Who made us to enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing hard work, such as building a house, mowing the lawn, helping someone move, etc?
Is it logical that the GOD who gave us our emotions, as well as instructions on their proper use (marriage for sexual desires, for example), would desire us to live out our days on earth in a near-comatose state of apathy, only to be excited over sports victories and annual Christmas gift exchanges?
Why would GOD create us to know such wonderful emotions and then expect us to never experience them?
What GOD Wants
Throughout the Bible, it is clear that GOD wants a family with whom to share life and all of His blessings.
Under the Old Covenant, membership to GOD's family was based on physical birth. Under the New Covenant, membership is determined by a choice to be spiritually reborn—and it's our choice.
GOD provides many blessings to all people.
Jesus said, "[GOD] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matt. 5:45 NIV)
But to the Christian, GOD provides "every spiritual blessing in Christ" (Eph. 1:3).
What GOD wants is for you and me to want to know Him. He wants us to see who He is—His reputation and His character—and for that to create within us a passionate desire to:
- Love Him because of who He is (as opposed to simply what He can do for us).
- Have a close personal relationship with Him.
- Be with Him.
- Become like Him.
Everything GOD has done, is doing, and will do in our life is with the intent of helping us to come to know Him more deeply.
And He does none of it for selfish reasons.
GOD doesn't need me, you or anyone. If He needed anything He wouldn't be God!
No, everything GOD does is for our benefit, not His.
Knowing GOD is what life is all about!
Jesus said, "Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." (John 17:3)
We were created to know GOD.
In GOD's design, man would have a peaceful, harmonious relationship with Him. When sin entered the world, however, that harmony was disrupted. Now our relationship with GOD is by faith.
Whether we choose to admit it, we have been designed and GOD is our Designer.
When we behave in accordance with how we were designed, we feel best.
Why is this?
Because that's how GOD designed us to feel!
So, if we want to achieve the best quality of life—the most meaningful life—then we must live out the purpose for which we were created.
How Did We Get To Here?
Let's go back to our example of Ted's situation for a minute.
How do people like Ted get to this point in their life?
While each person's situation may be different, there are certain trends we can often identify as contributing factors:
- A lack of strong examples around us. People are influenced by people.
If our parents weren't great examples of passionate Christians whose lives were ablaze by the Holy Spirit, that puts us at a disadvantage, but one that may be overcome. We need other Christians around who are running hard after Jesus to help us catch fire and learn how to connect with GOD on a deep, intimate level.
- A diminished (or nonexistent) hunger to know GOD more deeply.
Sometimes we do well for a period of time and, for whatever reasons, our flame burns out or grows dim. I have found that, most often, this happens because our focus shifts from spiritual things to earthly things. When our focus shifts, we spend less time pursuing GOD and more time pursuing the things of the world—things which aren't inherently wrong, but can become top priority in our life.
- Getting caught up in human traditions as opposed to biblical teachings.
Nothing can create spiritual burnout and cause us to lose our fire for GOD like the weight of ineffective human traditions. The self-imposed requirement to keep extra-biblical, man-made religious traditions often creates a burden GOD never intended us to carry.
- An improper overemphasis on the externals.
GOD wants us to obey Him and to live a holy life, to be certain. Yet, we must have the proper motivation for obeying. If we do the right thing for the wrong reason, GOD won't accept it. Similarly, if we do the wrong thing for the right reason, GOD doesn't accept that either. It is only when we do the right thing with the right motivation that GOD is pleased.
- A lack of accountability.
We need close friends who love us enough to hold us accountable for how we live. Without this, a spiritual slump often goes unchecked for a prolonged timeframe.
- A church environment that is not "stirring."
We need a church family who encourages us and stimulates us to love and good works (see Heb. 10:24-25). It is for that very purpose that Christians assemble together. If you consistently leave your church's assemblies feeling more discouraged than encouraged, there's a problem. The problem might be you, but then again, it may not.
How Do I Fix This?
When it comes to spiritual activities such as studying the Bible, participating in a discussion on a specific biblical topic, or worshiping with other Christians, do you really enjoy doing these things?
Do you really look forward to them, or do you frequently find them boring?
Now, do you think that GOD intends for these activities, where He is the focus, to be boring?
Is His desire to submit us to an hour-long or multi-hour session of boredom just so we can check off a box on our imaginary spiritual checklist that says whether we're a "good Christian?"
No!!! Absolutely not.
If I'm a spiritually-minded person and I find a spiritual activity to be "boring," it is because of one of two reasons:
- my heart isn't in the right place; or...
- GOD isn't truly the focus of what we're doing.
If my heart isn't in the right place, it could be because I have sin in my life of which I haven't repented.
But if my heart is engaged and I'm really trying, and I still find the activity boring, I truly believe it is because GOD isn't the focus of the activity.
I have learned that when GOD is present—when He is the focus—life is never boring, because that's how we are designed.
So, if we are going to fix this problem—if we are going to wake the dead, so to speak, then we've got to start doing some things differently.
- Make GOD, Himself, the focus and center of your life. Everything—Every. Thing.—revolves around GOD.
- Ask GOD to reveal Himself to you every day. You'll begin to notice Him and His presence like never before.
- Persistently ask GOD to help you attain the abundant life that Jesus said He came to provide.
- Decide you will no longer settle in your pursuit of GOD.
- In your knowledge of Him through His Word.
- In your faith by asking Him to show you where He is working, and where He has worked in the past, in your life.
- To be more like Jesus each day as you practice what you learn.
- In your knowledge of Him through His Word.
- Find at least one accountability partner to help you grow and ask how you're doing. Make sure it's a close friend who has your best spiritual interest at heart.
- Make sure you have a church family that both teaches truth and stirs you up to love and good works.
If you don't want to be with your brethren, then there's a problem that you need to fix. Work hard to fix it, but don't stay in an unhealthy environment forever. Life's too short for that.
Changing the culture of an established group is extremely difficult and will never happen without 100% buy-in.
- Ask GOD to show you the role He wants you to play within the kingdom. He will show you, in His time.
GOD wants you to live passionately for His cause every day.
He wants to give you abundant life both here and in eternity.
In no way am I suggesting He'll give you a life free from suffering. He's promised the opposite, in fact.
But when you suffer, you'll suffer with joy, knowing that no one can ever take the passion and faith from your heart because GOD won't let them.
Wake up and truly live!
It's so much better than just existing. It's what you were created to do.