Categories
Christianity

A Question Of Identity

Figuring out who we are and who we’re called to be is a lifelong endeavour. The paths we take on this journey are often determined by factors that we’re not always conscious of.

Some of these factors are pain, doubt and fear.

As Christians, it goes without saying that the source of our identity is God. He should be the One guiding us through our journey of life.

But what version of God have we embraced and how does it affect how we see ourselves?

Is our God the sum of what we know to be true about Him and the work He continually does in us and through us?

Or is He the sum of what our pain, doubts and fears have made Him out to be?

We can all point to fundamental moments or seasons of our lives that shaped the course of our trajectory from that moment on. But it’s one thing to acknowledge the role that a significant experience (whether positive, negative, or both) has played in shaping your life. It’s entirely another to build your life on the foundation of that experience.

It’s the difference between setting up camp on the way to your destination long before you arrive, and proceeding on to your destination until you get there.

We can allow our experiences to be tools in the hands of our Maker that He works for our good. Or we can take them into our own hands and use them to define ourselves.

So much of the latter is happening. Perhaps because life has a way of undressing us…leaving us naked and vulnerable for the world to see. In our mad rush to make sense of things and restore some sense of dignity to ourselves, we end up clothing ourselves with the very thing that undressed us in the first place.

All around I see individuals, movements, ministries, etc whose very existence is driven by pain, anger and tragedy.

It sounds like it could be a redemptive thing except lemons will never bear apples. Seeds of pain can never birth fruits of peace. Seeds of disappointment and sorrow can never birth fruits of contentment and joy. Seeds of anger can never birth the fruit of peace. At best, they can serve as catalysts to get us on the right path. At worst, they only result in a multiplication of themselves under the guise of being a testament of survival.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, every one of them,

    the days that were formed for me,

    when as yet there was none of them.

Psalm 139:16 ESV

Every day – every single day – of our life on earth has been intentionally mapped out by God. We were always meant to be more than one experience, one high, one low, one phenomenal success, one devastating tragedy.

Our lives are meant to be centred on our Creator; not merely our experiences as created beings. Only divine healing can birth testimonies centred on the Healer and not the disease and the diseased.

God cannot use us to redeem that which we have yet to overcome. If Christ is not at the centre of all we are and all we do, there are plenty of idols waiting to take His place. Our experiences – good and bad – are some of the most underestimated idols we worship…and in the process, lead others to the very same idolatry.  

While we may be able to work people up to a frenzy with these idols, and build a name for ourselves in the process, all we will have done is build a house on sinking sand. It’s only a matter of time before just the right wind of life brings it all crashing to the ground.

We need to think long and hard about what we’re consuming as Christians even from fellow Christians and the Christian world. I always say the simplest test to whether something is good for you is this – is it bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

Or does it just tickle your flesh and make you feel justified about holding onto the fruit of the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like?

For the record, orgies don’t have to be about sex. There are plenty of orgies of jealousy, hatred, anger, selfishness, etc happening online each day that we partake of without second thought.

We need to think long and hard about what houses we’re building as Christians. Are they monuments to our survival from what we (secretly) think God should have saved us from? Are they Christian-shaped idols that point people to us and our ability to overcome relegating God to be the sidekick to our stories?

Or are we in service to THE house of the living God? The One who takes every dart the enemy meant for our downfall and uses it to propel us to our destinies. The One who gives every triumph and every tragedy the right perspective and position in our lives.

Our experiences devoid of God’s mark reduce us to gods who can only give the illusion of salvation. But when we place our very existence in the hands of our Maker, there’s no limit to redemption His presence and power in our lives can bring about.

May everything we are, and everything we do, point the world to Jesus. Because it is Him, and only Him, who is THE way, THE truth, and THE life that the world desperately needs.

Categories
Christianity

The Greatest Love

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres…Love never fails…And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

– 1 Corinthians 13:4-8,13 NIV

It’s in the darkest of nights that my heart has learned how to see the goodness of God.

Jesus talks about how anybody can love those who are good to them – but it takes revelation to love those you term as enemies.

 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

– Luke 6:32-38 NIV

Consider for a moment that the same applies to our relationship with God. When circumstances in life seem to infer that God is not for us – that He is our enemy – it is then our love for Him is tested for every ounce of its validity.

Anyone can love God when His goodness is apparent and overflowing in their life. When everything is working out just like they want it to and there’s not a trial in sight. But when life hits you so hard you don’t even know which way is up?

There are people who walk away from God never to return. I can’t afford to lay blame or judgment at their feet. I’ve seen enough as a Christian to know that it takes supernatural grace to keep any of us standing.

There are those who stay but get stuck on the thing that breaks them. I’m not talking about taking some time to catch your breath after you’ve gotten the wind knocked out of you. I mean seasons and seasons of trying to stand on the same sinking sand never realizing that the ground they’re on will never be stable enough to hold them; never aware that the shaking has nothing to do with their own stability and everything to do with the ground they’re on; never knowing that they need to move forward to stable ground if they are to stand strong again.

Then there are those who, like Job, find a way to weep, wail, crawl, whatever it takes, through the fire only to find that it leads them right back to a God who they thought they knew all along but have just discovered they’ve barely scratched the surface of who He is.

There are seasons of life that will cost you everything you have and everything you didn’t even know you have to love God. Seasons where you will have to wrestle with everything you thought was sure and certain in your faith. Seasons where you need to decide what your relationship with God is worth to you because it will be directly linked to what you are willing to pay as the price to abide with Him.

Salvation is free but discipleship is not. There is a cross we must all bear as followers of Christ by virtue of living in a world full of trials and tribulations. We’re not doing anyone any favours by making it seem like Christianity is easy, when the truth is, it’s not.  Far from it.

Faith must be lived out. Your faith will be tested. Again and again. This is not to scare you but to prepare you. Christ Himself made it clear that we would experience troubles in this world. But in the same breath, He also gave a fundamental context for our sorrows that we must never forget – He has already overcome the world.

There is no trouble that finds you that He has no victory over. It is in this truth that our victory lies hidden in even as we battle with the whys and what ifs and the could haves and the maybes. It is this truth I have seen time and again.

In the dark nights I have learned how to wrestle with the truth of who God is and the difficult reality of what life is in that instance. It’s in the darkest of nights that I’ve learned to see God and myself in a whole new light. It’s in the darkest of nights that my heart has learned how to irrevocably trust in the goodness of God, even when I don’t understand.

Should you find yourself in a dark night, know this. God can take your anger and grief, your disappointment and frustration. Especially that which is directed at Him. Let Him have it for it is far too great a burden for you to bear alone.

The days may be long, the nights even longer. Everything in you may want to give up. That is when you must remember the One who preceded your pain and overcame your sorrow long before you walked into it.

Hang in there. Out of the ashes, the greatest love between you and God will rise again. It may not look like anything you expected it to. But what a breathtaking sight it will be to behold.

I will exalt you, Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit.

Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

– Psalm 30 NIV