It’s the little things that bother me. My knee starts to hurt in new ways after I run or play soccer. My eyes can’t read things close up and my hair … well that’s a story for a another blog post. The truth is that I am getting older and that this “outer self” is wasting away. How did I get here so quickly with one boy filling out applications for college and the other one learning to drive? Like a lot of men at midlife, I occasionally find myself asking the question, “What have I done with the time I have been given?” and “Should I have done things differently?” Just as I begin to get too introspective, life encroaches and I reflect on a decision that changed my life at the age of thirteen.
While I do believe that making a profession of faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah and Savior of the world that He claimed to be is the most important decision a person can make, this is only a first step in the life of faith. As a reformed Christian, I also believe that God pursues us and chooses us even before we are born to be His sons and daughters and that the circumstances surrounding our coming to faith are no mystery or accident. As a four year old, I could not understand much, but I did know that I was a sinner and was in need of a savior. At my mother’s knee, I learned that while she could protect me from a lot of things, only God and His son Jesus could protect me from the fires of hell and the ultimate separation from the one who created me. That was enough for me to hear. I knew I wanted to be in heaven one day and was more than ready to repent from my sin and embrace Jesus as my savior.
This decision at such an early age had a profound impact and almost led me to believe a lie. Somehow, I came to feel that “getting saved”; being “born again” or whatever you want to call it was like an inoculation. You got your shot or took your pill and then went on to live your life as you wanted to. That was the case until I was thirteen. One night, New Year’s Eve, to be exact, I heard a sermon that changed the trajectory of my life. Our pastor was speaking about making choices – to allow Jesus to be both my Lord and Savior or to walk away from my faith all together. He even made reference to a scripture about how God hated it when people were “lukewarm” or in my case two-faced: saying one thing, but living as I pleased. At the end of that night, I realized that the Bible I had been reading contained the two most important questions I would ever come across and I had been ignoring them.
In Genesis, a snake asks Eve, “Did God really say that?” and in Matthew, Jesus asks Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” The answer to these questions changed the way that I understood life from that day forward. If God really had created me, if He really did mean what He said in His word and if His word was true, this had enormous implications for my daily actions. If Jesus really was more than just a ticket into heaven and in fact was to be “indwelling” me and had sent the Holy Spirit to be my comforter and guide, I could not go on living as if He was simply a benevolent keeper of the ultimate “get out of jail” pass. The Christian life crystalized into two key components – Trust and Obey. I would trust God that was real, that His word was true and that He had my ultimate best interests at heart no matter what. In addition, I would listen to His prompting through the Holy Spirit and His Word and obey Him. This obedience thing would prove to be pretty daunting, but always worth it.
As I pause at the fulcrum of my life to be introspective for a brief moment, I must confess that it has turned out very differently than I might have expected. At one time, I thought I was going to climb the ladder of corporate success and live the life of a respectable Christian living in suburbia and staying actively involved in my local church. I was even tempted to think that things might have changed in my early adulthood. Maybe God really only wanted me to trust and obey in matters of theology and would allow me to live the rest of my life as I really wanted to. Just as I was beginning to believe the lie again, God broke in and rescued me from my own foolishness and self-centeredness. He made it abundantly clear that He wanted all of me, not the filthy rags of my pathetic attempts at righteous living and good works.
I am so glad that I serve a God who rescues me from death and hell, but also from my own attempts to run my life as I please. The life He has given me may not have resulted in worldly wealth like I may have hoped, but it has resulted in riches that are not perishable. I may not have achieved success as I once defined it, but I have come to see that success in God’s eyes is far more satisfying. I don’t know what the years ahead will be like or even if I have many more years to live. What I do know is that I will continue to learn to trust and obey so that while my outer self may have more aches and pains as the years go by, my inner self will be renewed day by day.
IN MEMORIUM – TO A MAN WHO LIVED AN EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY LIFE
This past week, a true servant of the Lord went home to be with his heavenly father. At 94, Willard Stone was a man who truly lived a life of faith and obedience on a daily basis. He gave up a safe life living in North Carolina where he had grown up to join a rag tag bunch of missionaries that had just started this new organization called Christian Literature Crusade. He started his missionary career in a very humble way by replacing windows in an old building that was to become the U.S. mission headquarters for two organizations. From there, he willingly went on to serve in Indonesia and the Philippines and raised his children overseas. Today, the legacy of his work on earth remains in the many people who call him “Papa Stone” and carry on the work of CLC in those countries. He will certainly be one who heard those all-important words, “Well done though good and faithful servant.” May my life emulate men like Willard Stone – one of my spiritual heroes.