A Unique, Wonderful Faith

Does God look down and say, "These folks have this all wrong, what are they doing?"

A friend of mine brought this question up regarding faith and I think it's a great question to ponder. The next question I ask is:

Is what God delights in, related in any way, to what Christians busy themselves with?

Let's unpack that question with a few stories...

Work for a unique salvation  

Suppose a man was riding in a boat enjoying the fresh air. He gets on the boat and off the boat. He doesn't care about the boat, how it was crafted or how it runs. He is a consumer of the boat. This man experiences the boat the way many Christians experience God. They get a ticket, enjoy the comforts and aren't really any better for the experience.

Suppose the same man, trying to get closer to the experience, assembles a remote-control toy boat. The toy boat came with explicit instructions purchased at a fixed cost. Once the man completed this boat, he uses the boat by putting it in water and driving it around. He doesn't need much knowledge about boats, but he doesn't truly experience what life is like on a boat of his creation either.

The person who builds a small boat from specific instructions does get some satisfaction. But that person is not completing a unique work and may not even see his experience as greatly valuable. He didn't invest much effort in the build and the cost was low.

Unfortunately, this is as far as many people get in their relationship with God. Observed from the outside over an extended period of time, it's easy to say:

Does God look down and say, "These folks have this all wrong, what are they doing?"
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. - Philippians 2

Paul writes in Philippians about the uniqueness of our salvation (or sanctification process of being made more and more into the image of Christ) that leads to unique works. And our salvation – our present and future relationship with God – is worth a unique effort to accomplish his good purpose. However, you need to start somewhere with your "work" and sometimes that is just listening and learning.

Suppose another man takes an old and broken boat meant to hold him and a few others and meticulously reconstructs the boat using his own skills and imagination. Then he takes the boat out onto the open water, joyfully dwells on the water, and shares his joy with others. He has a deep understanding of each detail in the boat and how the boat interacts with the water. Those who don't have the wisdom or creativity to accomplish such a feat can wonder about the completed work and even draw inspiration to do something similar in areas that interest them.

It would be easy to boast about how great a builder they are, but a true builder wants others to experience the delight of what was built. God wants us to do the same thing with his creation and he doesn't delight in our wisdom, might, or riches. He delights in us, when we delight in him (understand and know) and care about the things he cares about (love, justice, and righteousness).

23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” - Jeremia 9:23-24

Every day disciplines can drive unique encounters

Do you ever wonder how much Jesus or Paul read the Bible, attended church, sang songs, and prayed? We have a couple of indications that it was a lot, but we don't have any specifics. But we are called to live like Jesus and live like Paul. Then with a life worthy of Christ, we can boast not in ourselves but in Him. The outcome overflows into our conversations with others.

But how can we live like Jesus and imitate Paul if we don't know exactly what they did? Why are the details missing?

Could the details be missing so we can discover more about who God is USING the mechanics of reading the bible, attending church, singing songs, and serving others? By themselves, all of these are no better than reading an engine repair manual or sitting on boat. They won't change you until you see a working engine or feel the beauty of well-crafted hull riding the waves.

When we read the bible, attend church, sing songs, and serve others, the experience is made full by a personal understanding of the almighty God.  And you can't get personal by being in a group. It's by quiet contemplation on the God of the universe. When you read (or listen) the Bible, you learn more about how God works and how others worked through their salvation. With your effort to get that knowledge and use it, you can now see what others don't see... an intricate, beautiful, personal relationship driven by an ever-expanding truth revealed uniquely to you.

A couple helpful tips along the way:

  1. Get a good study Bible. It's hard to understand what is going on in the Bible sometimes given that it's a different culture and a translation. A good guide makes the experience deeper and more enjoyable.
  2. Reflect anything you learn new about God back to him in prayer and let it shape your perspective for the day. You won't get caught praying for lame things when you are talking to God in response to how he communicates to you.
  3. Tell someone about what you are learning. Others need encouragement to discover how God will uniquely work in them. God is not working in us only for our benefit, but also to encourage others to make the same effort to experience the same experience.

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