With one resounding, very key word, God has really convicted me in an area I as well as many other Christians struggle in: enough.
When it comes to doing something God has called us to do, too often we freeze, focusing on our own abilities or inabilities and our securities or insecurities. We feel we don’t have enough education or experience… enough training… enough resources… enough time… enough comfort to take a step… whatever the label, we don’t have enough of “it” to measure up. For some, filling in that blank becomes an endless process of listing all their shortcomings. For others, the blank is summed up into one all encompassing, very disempowering, and truly disheartening statement: “who am I to _____?” Regardless, these statements speak to how they aren’t qualified to do what God has called them to.
So, what does the Word say here?
And sure, at some point he may call you to pursue more education or training or whatever; but don’t automatically assume that’s his plan for you or that it’s a requirement for Him to use you! And certainly don’t let not having these things at the moment hold you back from whatever he is calling you to do now!
- Most of the saints were ordinary men with no formal theological training; they relied on the power of the Holy Spirit, not human wisdom (Acts 4:13;1 Cor 2:3-5)
- Sometimes God calls us to uncomfortable tasks, but he gives us what we need to fulfill them. Don’t run! (Ex. Moses – Exodus 3-4; Ezekiel – Ezekiel 3:1-11; Jonah – Jonah 1)
- God will equip you with everything you need to do his will (Hebrews 13:21; Phil 2:13)
- God will be strong when and where you are weak (Exodus 4:1-17; 2 Cor 12:9 &10)
- Regardless of who someone is or how much education or experience they do or don’t have, it is God alone who promotes and demotes (Psalm 75:7; 1 Samuel 2:7; Daniel 2:21)
- God uses the foolish things of this world to highlight his power and to humble those who are wise by the world’s standard, so it’s him that gets the glory, not us (1 Cor 1:20-29)
adjective \i-ˈnəf, ē-, ə-\
Simple Definition: equal to what is needed
Full Definition: occurring in such quantity, quality, or scope as to fully meet demands, needs, or expectations
Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary
So the freeing truth here is: It’s not about you. It’s about Him, who He is, and who He’s called you to serve. If it were about you, your abilities, experience and training, than you wouldn’t have to rely on God, you’d be relying on yourself; and it’d be you who would get the attention and credit, not God. Our personal qualities, experiences or qualifications don’t matter nearly as much as our willingness to be used by God and the quality of the time we spend with him through studying his word and prayer. Truly, God can do all he needs to through his Spirit at work within you.
So let’s end with some exploration questions!
- In what ways are you relying on yourself to fulfill God’s call as opposed to relying on him? How does this hold you back or make you ineffective in fulfilling what God is calling you to do?
- What would it physically and mentally look like to replace fear with faith in these areas?
- Read Acts 4:13. What amazed the council about Peter and John and why? Who had they noted Peter and John had been with? How does this apply to your situation?
- How exactly would things look different for you if you lived like this statement was true: God knew exactly who he called when he called me; I already possess enough to do what he has called me to and where I fall short, he makes up the difference.”?
A big component woven throughout Aspiring Christian is living an authentic life. What does that look like in action? Well, it’s where we as Christians intentionally strive to truly live out our Christian principles, morals, and values in every area of life. It’s where our words and actions align and come from a natural outpouring of Christ-centered hearts, minds and motives. It is being true to who he’s created us to be and what he’s called us to do.
Authenticity is a concept found throughout the bible. Most remarkable is when Jesus refers to the Pharisees. The Pharisees were considered the “religious” leaders of the day, the “official interpreters of the Law of Moses” Matthew 23:2 says. Later in Philippians 3:5, Paul, having been a Pharisee, tells us that the Pharisees demanded the strictest obedience to Jewish law. So they knew and taught the law. And people deeply respected and epitomized them as the standard, the example which others should seek to follow.
But Jesus, seeing the heart, mind and motives, saw a very different picture of the Pharisees. When he’d refer to them, he wouldn’t talk about how righteous they were or how they were such great people; instead he’d usually start with, “Woe to you! Hypocrites!” and talk about the truth as he saw it: they weren’t who they appeared to be, that what people saw on the outside wasn’t what was really on the inside.
Matter of fact, in Matthew 15:8 & 9, Jesus refers to a scripture in Isaiah 29:13 that was a prophecy about the Pharisees: “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote” (i.e. rote meaning routine, repetitive or habitual in nature; without thought of the meaning behind an action; in a mechanical way).
Later in Matthew 23, Jesus reveals the extent of the issue: “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too. What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Jesus uses the word “hypocrite” nearly every time he talks about the Pharisees. So it is important to note that the Greek word Jesus used, Hypokrites
, was originally a reference to an actor on stage in a Greek play who would wear various masks and costumes throughout the play depending on what role he was playing. By using the word Hypokrites
, it is as though each time Jesus addresses the Pharisees by yelling, “moral counterfeit!” or “religious counterfeit!”
