Abiding With God
By: Lisa Robertson
What is the point of your faith?
For many years, I viewed mine as sort of a Get Out of Hell Free card. I’ve used this example before, but it’s like a game of spiritual Monopoly where if you play your cards right and the dice are kind to you, maybe you’ll end up drawing one of the free cards. It can be a lifesaver in a Monopoly game.
But is faith like that? Is it just a matter of chance? Do we hope that we get the magic formula right and die with a prayer on our lips? Is our best hope that we avoid the flames of hell lapping at our flesh? Is that all there is to faith?
I hope not, because to be honest with you, if this is really how it is, it might be worse news than no news at all. That’s because the best this message can do for me is to tell me that I will have to live a miserable existence here on this planet in order to gain my eternal reward. I’ll be simply gritting my teeth and hoping for the best. No joy! No peace! No comfort! Just pinch my nose, hold my breath, and wait to surface. Wait for an entire lifetime before I can breathe again. If this is all there is to faith, then I will live wondering whether or not I am going to make it or not. It offers no hope for the present. Just grind it out and maybe I’ll be okay in the end.
If this is your view of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, then I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a wild guess – you are completely miserable. Your past is still haunting you. You’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Your future is scaring the hell out of you (excuse the imagery). And I’ll go even further and hazard another guess – everyone around you is feeling the effects of your toxicity. Your judgmental tone is making people run away from you. You are almost dead inside. In fact, you might be dead already.
I know about this because I’ve been there and done that. Sadly, I spent a great portion of my life in this no-man’s land as part of the walking dead. Oh, I checked my boxes – church, small group, prayer groups. I even married a pastor. But I was stuck in that in-between place, longing to go back to the thrill of sin so that I could feel alive again, but not wanting to risk eternal fire.
The problem with my former strategy (and it will be your problem too), is that the thrill of sin always triumphs over the misery of reluctant drudgery. This is what happened to me. The reason that this is true is because I wasn’t created to check my spiritual boxes simply to gain freedom from hell. Avoiding torment isn’t the goal of my faith. That strategy never sustains us. No one can live that way for long. We inevitably wish for community, even involvement with the wrong people.
The reason hell-avoidance will always leave you and me empty is that God created us for far more than that. He created us for fellowship, but more than fellowship with just anyone, he calls us into his presence to enjoy him. The amazing story of the gospel is that, in spite of the fact that I rejected his offer of community with him, he still calls me to it. The problem is that Satan is all about the grave. If you’ve ever wondered what his goal for your life is, this is it. It was his goal for Jesus, and it’s his purpose for you too. Unfortunately, he’s very skilled at weaving his narrative in our hearts. “It’s over! Just throw in the towel!” He will even support our church attendance where we check off items on a list of religious things about God. Anything to keep us from hearing God call us into fellowship with him. Anything to keep us from hearing the call to participate in the resurrection of Christ. Anything to keep us from drawing near to God, from fixing our eyes and thoughts on Jesus. That’s how Satan works.
But he lies! That’s his only way of communicating with our minds. He’s good at weaving half-truths and lies together to discourage us before the God who loves us, who wants to raise us from the grave of moral failure.
But what is the truth about God. The truth is that he offers resurrection. Not just resurrection from the earthly grave (even though he does offer that), but to raise us up from the emotional and spiritual tomb that keeps us from seeing God for who he is – kind and benevolent, longing for us to draw near to him.
I love Lauren Daigle’s song, “Still Rolling Stones,” especially this lyric that really speaks to the work that God can do in the broken hearts of mankind:
I once was blinded
But now I see it
I heard about the power
And now I believe it
Rise up (rise up)
Rise up (rise up)
All at once I came alive
This beating heart, these open eyes
The grave let go
The darkness should have known
I need to be reminded of this – often! I need to read it in scripture (and it’s on every page). I need to hear it in hymns, songs, and in sermons. I am not my past! I am not who Satan says I am because there is a mighty God who is constantly calling me into fellowship with him through the finished work of Christ. He’s calling me to cleansing and resurrection. He’s calling me to the best version of myself which can only be found in him. Here are a few more lines from Lauren’s song that tells the story of you and me:
I thought that I was too far gone
For everything I’ve done wrong
Yeah, I’m the one who dug this grave
But You called my name
You called my name
He called my name! He’s calling your name to a sweet life of joy, hope, comfort, and peace. Answer his call with a simple, “Hello, here I am Lord.” He can and will do the rest.