As a follow up to, or overflow from, my previous post on the difficulties of the Christian life, I want to offer some personal application.
All of us have expectations, pressures, and responsibilities that rest upon our restless shoulders. At times, the weight of these may feel like we are shouldering an Atlas-like load. Stress and responsibilities with work, family, and life in general are common to us all. This assumes that you are not a 23 year old skateboarder who buys his jeans three sizes too large, lives in his parents’ basement, and is the neighborhood X-box champion (though the other contenders are 13 year olds). If any of you fit that profile, here is some sage advice from the Ole’ Bearded Acorn: turn your ball cap around to face forward, shower, iron a shirt, and go leap into gainful employee, and into adulthood. Leap headfirst! Your mother and father will beam with nervously optimistic pride.
Back to life for the rest of us, real life — life that is trying and strenuous. When I am treading in deep water, there are a few things that I recall from the book of Philippians that provide some much needed buoyancy:
1 . According to Philippians 1:6 the Christian life is a process; it is not an event. Note the words “began” and “complete” in this verse (I assume that you looked it up). This shows that God’s work in us is an ongoing process. Some approach the Christian life as though it were a string of special events. There are some events – a sermon, a book, a conference, a mime skit (no, not really) – that encourage, shape, and edify us. Those are the exception that should be appreciated and not the rule that should be pursued. The geuine article is the ongoing, daily process of discipleship. Specifically, growth takes places as we read God’s Word, pray, walk in the Holy Spirit, and live wisely. It is a process that moves at the speed of osteoporosis.
Special events such as attending a conference or hearing an exciting speaker appeal to us. One of the reasons for this is that something is being taught to us, or done on our behalf; we are passive to the process, it is the speaker or teacher that is active. I am by no means saying that such events are bad. They are good, and helpful, but should never take the place of our own time in God’s Word and prayer. Events serve as supplements to the process of discipleship, they are not the meal. The pitfall for some is that they will try to live from event to event instead of bearing down on a day-to-day commitment to following Christ (see Luke 9:23).
Following Christ is a process, not an event, or series of events.
2. God is the one doing the work in you. Philippians 2:13 states that “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” He does the “willing” and the “working” in you so that your “willing” and “working” aligns with His. We can relax and cease striving from religious exertion because we know that He began, continues, and will complete His work in us. We have to follow and be disciplined, but we do not drive or complete the work.
3. Knowing that He is at work and will complete it gives us a proper view. Namely, we begin to look at our circumstances and obstacles from an eternal, God-honoring viewpoint rather than a temporary, self-focused one.
Two weeks ago this distilled out in my thoughts. After a few days of internal and unnecessary churning over a stressful situation, the application washed across my thoughts: Everything is preparation for something.
The mental storm clouds broke and the downpour ceased. Whatever you or I face is preparation for building Christ-likeness into us for other things that we will bump up against in the future.
For a reminder of this stated in another way please see Eph 2:10.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” ESV
This verse tells us that we are created for good works in Christ. They are prepared beforehand. All that is waiting is our readiness to walk in them. That readiness, or preparation, does not come through flashy events, but rather through day-to-day faithfulness in following Christ.