So they looked like the real deal to everyone around them but they were just really good at acting the part. Their emphasis was on the external, the mere ‘doing;’ maintaining routines, keeping up a certain appearance and reputation with the people. However, inside there was no genuine substance. No heart or thought behind what they said or did. No true desire or motive to please God. As Jesus pointed out, the internal and external were so disconnected that it’s as though they were like two separate people.
So where might inauthenticity show up in our lives today? Unfortunately, everywhere; in our relationships, our jobs, our social media presence, our commitments, our service to others and even to God. What does it look like in action? Here are some common examples:
- Saying or doing things because you know that’s what people want to hear or what they would expect in a certain situation
- Volunteering in the community or serving at church out of mere habit or obligation (remember our word rote?)
- Intentionally creating or maintaining an inaccurate representation of who you are publicly, including on social media
- Staying in something that violates your values, who you are at your core, or Christian morals, be it a position, place, lifestyle or relationship
So often we go through the motions, just keeping up appearances so people will assume certain things about us. But looking inside, it’s not who we are at our core, even if it’s who we want to be. Out of habit or obligation, we take on new commitments or maintain certain responsibilities, hoping no one will find out what we really think or feel so we can just push through it; we just keep telling ourselves that our heart and mind will eventually catch up… but they never do.
Here’s the thing, all these small pieces of inauthenticity add up to create the totality of our lives and then before we know it, we’re wondering whose life we’re living and why we feel so off, tired or out of control. What kind of life is that? Is Christ’s intention for us merely to act out his principles without them truly changing who we are on the inside?
Many of the above things might not seem like a big deal, they may even seem normal; but that’s the difference between our thoughts and standards and those of Christ’s. Jesus is more concerned about having our heart and mind, and the intention behind what we say and do than the actual doing.
In our scriptures above, Jesus says address the inside first and the rest will follow. No more faking. No more pushing through. No more expending so much time, so much energy and so much effort on keeping up appearances. You can finally breathe, finally be real. What would that sort of freedom mean to you? In what specific ways would that change your life for the better?
So I’ll end this with a challenge for youJ. First, realize you can’t do this alone. If the point is to be accountable to God (over man), strive to be like him and glorify him, then we need to involve him in the process! So start with prayer! Ask him to reveal to you the areas where the inner and outer don’t align – where you essentially have a double life and then ask that he would not only change your heart to be truly tender and compassionate towards others (yes, even those people who you don’t like or consider your enemies) but that he’d also give you the desire, willingness and ability to make and stick with genuine, heart level changes in these areas.
Second, ask yourself:
- In what ways does who others think I am align not align who God knows I am?
- What key areas of life do I feel God revealing an immediate need for authenticity in?
- In what ways has being inauthentic in these areas impacted me and others - what has stolen from me and others in my life? How have I been using it as a crutch?
- If you were able to flip a switch that allowed you to suddenly be truly authentic in these specific areas, what would that look like? How about 1 year from now, how does life look different?
- What is one thing I can do this week in 1 – 3 of these areas to move closer to an authentic life? What is my specific plan to keep moving closer to authenticity each day and/or week in these areas? What challenges to authenticity do I foresee and how will I tackle them?
- Who around me can I enlist for support and/or accountability? In what specific ways an they help me?
Being authentic is a challenge and it’s a continuous, life-long process because you have to be intentional about it and regularly work towards it. But it gets easier and more natural the more you pursue God and practice it. And imagine having the freedom, peace and joy that would come with living life authentically in the areas the Holy Spirit brought to mind above. Envision that what you say and do is merely a natural outpouring of a Christ centered, people loving, Galatians 5:13-26 heart. Next Level Living!
There’s a great video out there by Francis Chan called “The Biggest Lie of Your Life,” where he talks about authenticity lived out and the scripture in Revelation about the Church of Sardis. I’d encourage you to watch it and heed the convictions of the Holy Spirit. Allow the Truth to set you free!!!!
8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
10 “The rain and snow come down from the heavens
and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
producing seed for the farmer
and bread for the hungry.
11 It is the same with my word.
I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
12 You will live in joy and peace.
The mountains and hills will burst into song,
and the trees of the field will clap their hands!
13 Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow.
Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up.
These events will bring great honor to the LORD’s name;
they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.”
~Isaiah 55: 8 - 13 (NLT)
Sometimes life hurts. It stings. It pricks and sticks and bruises and cuts. In our pain we look heaven-ward, begging to know why, looking to make sense of it all. We beg for a change in our circumstance, for God to move us out of it; But in our spirit, we already somehow know that the answer is no, you’re walking through this, but I’ll be right here with you, available for strength, peace, wisdom and guidance, if you let me and lean on me. Although there are a few principles in the bible regarding unanswered prayer, I can’t tell you exactly why God answers some prayers and not others, as the bible says in Matthew 5, "For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. My one explanation is God’s sovereignty."
