Faith Journey

Eternal Success Metrics

Jack and Hamus had to think for a while about the last time they had seen each other and caught up. By virtue of deduction (or evidence of early-onset Alzheimer’s), they figured it had been 8 years ago, at their graduation ceremony. The dinner conversation was standard fare for two good friends who hadn’t seen each other in nearly a decade – where they were now and how they got there, how much things have changed (or haven’t).

Jack related his journey from being an engineer to a business owner and his parallel journey to finding God and becoming a part-time pastor. This had come as a surprise to Hamus: “Of all the people I know, you are one of the most logical and rational. I can’t believe you found God.”

Jack wasn’t surprised at the comment – it was one he had heard many times in the last several years. As Hamus reflected on his own life and how he had been feeling in a rut, just doing the same old things, settling into a life that he viewed as helplessly mediocre, Jack couldn’t help but think about how different his life would have been without God in it. Then Hamus said something that struck Jack mid-thought…

“Of all our friends from uni days, you’re probably the most successful…” said Hamus, which wasn’t actually his real name. Back at uni, he had been known by Themistocles, but having worked for several years he had found it easier to just adopt an easier name for everybody to remember (and pronounce). Jack just found it bizarre calling his big Greek friend “Hamus”.

Hamus’ words echoed in Jack’s mind throughout their dinner and well after they had both parted ways. He certainly didn’t feel that he had reached any notable level of success, though, perhaps it was more a statement about how average Hamus felt his other uni friends’ lives were. For Jack though, it made him reflect on what it meant to be successful in God’s eyes.

For the second time in as many weeks, he found himself using his devotional journal:

I wonder what people prayed for throughout history? I bet whatever it was would reflect their desires borne from what society at the time deemed as successful. Society and the world constantly define and redefine success for us – it wasn’t always fame and fortune. Or was it? I don’t know.

But what is success in God’s eyes? Success in God’s eyes is fulfilling His purpose for our lives. Divining what exactly that purpose is should be a life-long journey of extrospection (looking outwards… up, specifically). Where we run into difficulty is when we find out that His will for us isn’t the same as our will for us. And when that difference is allowed to go on unresolved, we are disappointed and unsatisfied.

Why is it that when we hear that God wants the best for us, that we already seem to think we know what ‘the best for us’ is and that God should provide that for us? Our prayers reflect it on a daily basis. Yet even a cursory glance at Scripture would suggest otherwise: “As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” (1 Peter 4:2 NIV)

It is so hard for most of us to accept that God’s perspective is eternal and that our worldly desires are just a distraction to the main event. I’m just feeling more grateful than usual today that in this world of ever-changing expectations we can worship and serve an ever-unchanging God.

What success metrics do I measure my life against? Those that the world defines? Or those that God defines? I can only do my best and pray that it’s the latter.

Faith Journey

“There is no God”

It had been bothering him for a little while, not the sort of bother that keeps you up at night, more like the sort of bother that would pop up in the middle of the day and nag at you a little before going away… only to pop back up again sometime later.

It all started last week when his aunty (his mother’s older sister) and uncle, having just returned from travels to India, were over for tea – the beverage, not the meal. Jack had wandered into the dining area to see who the late night visitors were when he stumbled in on the end of a conversation about poverty. His aunt immediately greeted and accosted him, “Do you know how lucky you are to be born here?”

“Well, yes… I guess,” Jack replied, hesitantly.

“We are so lucky. You should have seen the poverty I have just seen. Your mum said: thank God! I say: there is no God!” Jack’s uncle immediately nudged his wife into silence before turning back to Jack with a sheepish, half-apologetic smile.

The intellectual side of Jack, the side of him that was half way through a graduate-level Bible college degree, wanted to engage, but his tempered (and some would say wiser) side held him back. He had learnt over the years that the power of God was not something conveyed through coffee-table debates. Oh, but he so loved such debates.

“OK… well then, good night,” was his eventual, more measured response, before sauntering back to his room. But over the course of the following week, the topic had continued to bother him. Finally, he turned to his much trusted devotional journal and penned a quick thought:

What makes someone look at the world around us and declare that there is no God? I think a part of it has to do with our concept of God, who He is and how that should play out in the world around us. The other part has to do with who we are, what we think is “good” and how that should play out in the world around us.

When did it become that spiritual freedom and physical/material well being had become so correlated in people’s minds. I guess it has always been like that. We are called to trust that God’s will is perfect, yet we look at the world around us and judge based on our view of what is good and right and true. Does someone living in abject poverty have it worse off spiritually than someone who lives in opulent decadence? I think we are each tempted to stray from a relationship with God in whatever life circumstance we find ourselves in.

I guess people who look at worldly conditions and come to conclusions on spiritual matters are the same people, Christian or non-Christian, who wonder why geological records don’t match implied biblical timelines, or who believes in Creation over evolution (or vice versa), or who wonder why the cure to cancer isn’t hidden away in there somewhere. Sorry, the Bible isn’t a history, physics or biology textbook.

The Bible’s core message has to do with God and our relationship to Him. His priorities for us are so crystal clear – to love Him and to love others. It’s so simple, it’s just not easy, but it certainly is more than enough to focus on for a lifetime. Anybody who extends the Bible’s authority beyond that needs to do so with generous portion of caution, lest they lead others (or themselves) astray.

There is a God. I think the most common struggle that people who believe that statement but who shun organised religion have is realising that He is not a being of our creation, it’s the other way around.

Jack put his pen down. There were so many thoughts running through his head. So many scenarios. So many flashbacks of conversations, lectures and rants. As he noticed that he had only written five short paragraphs in just over two hours he started to realise the truth of his own words: it certainly is more than enough to focus on for a lifetime.

Faith Journey

Publicly Speaking

Jack had never considered himself a great public speaker, but yesterday he had the privilege of speaking in front of nearly 400 people as a lay minister at his local church.

Ever since he found out he was to speak, almost a week earlier, he had been constantly thinking about it. Right up until the moment he was introduced up on stage he was feeling physically sick. He had opted to not eat breakfast because he just knew that would have done more harm than good. So pre-occupied was he that it was only after he had stepped out of his morning shower that he realised he hadn’t yet rinsed the shampoo out of his hair.

Nevertheless, the sermon went off without a hitch. It started off shaky with a generous spattering of umm-s and ahhh-s but quickly gained momentum as the gracious crowd laughed at his occasional jokes. The feedback to him was unwaveringly congratulatory, though he was certain the more critical feedback was to come when he would be debriefed by the senior pastor.

When he got home he made sure to listen to the recorded sermon online, at first to make note of where he could improve for next time, but then eventually to appreciate his own jokes. “All in all,” he thought to himself, “a good day.”