Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Hard Work

I had a good conversation with some folks the other night, including my friend and brother Brian Mashburn. I began to connect the dots between our discussion, my previous posts, and some prior teaching from Brian, and came up with a simple answer for those who’ve recently asked questions that begin with “but HOW do you . . . ?” Questions like:

“How do you let God be enough?”

“How do you feel the presence of God in your life?”

“How do you think in terms of being on a spiritual journey?”

“How do you surrender to God?”

Granted, my answer is only a first step and will probably be frustrating to a number of people. But it really does begin to explain my experience on this faith journey.

In a sense, this simple answer requires hard work. Very hard, sometimes. But, praise God, it’s the only work truly required of a disciple. So, what is it?

To believe.

In John 6:28-29, John records an interesting and often-overlooked exchange between Jesus and his disciples: “Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’”

When I read that, I almost want to say, "Are you kidding me?" I mean, seriously, I've put an awful lot of effort into works during this life of mine. What about the whole "faith without deeds is dead" argument proposed in James 2?

But, honestly, my first step toward growth in any spiritual concern has been to believe it is true or possible or the best way to live. To believe God really is enough, no matter how I feel. Or to believe that He is present at all times in my life. To believe that I am on a spiritual journey that He’s constantly speaking into if only I will listen. To believe that surrendering anything and everything to God will produce peace, joy, completeness, and satisfaction in the deepest places of my soul.

When I choose to believe these things are true, then I consciously decide to try them out through practical experience. I know everyone’s used the example of Indiana Jones in the “Last Crusade,” but I can’t help it. You most likely know the scene where, in order to save his father’s life, Indiana has to cross an invisible bridge spanning a deep and deadly chasm. He agonizes between the desire to save his father’s life and his fear of stepping off a cliff onto nothingness. In fact, he can’t even imagine an invisible bridge is there; he seems to have no idea what will happen when he takes his first step. But he knows this: his father’s life will be saved only if he’s willing to step out in faith. So, he swallows, closes his eyes, and moves forward.

And even though I’d like to tell you it’s different for me, oftentimes it’s not. I’m just as nervous about what my life will look like—what ground I’ll lose or what pain I’ll suffer—when I choose to act upon my belief. Because really believing can be hard work.

But I can testify to this: believing and moving forward in faith really is the best way to live.

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