When asked to share my greatest fear I didn’t realize how intense the mental game associated with preparing this would be. Thoughts of “What will people think”, “What will they say”, “What is he talking about” have been racing through my mind all weekend.
I also initially couldn’t think of one. I mean public speaking has always been my greatest fear but I felt Mr. Muggo was looking for something deeper. So I spent a little (lot) more time asking myself deep down what is it I fear and then it finally surfaced. Yay…
I would say over the past couple years or so I have been a part of at least two group studies on the Book of James (in the Bible) and have listened to a set of sermons on James probably no less than five times. I love James! I love it, yet I really shouldn’t at all.
If you have yet to read it be warned James is very blunt about how we should be living our lives. And remember too, this is Jesus’ bro! He says things like, “You hear the Word but what do you do with it? You say you have faith but what do you do when life gets tough? You say you love God but you’re living for this world.” It’s humbling to read but at the same time it makes you question your life and what the heck you’re doing with it!
My greatest fear is that I live a life that looks good on the surface only to come before God one day and hear Him say, “I never knew you, depart from me.” (Matt. 7:23)
I fear that the life I’m living right now might look good to others but I wonder if it’s good enough for God. I fear that too much of my time is spent benefiting myself in a world where that’s OK so we just accept it.
I’ve heard the analogy before that a healthy spiritual life should look like a cross; horizontal relationships with people and a vertical relationship with God. I have two crosses that are very wide but not very tall…
Cross 1: Am I only Hearing?
James 1:22 “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
What I do is I fill myself up with all of this awesome stuff about God yet barely have a direct relationship with God! My quiet time, Bible reading and prayer life would grade about a C- (that’s probably too generous). Reading the Bible and praying is not nearly as fun to me as listening to praise music or a sermon podcast or meeting with guys for Bible study.
And therein lies the problem. Did you catch it?
I choose the things I enjoy doing so I am fulfilled with my “God time”. Now you caught it. I’m a spiritual sponge that soaks up God’s goodness all for my own selfish satisfaction. I’m a hearer. I’ve deceived myself in to thinking that because I do those things then that’s good enough for God. I fear it’s not.
Cross 2: Light on Armor
James 4 talks about worldliness versus godliness and how friending one sets you apart from the other. This is a lifelong battle, being that human nature is of the flesh, but sometimes I make it too easy for worldliness to win.
In Ephesians 6 Paul talks about how we need to put on our “armor of God” to be able to withstand this world and its evil schemes. How do you get said armor? In short, you don’t get it from K-Love or Youtube. And so the lighter my armor is then the more susceptible I become to worldly (selfish) desires. It becomes easier for me to choose me over anything/anyone else.
It becomes easier to watch a movie on Netflix than it is to serve my wife or my kids by cleaning the house or doing a home project or getting on the floor and playing with the boys. It becomes way easier for me to avoid the guy on the side of the road with a flat so I’m not late meeting the guys at the bar. And it becomes way WAY easier for me to tell my F3 buddy I’ll pray for him rather than literally put my hand on his shoulder and pray with him!
This part is tough to explain so please bear with me. This is what I meant by the mental game I’ve been battling when thinking about writing this. For one, I’m scared that some of you might completely write this off as not really a fear. To me it’s of eternal consequence so I don’t know what to tell you. I think it’s a big deal.
But actually the response I’m most nervous about is that of encouragement. I think encouragement to make me feel better can actually add to my deception and pull be down away from God even more. If we try and write this off with excuses like, “you’re being too hard on yourself” or “that’s just the stage of life we’re in right now” then I’m not going to change. I know because I do this to myself all the time.
I tell myself it’s ok to do ABC because I already did XYZ. But if I’m real honest with myself I know I’m capable of, to keep the analogy going, also doing LMNOP! I fear I limit myself because it’s good enough for this world. The problem is WE set that bar for ourselves and I’m just not sure that’s the bar God wants us to clear.
So where do I go from here? I don’t think this was about sourcing an answer from the audience but mine is pretty straight forward. I need to get more armor, strengthen my vertical, hear less/do more, and any other analogy I can refer back to. I have some things I’m doing now to improve and also there’s an F3 24 Hour prayer vigil I’m excited about! Plus, get this, my church has just started a series called “Starting a Relationship with God”, go figure!! Divine timing for sure (not coincidence).
If you’d like to talk about this more or want to check in and ask me how my vertical game is going, I’d be open to it. I’m not scared (yes I am).