Regardless, His word says so much about our struggles and pain. In Isaiah 41:13, God contrasts, “Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow. Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up.” To understand the weight of this comparison, you have to know a little something about thorns, Cypress trees, myrtles and nettles; we’ll zero in on nettles and myrtles for today.
A nettle is a small, inconspicuous, yet quite ominous plant. It has tiny hairs that create an itchy, fiery pain immediately on contact. Touch it and you’ll be in burning pain for days! Unfortunately, I know from experience! They're all over Texas!
According to Smith’s Bible Dictionary, the Myrtle tree known as:
“The Myrtus communis is the kind denoted by the Hebrew word (It is a shrub or low tree sometimes ten feet high, with green shining leaves, and snow-white flowers bordered with purple, "which emit a perfume more exquisite than that of the rose." The seeds of the myrtle, dried before they are ripe, form our allspice (which smells like what most people think is a combination of cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg).”
I don’t know about you but wow! God says, from my fiery, uncomfortable pain will sprout something that is vibrant, robust and deeply fragrant. Even more so, it will produce flowers and berries, which when out in the sun, can be used to bring beauty and depth to other things through scent, flavor and color. WOW.
Now you’re not thinking that when you’re surrounded by nettles, that a myrtle is about to sprout just beneath your feet, but it is. You can’t see it now in your hurting. You might not even be able to hear or even process that beauty will bloom from your situation and sorrow, but God says it will. The bible is full of statements about restoring, returning, reviving… from our ashes, the remains of dreams and hopes set ablaze, he creates fertile ground that ushers in new growth and lush greenery. We have to believe him and trust that, despite what it looks like or even feels like at the moment, he means it when he says that he knows best, “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts."Here are some Truths for your way:
- Romans 5: 3 – 5 and 12; James 1 Don’t be surprised when pain and hardship come your way, it has a higher purpose, so consider it an opportunity for growth, joy and blessing
- Psalm 31:7; Psalm 56:8; 1 Peter 5:7 Know that God sees us and cares about our pain; He keeps track of our sorrows and bottles our every tear; He wants us to give all our worries over to him.
- Proverbs 3:4-5; Isaiah 40:12-31 Don’t depend on human thought or reasoning to try and understand the situation, rely on God; He is faithful, just and sovereign.
- Psalm 40:1-3; 1 Peter 5:10; Romans 8:28 Remember that our pain is temporary; be patient, just around the corner is restoration, support, strength and a firm foundation; God is going to work all this out for our good!
- 2 Corinthians 1:3 – 7 Seek the “God of all comfort” who comforts us in our trouble so we can then comfort others who are going through the same things
- Ephesians 4:27; 1 Peter 5:8-9 Don’t fall into the trap, our enemy is waiting to take advantage of us in our pain and hardship.
Regarding this last point, beware. There is story after story in the bible of people who let their pain rule them. They allowed it make them bitter, hurt others, do regretful things, and turn their backs on God. Regardless of the situation, being a Christian doesn’t make us immune or untouchable by pain or tragedy. Rather we will have those things regardless and being a Christian determines our responses to those things. So feel the pain, process it, pray over it and as soon as possible, move on. Don’t marinate in it. That’s when you leave a foot hold for the devil to hold it over you and keep you captive to it. This means we have to focus more on who God is, His sovereignty, glory and power and less on ourselves, our tragedy, and our pain.
...though not in the sight of others
King David was a courageous, mighty warrior. But he didn't start out that way. From the looks of him, there were far better men to be king; men who actually looked 'kingly' with their might and stature. Men who other men actually saw as leaders.
When Samuel first saw Eliab, he was sure he was the one God had chosen. But God told Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn't see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). After evaluating all seven sons, all of which they thought could be God's chosen one, God tells Samuel, "The Lord has not chosen any of these." And so Samuel asks Jesse, "Are these all the sons you have?" Jesse replies, “There is still the youngest. But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.” Samuel tells Jesse,"Send for him at once...We will not sit down to eat until he arrives.”
Jesse's "But" said it all. Oh, yeah, uh, I have another son, my youngest, BUT he's out watching the animals. David wasn't even a contender in the 'race.' Matter of fact, he wasn't even in the race! But David was never last draft-pick or king by default, no, he was always first round pick by God's standard, even though he was eighth by man's. What a testament to how much our 'vision' can be off!
In Isaiah 55:8-9, God tells us, "My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts."
What are you thinking or seeing from a humanly perspective? Who or what are you resigning to the 'pasture' instead of putting up for the 'kingdom?' Perhaps you're the one who has been put out in the 'field' while others are put up for promotion. Find comfort in the truth that promotion comes from God alone (Psalms 75:6-7) and that he will promote you in due time.
How incredible that God took a boy, a mere 'Shepard,' who man didn't even consider in the ring for king, and elevated him to be leader of an entire nation, God's choice nation! God saw David as he would be, not as he was. What is God possibly calling you to based on who you will be, not who you currently are?